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Tampa's new 'down-to-earth' grill caters to smiles

News editor

It’s not just cooking that Jeremy Kinning loves about running Tampa Grill in Tampa; it’s creating dining experiences his customers enjoy.

“Good service, good attitude, good atmosphere, good food,” Kinning said. “I can’t offer anything super special, but I love seeing somebody smile and enjoy the food.”

Those smiles come between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., seven days a week, when Kinning offers a “mostly American” menu featuring burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

“It’s down-to-earth food instead of trying to make it ritzy and classy,” Kinning said. “My cooking style is like everywhere I’ve worked kind of combined. There are tiny elements of fast food, but the home-cooked places are the ones I liked the best.”

Kinning said he kept local folks in mind when he created the menu. That’s especially true for people like farmers, who want to have a good lunch but get right back to work.

Daily specials such as chicken-fried steak, meat loaf, pork chops, and Mexican food provide variety and attract diners from a wider area.

“I have people that come here from Salina, Lost Springs, Marion, and Hillsboro,” Kinning said. “They come pretty religiously on Sundays, which is one of our biggest days.”

Kinning said he’s flexible with the menu items, cooking to order and accommodating special requests. One diner wanted a chicken-fried steak sliced into strips and served as a wrap with lettuce, tomato, and other condiments. Another likes his burgers rare, barely browned on both sides.

There isn’t an item on the menu Kinning would call a “signature” dish, but he said his personal favorite was a half-pound jalepeno bacon cheeseburger.

“I didn’t know how many I’d sell, but I sell a lot of those,” he said.

The café-style restaurant is in the same corner building as predecessors Tampa Café and La Luna, but that will change this summer when it moves down the street to a more spacious dining room and kitchen in a building being renovated by local investor David Mueller.

The new facility will retain a historical air, using original columns and featuring an exposed brick wall, Kinning said. Old pictures of Tampa in the current location will decorate the walls of the new one.

Kinning said he’s looking forward to cooking in the new kitchen. Unlike the present setup, two people will be able to work comfortably. He’s considering opening Saturday nights after he’s settled in.

Kinning grew up in Marion and Hillsboro, graduating from Hillsboro High School in 2000, but said he’s found his niche in Tampa.

“It’s a nice small community, everybody knows everybody, it’s nice and quiet, and everybody is really supportive here,” Kinning said.

In a few years, Kinning would like to take Tampa Grill on the road by getting a food truck he could take to area towns one or two days a week, he said.

Whatever changes may come to the business, Kinning said he’s planning for a long stay.

“I’m hoping this stays the Tampa Grill,” he said. “It’s something I could do the rest of my life. It’s good food. All you can do is come out and try it, and hopefully you’ll love it. That’s my biggest goal, to get everybody loving my food.”

Last modified June 4, 2015

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