They promote and organize: Tim Heberlein, political director of Florida Consumer Action Network and vice-chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, is a big fan of Ella’s. Sean O’Brien, Brokenmold Entertainment founder, concert promoter and Gasparilla Music Festival booker, is another fan.
What they eat: Heberlein usually goes for “The Roots,” an assortment of roasted root veggies topped with herb and feta cheese. He also digs into some rasta-fries with a side of sriracha. And the brisket and cornbread is “awesome.” O’Brien declares, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention they have the best mac n’ cheese in Tampa!” The side dish always accompanies O’Brien’s basket of ribs.
Why Ella’s? Heberlein says the friendliness of the staff and customers at the Seminole Heights restaurant keeps him coming back. “But they don’t mess around with the food, especially when it comes to Soul Food Sundays. Anytime I have family or friends visiting, I always take them there. It’s kinda like a big taste of Seminole Heights flavor.”
Memory lane: “When I go to Ella’s Soul Food Sunday,” says O’Brien, “I always think about the beginnings of Brokenmold.” Ernie Locke, owner of Ella’s, was one of his first bookings. In the beginning, O’Brien would put on shows in his apartment complex courtyard with Locke’s band Nervous Turkey. “We’d do a concert, kill the keg and all-you-can-eat BBQ for $10,” says O’Brien. “Ernie would pull his big smoker up front of my place and go to town.”
Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café, 5119 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-234-1000, ellasfolkartcafe.com.