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Ella's American Folk Art Cafe Has Good Vibes And Good Food

By Jake Levin

Melissa Deming spent a lot of time on her grandmother's farm in the Midwest as a child.

Her grandmother, named Ella, was a self-sufficient, hard working woman who grew all of her own food and always found a way to recycle and recreate things on her farm. These traits and habits weren't lost on Deming, who also took up an appreciation of folk art while spending time on the farm near Kansas City. Deming moved to the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Fla. in 2000 and noticed a strong independent residential community, but not much in terms of restaurants or entertainment. In 2009, Ella's American Folk Art Café opened its doors.

"Ella's has become a great vehicle for me to be able to expand my art collection over the years and the restaurant is filled to the brim with Southern American folk art, with a primary focus in found object art," Deming said. "It certainly keeps heads spinning throughout dinner and makes for great table conversation."

The casual, easy atmosphere found at Ella's, along with its eclectic art collection which lines the walls, mirror the diversity of the community. Locals have called Ella's "the place where the blue hairs hang out with the blue hair."

"You never know who will be sitting at the next booth," Deming said. "And we like to keep it that way. The weirder, the wackier, the better."

The menu at the café is just as eclectic as the art collection, Deming said. Suzanne Crouch, the chef, always keeps things fun and fresh in the kitchen with a southern Americana menu which includes items such as stuffed chicken, pork chops, Viva la Chimis, Sulu's Curry, Rasta Far Fries, fresh fish, salad, burgers, pizza and more. Vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful at Ella's as well.

Soul Food Sunday is a specialty event held once a week at Ella's American Folk Art Café. It has become a popular brunch option for locals, with more traditional southern fare such as BBQ ribs, brisket and pork, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, collard greens, fried green tomatoes and pickles and macaroni and cheese.

There's also an award winning Bloody Mary on the docket on Sunday's, which is made with ancho pepper-infused vodka and garnished with a BBQ rib.

"It is the very best hangover cure," Deming said.

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