Tampa version of Pocahontas, Ulele, will have restaurant namesake this Spring

03/25/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Ulele Springs, hillsborough river, economic development


Ulele's logo features a pineapple slice which represents hospitality.

photo by Janelle Irwin

The water works building at Ulele Springs is being redeveloped by investors. Part of the project re-opened the spring which will eventually flow back into the Hillsborough River. Keith Sedita is a managing partner of the Ulele restaurant that will open this Spring at the old pumping station. He said the native-inspired theme comes from the story behind the spring’s namesake – Tampa’s own version of Pocahontas.

“As he was taking a Spanish conquistador by the name of Juan Ortiz and about to put him to death, she stopped him and said, you know, you can’t kill him, he’s 17, he’s just a boy and he listened to her and he ended up working under the chiefdom in that area for quite some time. Eventually he escaped with DeSoto and he told Desoto this story as they traveled northward.”

Keeping with the theme of a local Native-American story, Sedita plans to keep the restaurant as local as possible. They’ll have Florida wines, beers brewed on site using local products and foods from as close to home as possible – including homemade ice cream.

“We’re using Emery Thompson machines that are made in Brooksville, Florida – a company that started in the Bronx in New York in 1905 just like the Columbia Restaurant did and everything there, all of that equipment is made here. The heavy cream we’re using to make that ice cream comes from Dakin Farms in Myakka City.”

The restaurant will open sometime this Spring in, as Sedita described it, May-ish. Joe Harrington is a spokesperson for Beck Architecture, the company renovating the historic building.

“We’ve got about 8-weeks left in construction for the brewery and the restaurant, but it’s coming along nicely.”

The inside still has a long way to go before it looks like a restaurant, but already there are some glimmers of what’s to come. There’s a giant, round stainless steel hood in one corner where food will be cooked in front of patrons. Dark Pine wood lines two open second floor dining rooms and a bar is starting to take shape. Several outdoor patios are underway where people can sit with either a view of Ulele Spring, the Hillsborough River or both.

“So the task has been to take that old building and retain the historic nature of the building, but at the same time have a modern flare and put a restaurant in it.”

Outside the restaurant, the city plans to build a park along the Hillsborough River. That project is separate from the Ulele restaurant.

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