The word is out and the reservations line is busy. Ulele Restaurant
will turn up the cooking heat for the public's dining pleasure at 5 p.m. on Aug. 26.
The opening date has been one of the most anticipated culinary happenings in Tampa for months. The restaurant and adjacent Water Works Park are part of a larger vision for re-inventing and re-developing Tampa's downtown core and its connection with surrounding neighborhoods.
They anchor the northern end of the nearly completed 1.8 mile Riverwalk, which will link Tampa Heights to Channelside. Ulele is the name of a legendary daughter of a Native American chief who saved the life of a young Spanish explorer in the 1500s.
"This has been a labor of love,'' says Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group
and developer of Ulele. "I can’t wait to open our doors and show what we've been working on. This project has been in my mind for the last 10 years. I really hope this will be my legacy, and that my children and my grandchildren will remember and thank me for the vision.''
Nearly two years ago the city chose Columbia Restaurant Group and Metro Bay Real Estate to partner in the restoration of the historical Water Works Building which pumped much of the city's drinking water from Ulele Spring until the 1930s. The Beck Group
did the architectural design and construction.
Ulele is located at 1810 N. Highland Ave. on a large swath of riverfront between the park and the historical Armature Works Building. Ulele will open a couple weeks after the city's celebration of a completed $7.4 million project to redesign Water Works Park.
Initially the restaurant will be open only for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. on Sunday-Thursday, and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Lunch and brunch hours will be added by Fall.
Executive Chef Eric Lackey will feature dishes inspired by Native American and multicultural influences including from European explorers. The on-site Ulele Spring Brewery will create craft beers exclusively for the restaurant.
Guests will enjoy a dining room, German-style beer garden, rooftop bar and outdoor patio, all within view of the Hillsborough River and the restored Ulele Spring.
Complimentary valet parking will be available.
"The phone lines have been ringing quite a bit. It's been tremendously gratifying," says Michael Kilgore, Chief Marketing Officer for the Columbia Restaurant Group. "Reservations are encouraged but not required."
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Richard Gonzmart and Michael Kilgore, Ulele Restaurant