Otto: Vision for Ulele restaurant has great back story
"Hey," the man called from the dusty parking lot. "Come here and take a look at this." It was Mayor Bob, and it was a few minutes before his latest golden shovel ground-breaking, this time to kick off construction for a new restaurant. He was over by a ditch in the lot between the new restaurant and what appeared to be a mini-jungle. We both leaned over and peered down at a pool of water about 4 feet in diameter with bubbles coming from somewhere underneath. "This was a spring the city used to provide water for part of the city," the mayor went on, launching into his vision of what he says is going to happen at this anchor point of the Tampa Riverwalk in the next seven or eight months.The spot was on the eastern side of the Hillsborough across from Blake High School, which is where the mayor envisions the western elements of the Riverwalk will spring up years from now, when there are ferries and water taxis galore. Anyhow, that's his dream. He was there this day for the groundbreaking of the new Ulele restaurant being constructed in the old Water Works building next to the city's Water Works Park project, which will anchor the Tampa Riverwalk. The park is planned to take advantage of a revitalized spring, boat docks and open spaces. There is so much to like about the quality as well as the scope of the two projects. The restaurant, under the management of the Columbia restaurant's Gonzmart family, looks to be a jewel and a great private/public partnership. The Gonzmarts are promising a menu that will reflect our history, although I doubt they will bring back those great chili rellenos from the long-gone Burro on Gandy or the special sauce from the Goody Goody, but then you can't have everything. Casey Gonzmart did say that if it's possible, they plan to use that spring water to create a special craft beer. v vEven the name "Ulele'' shows a respect for the history of the people who settled along the Bay. In fact, I saw one story talking about the mythical legend of Ulele. Many historians say Ulele was the daughter of a chief in the village of Ucita by the name of Hirrihigua (just clear your throat and that ought to be close enough). There is the suggestion that the event, which happened in 1528, was "borrowed" 80 years later and used as the Pocahontas tale. It seems that Hirrihigua was miffed just because Spanish explorer Panfilo de NarvŠez had come through a few years earlier, cut off his nose and thrown his mother to a pack of dogs. Now Hirrihigua was taking a little revenge by roasting Juan Ortiz, one of NarvŠez's men, over a fire. Ulele allegedly threw herself over Ortiz. Her dad relented and she later escaped with Ortiz to another village. True or not, it's a great story to impress your friends with next year when you're sitting there staring across the river with a glass of sangria while you tell them the Pocahontas story is all hooey.