Why Pickford’s Counter is Tampa’s best new restaurant


Since opening its doors in June, Pickford’s Counter has been a tour-de-force in the local lunch game. With a brilliant collaboration of talents leading the operation, the restaurant’s success doesn’t come as a surprise, but an awesome meal—whether precedented or not—is always worth sharing. And Pickford’s is definitely awesome.

Since 1940, 2606 West Hillsborough Ave has been a notable lunch counter. Prior to 1997, it was known as Pickford’s Sundries, which spent decades selling 45-cent egg platters alongside a country store selection of knick-knacks and home goods. After the original shop shut it doors, the space laid vacant for years—but not for lack of interest. According to David Hansen, it wasn’t until he and Martin Casanova, the partners behind Urban Bungalow, approached Pickford’s heiress, Marie Haley, that she finally accepted a deal.

Bringing history back to life in Tampa

“Marie inherited this place from her grandparents,” David shared, leaning against a vintage dining table, “She did her homework in these chairs when she was 11 years old. She never wanted the store to lose its original vision.”

It was at this point that an older gentleman interjected. 

“I’ve been coming here for 40 years,” he revealed, clutching a glass soda bottle. “My grandparents and I— we used to eat at these tables.”

Scanning the restored, rustic space, I concluded that Marie’s trust in the pair was justified. With original menus tacked upon the walls, 20th century Maybelline lining the shelves, and an antique pinball machine nestled in the corner, Pickford’s Counter pays the perfect homage to its charming predecessor.

Elevating diner classics

Now, when it came to designing the food menu, the team recruited a third partner, Benjamin Pomales. While working as Chef de Cuisine at Tampa’s acclaimed fine-dining restaurant, The Rooster and the Till, 27 year-old Ben had become hungry for his own place. When the Pickford’s Counter proposal crossed his doorstep, the opportunity seemed too perfect to pass up. He left his job—but took along coworker, Adrianna Siller—and joined the team.

Between Ben and Adrianna, Pickford’s menu has been cleverly crafted to feature nostalgic, diner classics, but in a contemporary, elevated fashion. Committed to creating high-quality, innovative meals, the impressive menu boasts old-time staples such as “Hotcakes,” but refined with golden curry and orange blossom syrup. 

Sound interesting? Then read on, because this round of restaurant highlights is just too good to miss.

A comprehensive food guide

Let me start this segment with a disclaimer: anything  that you order at Pickford’s will be phenomenal. But, for indecisive foodies with Yelp recommendation FOMO, I’ve created a guide to some of their tastiest hits. I share it now in hopes that it will help eager newcomers effectively navigate the wonderful world of Pickford’s.

Golden Curry Hotcakes

Since I’ve already mentioned this masterpiece of a dish, and I consider it a necessity, I figured it would be a good place to start.

So— you already know that this classic batter, which tastes like a melt-in-your-mouth cupcake, features subtle notes of golden curry and orange blossom. What you don’t know, however, is that the plate also features house-made candied cashews, dollops of whipped honey, and a dash of turmeric. And, if that doesn’t sound delicious enough, each frisbee-sized pancake is skillet-cooked in (vegan) butter, creating a paper-thin layer of decadent crunch around its hot, gooey center. 

Sausage Pickmuffin

For 50 years, drive-through diners have gone nuts over the Egg McMuffin. Playing on the nostalgic idea of this American breakfast favorite, Pickford’s created the Sausage “Pickmuffin,” which strives to modernize the concept.

The “sausage” in the dish is composed of “Impossible” meat, house-marinated in a secret blend of breakfast spices, while the “cheese” is also vegan. The egg (which can be 86’d for animal-product free diners), though, is the real kicker. Lightly fried, as opposed to cooked through, its warm yolk is left drippy enough to soak deep into the muffin’s nooks and crannies.

Fancy Egg Sammie 

If the Pickmuffin sounds too casual for your contemporary taste, then the Fancy Egg Sammie is probably the choice for you. 

Noted by Ben and Adrianna to be the store’s best-selling dish, this premier egg panini—which features swiss, breakfast aioli, green tomato, and potato sticks—is raising the breakfast sandwich game to the next-level.

Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich 

More of a lunch person? Got a craving for spice? Then look no further than Chef Adrianna’s personal favorite, the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich. 

Conceptualize the melding of chipotle honey thigh meat, pickled chayote, smoked bacon, and “ooey-gooey” cheese on a fresh-baked brioche bun…

Salivating? Don’t worry—that’s just a side effect.

Mortadella Sandwich

Ok, so remember how I said everything at Pickford’s is phenomenal? Well, I still stand by that, but this dish is ridiculously phenomenal. 

I don’t know it’s the half-inch slices of mortadella, herb-infused focaccia, or the clever implementation of multiple  sauces (because who needs convention??), but this sandwich will leave you singing Pickford’s praises. And, with it’s incredibly addictive cool ranch Dorito crunch, probably ordering another one for tomorrow.

A historic restaurant with a magnetic pull

On my way out of Pickford’s vibrant pink doors, I felt that bittersweet pang you get when you leave the house of an old friend. It was almost as if my heart was longing to run back to its cozy wooden booth, grab another latte, and watch peacefully as the afternoon sun set into an evening twilight. In that magnetic moment, I finally understood what kept the regulars coming in for decades. 

And, as a cool breeze jostled the golden exit bell, I vowed I’d be one of them.

Pickford’s Counter is open daily at 2606 W Hillsborough Ave. To view the full menu, or explore delivery options, diners can visit their official website; https://www.pickfordscounter.com/.

Kara VanDooijeweert is a current journalism student at Rutgers University. If you can't find her in the Bay's best restaurants, she's probably off exploring the wilderness. Catch her on instagram, @karanicolev.