Showtown Restaurant & Lounge
Breakfast With Old Carnival Folk
The Tamiami Trail, which goes from Tampa to Miami, was once crowded with tourists. This odd spot at the north end in Gibsonton, FL has seen better days. Motels and restaurants that were once jammed with travelers before modern interstates, are closed down or getting by with mostly locals.
We parked on the side, near two doors and a peeling mural of a chef. The door marked "bar" was the only one unlocked at 10 am. My husband paused before opening the door. "Are you sure about this?" I told him to trust me, because I'd read about this place.
The interior was just as eerie. There were a couple men eating breakfast and a couple women wiping tables and mopping. There was a balance between Budweiser neon and carnival artwork like this one titled, "Ringmaster in the Sky."
We were told that a local man nicknamed "Brownie" had created all the murals. I'm guessing Brownie may have had a job painting signs for sideshows at one time. Gibsonton first began attracting wintering carnival workers back in the 1940's and the town is still home to many retired and wintering workers.
Too bad we didn't get to ask him ourselves. Lucy our server said he should be on his way over, but he never arrived in the 90 minutes we were there.
Back in the day, when I was a kid giving restrooms silly detailed reviews, this one would have been off the charts.
Cleanliness issues aside, I would have given an extremely high rating for the excitement factor. The Ladies Room, had no sign, so that added an element of risk. And the creepy mural on the wall could freak a man or woman out. The lifted toilet seat added one more confusing element. I'll let you imagine what the men's room looked like.
Luckily Freddy was in no hurry. He sat at the Showtown table near ours and told us stories about his life as a carnival man. (more details in the Stranger Blog) While we chatted, an older woman came in and sat at the same table without ever interrupting us. After she left, I asked if the Showtown table was for some kind of VIPS. Lucy laughed that it was just the Liar's Table. So I'm not sure I can believe anything Freddy told us.
Since this is a dining blog, I should mention the food. This meal looks about 10 times creepier than it actually tasted. But I also was pretty distracted by Freddy's stories of Lobster Boy being murdered and the monkey circus Freddy's brother started. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to my plate of chipped beef on toast with fried egg. I'm pretty sure it wasn't as bland tasting as this bland photo!
A framed wall photo shows the original owner and his sons. Freddy told me that Joe was a "hardworking Pollack", when he opened the place 40 years ago. But when Joe died his son turned it into a bar and the place has gone downhill ever since. Now the grandson, Chuckie owns it and it's barely surviving. Freddy and Lucy complained about the changes, but clearly did not want to see Showtown disappear.
Missing the Party
Too bad we had to leave. The 40th anniversary party was the next night. Freddy said it would be "pretty crazy with lots of freaks." I'm not exactly sure what he meant by crazy or freaks!
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The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.