You might think that any ol’ place will do when it comes to a plate of bacon and eggs. Hey, if you’ve tasted one, you’ve tasted them all, right? But the first time you depart the Tin Can Café in Clearwater after a lunch or breakfast, you’ll attain a changed mind.
The difference is not only palpable, it’s palatable. The eggs, the bacon, the oversize French toast, the grits – everything on the menu – tastes noticeably better than usual and exceeds the predictable. Jimmy Trizis, who co-owns the Tin Can Café with wife Pam, explained that is all comes down to paying homage to the taste buds.
“Everything here is the real deal, including the cream, butter and jellies,” said Jimmy. “We only use extra-large eggs and buy the best bacon and sausage. I cut the pork chops directly from the loin.”
That alone is reason enough to become a regular at Tin Can Café, but another factor is alluring: the decorum. The outer metallic structure resembles an old-time diner, just like the roadside cafes along Route 66 in 1950s America. The wall shelves are festooned with an array of unique tin cans featuring colorful creations such as a guitar, Mickey Mouse, vintage cars, Betty Boop, M&Ms and scores of others.
The tins cans were already a theme here – and thus the café’s name – when Jimmy and Pam bought the place. The cans were all nailed down and impossible to keep clean, so out they went and replaced with new ones discovered at curio and antique shops.
Customers also offer donations, with the more unusual types afforded greater chances of being added to the collection. The visual effect of the tin cans has become museum-like, creating a unique display that’s eye candy to regular customers and Facebook fodder to newcomers.
Besides all the tin cans, you’ll note a wall poster that displays The Godfather and Goodfellas mafia characters. There’s even a restaurant review gracing the wall clipped from a former local weekly newspaper penned by a wannabe scribe named Doug Kelly.
Being in the restaurant biz is a Trizis family heritage. Jimmy father, Gus, emigrated to the U.S. from Greece in 1952 and established a restaurant in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It is there that Jimmy cooked and soon met a young waitress named Pam. Jimmy and Pam learned the food service nuts and bolts from the bottom up. Gus sold the restaurant in Illinois and with Jimmy and Pam moved to Clearwater in 1972. Jimmy and Pam bought the Tin Can Café 13 years ago.
The present-day lineup has Pam and daughter Nicole waiting tables while son Dino cooks along with Jakium, the only non-family member. Jimmy still drops in to cook occasionally and to kibitz with customers. Another amiable son, Philip, used to do waiter duties but left the nest a year ago to strike out on his own.
The Tin Can Café is not a volume-dependent eatery. It offers just six booths, a few tables in between and seven counter stools. That allows for more perfection in the cooking process and less near collisions by harried wait staff. Plus, there’s an unspoken camaraderie among diners because they know intuitively that all others present must also be connoisseurs of good cuisine.
My favorite order: a bone-in pork chop with two eggs and grits. My salivating right now just thinking about it. Kelly usually opts for an egg, bacon and toast. However, we’ve never ordered anything on the menu for breakfast or lunch that wasn’t delectable.
Due to its loyal fan base, the Tin Can Café stay full most days, especially weekends. There’s a bench outside the door, but food and service are prompt, so any wait time is usually brief. It’s open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 to 1 on Saturday and 8 to 1 on Sunday.
About six years ago it’s at the Tin Can Café where Kelly and I first met Lola Wagenvoord, who was dining at a nearby table. “I’ve been coming to the Tin Can Café for years,” she told us. “The staff here is like visiting friends and the food is delicious.”
Lola owns several radio stations, including WTAN in Clearwater. For the past two years, Kelly and I have been co-hosting a live one-hour show from 5 to 6 p.m. every Monday on WTAN called The Kelly Kelly Show. Small world, eh?
If you’ve got a craving for breakfast or lunch in a unique setting with really good food, check out the Tin Can Café at 307 S. Myrtle Avenue in Clearwater or call Pam at 727-446-3354. They’re open now for table service and takeout – and tell Pam the Kelly’s sent you.