Tampa pop-up Loko Cuisine hosts the 10th anniversary of its Eggs & Kegs brunch this weekend

Owner and chef John LoScalzo previews this weekend's celebration.

click to enlarge (L to R): Sam Green, John LoScalzo, Marqui Hill - Photo by Joe Pearl. Design by Joe Frontel.
Photo by Joe Pearl. Design by Joe Frontel.
(L to R): Sam Green, John LoScalzo, Marqui Hill
In Tampa Bay’s bustling culinary scene there’s both brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks—but sometimes the most exciting dishes hail from local pop-ups.

With small-batch eats and rotating menus of specialties, chefs have the creative control to explore innovative flavors and the space to execute them—and one of Tampa's longest-running pop-ups is about to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its most popular event.

A Sunday morning brunch pop-up loaded with a hearty, but creative spread of beer-friendly eats, Eggs & Kegs, happens at different breweries throughout the Bay area each month.

Loko Cuisine (stylized “LOKO”) has been hosting its Eggs & Kegs event at Tampa Bay breweries for a decade, and owner John LoScalzo is pulling out all the stops for this weekend’s celebratory brunch.

“I mainly pop up at breweries that don’t have their own food programs, it’s always just worked out really well,” LoScalzo tells Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “I get to serve my food and the brewery gets to sell beer—it's just a perfect marriage, you know?”

A few of its regular venues include Bastet Brewing, Green Bench Brewing Co. Another favorite, 7venth Sun Brewing, hosts this weekend’s brunch party.

Loko Cuisine’s 10th anniversary Eggs & Kegs happens on Sunday, April 16 at Tampa’s 7venth Sun Brewery, located at 6809 N Nebraska Ave. Tickets run for $43 and can be purchased at lokocuisine.com.

All tickets include a complimentary craft beer (or other beverage), coffee and tea from Bright Land Coffee and access to Loko’s prized brunch eats.

In addition to this weekend’s anniversary brunch, LOKO Cuisine hosts two exclusive events next month: a Cinco de Mayo dinner at 7venth Sun and a “Hair of the Dog” brunch at newly-opened Seminole Heights brewery Common Dialect.

A specific theme runs through each Eggs & Kegs menu, usually influenced by that month’s holiday or what season it happens in. LoScalzo tells CL that this weekend's anniversary gig will be a culinary homage to Tampa, his home of over a decade. Guests can expect Tampa-fied breakfast dishes like chorizo biscuits and gravy, Spanish-style omelets and his beloved french toast loaded with cinnamon maple cream cheese frosting, barrel-aged tres leches drizzle and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

Since french toast is a staple item on LoScalzo’s brunch menus, 7venth Sun Brewery is releasing its “Quin-TOAST-ssential” whiskey barrel-aged french toast stout to celebrate the 10th birthday of Eggs & Kegs. This rich stout with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and maple will be available both in cans and on draft at Sunday’s brunch.

And if you’re an Eggs & Kegs newcomer, seeing a barrel-aged french toast might surprise you, but LoScalzo often incorporates beer or other spirits into his dishes.

Over the years, LoScalzo says that he and 7venth Sun have collaborated on various craft beers together, including a cranberry, orange, cinnamon and vanilla Berliner and a raspberry lemonade fruited gose. Like his website states, “there’s a beer for every occasion and every meal.”
click to enlarge Loko's Thai-style  breakfast congee paired with a crisp IPA. - Adam Berliner
Adam Berliner
Loko's Thai-style breakfast congee paired with a crisp IPA.
Although Eggs & Kegs is coming up on its 10th birthday, 49-year-old LoScalzo has been cooking for Tampeños for about 15 years. His deep love of food and hospitality has existed for far longer.

His father operated the landmark restaurant Elmwood Plantation in his birthplace of New Orleans, but LoScalzo also inherited a love of Sicilian cooking from his grandmother and an appreciation for southern cuisine from his mother.

Eggs & Kegs first came into fruition 10-ish years ago when LoScalzo pitched his laid-back brunch idea to Cigar City founder and Tampa legend Joe Redner, who was intrigued at the concept. Redner liked the first few brunches so much that he recruited Loko to host Eggs & Kegs monthly. For the first five years, Cigar City was the sole home of Eggs & Kegs, but LoScalzo eventually started popping up at other breweries throughout the Bay.

In addition to Cigar City, Eggs & Kegs used to frequent Coppertail Brewing before the two Tampa breweries adopted food programs and no longer needed the draw of pop-ups.

LoScalzo says he hasn’t missed a monthly brunch in 10 years, which is especially impressive considering he’s worked a full-time day job for the entirety of Loko Cuisine’s existence. For over 23 years, he’s had a day job at Hillsborough County Schools, helping students with disabilities transition post-high school.

While his wife Stephanie Kojima (whose last name is the “KO” in “LOKO”) and a few other employees help LoScalzo run the pop-ups, he typically preps for 150-plus brunchers in a commercial commissary kitchen all by himself.

And although he can cook dishes from just about anywhere in the world, he says that his go-to cuisine is usually Italian, Latin or Asian-fusion.

“If someone asked if I knew how to do a certain cuisine, I’ll say yes even if I'm not exactly sure—but I’ll research and do it anyway,” LoScalzo laughs. “I’d like to do an Indian-themed brunch one of these days—I have ideas of tikka masala biscuits and gravy and other fun dishes.”

With restaurants in Tampa Bay opening and closing at a rapid rate, it's encouraging to see a small, locally-owned pop-up thriving in a niche that it ultimately created for itself. Although his events have gotten more organized and streamlined over the years, he doesn’t see much structural change happening in the future. As the old saying goes, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” and Loko’s monthly pop-ups have been satisfying both LoScalzo’s creative mind and the bellies of his happy brunchers for a solid decade.

And while he loves his full-time teaching gig, he’s pondered the idea of opening his own restaurant.

“I thought about doing a brick and mortar, but at this point it’s too late to back out of teaching, and it would be too much to handle doing both,” LoScalzo explains. “Opening a restaurant is incredibly risky, so these pop-ups have really worked out for me.”

About The Author

Kyla Fields

Kyla Fields is the Managing Editor of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay who started their journey at CL as summer 2019 intern. They are the proud owner of a charming, sausage-shaped, four-year-old rescue mutt named Piña.
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