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Saturday, Sep 23, 2017
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Dependable diner rewards repeat visits

RUSKIN - Popi's wants you to be a regular. You can bet, after just one visit, someone will be trying to remember your name. We had the pleasure of getting the same server twice, and she not only remembered us, but she also remembered what we had ordered during our previous visit a week before. On both visits, a Saturday and a Monday, the place was packed.
On our first visit, we went for lunch but were torn between breakfast food and the regular menu. Popi's serves breakfast fare until 3 p.m. and the smell of bacon and pancakes was tempting. We started with the spinach dip and chips. The chips needed a bit more salt but the dip was creamy and a good start to the meal. As we munched, we saw patrons at table after table opt for breakfast. We chose a Greek Omelet, stuffed with feta cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, onions and sausage. The feta, instead of traditional American cheese, was a nice change. The omelet reminded us of what Grandma would make. It came with home fries, which were a little too golden. To top it off, we ordered a cup of coffee, which the server kept full and piping hot. The little one among us ordered a Mickey Mouse pancake off of the kid's menu. It also came with home fries, and these were cooked to perfection. The pancake, shaped like Mickey's head, was a big hit and the kiddo enjoyed eating it — ears first. We also chose Sarah's BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad. It came with chopped grilled chicken breast, crumbled bacon, corn, tortilla strips, tomatoes and cheddar jack cheese. The flavor combinations were pleasing but the salad, overall, was unremarkable. For our next visit, we stuck with dinner. Our server highly recommended the baked spaghetti, and we were glad we took her advice. The huge plate of spaghetti was served with homemade sauce and covered in mozzarella. It was perfectly baked and so large that half went home for the next day's lunch. We ordered a small Greek salad which wasn't short on tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. It came with a generous amount of feta cheese and Popi's Greek dressing. We also tried the Chicken tenders and French fires. The plump tenders were golden and fried to perfection. Popi's menu has plenty to offer. There are Italian entrees, such as eggplant Parmesan and chicken Alfredo. Our server said the liver and onions are a big draw. There's also grilled mahi mahi, grouper and sirloin steak. The chef offers nightly specials, too. Service was excellent on both visits. Our server was friendly and had plenty of suggestions. We found the restaurant to be a real kid pleaser, complete with coloring pages and a cup full of crayons. The kids' menu is varied with a hot dog, hamburger, spaghetti, fish fingers and more. Each comes with a drink and, at $5.99, is a good value. There is one hiccup, though, with the children's menu: It's only available in the dining room. A colleague recently dined in and ordered a kid's meal to take home, but the server said no, so they had to get a kid-sized meal elsewhere. All in all, though, we found Popi's a friendly place, offering home-cooked food at a good value. Bottom line: Home-cooked breakfast, Italian and Greek food in a diner atmosphere Where: 1010 U.S. Highway 41 N., Ruskin Hours: 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily Credit cards: AE/MC/V Reservations: No Children's menu: Yes Alcohol: No Wheelchair access: Yes Price: Entrees range from $5 to $13 Call: (813) 649-1315

Tribune reviewers eat anonymously. Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7804.
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