By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

Three years ago, owners and business partners Joel Olinski and Brad Spoor thought they were building a new restaurant Downtown Tampa. He and Brad met regularly to iron out the details at a restaurant in the Publix shopping complex on Linebaugh Avenue and Race Track Road because both lived in Westchase. 

One day the restaurant owner inquired, “why don’t you buy this place instead?” 

Out of the planted seed flourished the scratch kitchen restaurant Mother’s, a fun twist on all mom’s classic recipes that is celebrating its third anniversary in Westchase with a special week-long celebration on September 9-16.

“Mother’s honors all mothers. We’re an elevated Southern comfort,” explained Joel. “We like to rotate the menu yearly from Chicken Pot Pies to Sloppy Joes – everything that brings you back to your childhood and what your mother would make at her house. I wanted to bring something to Westchase that was a one-stop shop – good for families with children and good for adults.”

Joel is not above bussing a table, cleaning the kitchen, or working his celebrated magic behind the bar. With a lifelong hospitality background, originally a master mixologist that placed third in the world for competition, Joel ran The Blue Martini in International Plaza for 17 years. His dream had always been to create a restaurant where the locally-sourced ingredients were familiar but done in a way that raised the bar of how food can be served. Presentation is key to Joel and his chef Alex Rosenblum. A customer eats with their eyes long before the meal touches their lips.

“We use a team of people to come up with our food. Plating is a big deal for me. I want everything coming out looking like it is art.”

On this particular rainy day in August, Chef Alex delighted editor Carla Selby and me with samples from the kitchen of menu favorites including Tuna Tartare, an appetizer that could easily serve as a meal. A delicious ring of raw tuna was nestled below fresh avocado and wonton chips, with toasted sesame seeds and a ginger oyster sauce. 

The Mother’s Berry Salad offered baby greens, succulent shrimp, sliced strawberries, shaved almonds, creamy goat cheese with a homemade blueberry vinaigrette. I stress homemade here because nothing coming out of the kitchen was coming out on cans or jars, preprocessed. Joel prides himself on daily fresh product deliveries from local purveyors to ensure the very freshest dining experience for his customers.

As our table and bellies continued to become fuller, Chef Alex brought out one of the most requested menu items, the three-year Taste of Oldsmar and Taste of Westchase award-winning braised skirt steak risotto featuring skirt steak braised two hours served over traditional risotto and mushrooms, topped with truffle oil and shaved parmesan. As I jealously watched my friend indulge in this stunning presentation of food, I almost wished I still ate red meat and dairy. 

“This is comfort food at its finest,” said Joel. “I call this your Ambien. If you’re eating this, you’re knocked out for the evening. Say goodnight.”

My envy was short-lived as Chef Alex was easily able to cater to my particular dietary restrictions and brought to our table an Impossible Burger on a gluten-free Udi bun – a bun that didn’t fall apart the moment it was lifted from the plate – and a side of roasted Brussel sprouts that can only accurately be defined as heaven-sent. 

Happy can barely describe my reaction to Chef Alex and Joel explaining up to 70 percent of the menu can be made gluten-free, including their incredible pasta dishes.

“We cater to every diet,” Joel said. “You will not leave hungry.”

 Finally, when we knew we couldn’t eat another bite, Joel brought out the popular Poptini, a martini with the Mother’s famous twist – a frozen Popsicle inside the most delicious concoction. Mine was the appropriately-named Mother Pucker. A martini glass with a sugar rim was filled with Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka, Triple Sec, Tres Agave Sour mix, fresh orange and lemon juice with a splash of lemon-lime soda served with Limoncello frozen pop. Be prepared to pucker, but in a really good – I want some more – kind of way.

Carla enjoyed their Mother Fudger Poptini. Its presentation alone was gorgeous. Chocolate drizzled down the sides of the martini glass. I can only imagine how delicious the cream mixed with Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka, Kahlua, Godiva Chocolate Liquor tasted.

When you are a jet-set world-renowned mixologist, it only makes sense that Joel’s bar boasts something for everyone – from wine and craft beer to house wine on tap and creative cocktails. Mother’s drink menu is handcrafted, custom cocktails that incorporate the finest of ingredients in the most innovative way. Some exceptional curious combinations with fun names include Drunk Piggy and Toasted Monkey.

In Drunk Piggy, a smoked glass highlights Four Roses Bourbon, Apple Simple Syrup, Plum Bitters, Black Walnut Bitters and garnished with a slice of candied pepper bacon and a Luxardo cherry. The Toasted Monkey features Monkey Rum Toasted Coconut, Monkey Rum Spiced Rum. II Tramonto Amaretto paired with fresh orange and pineapple juice, Tres Agave Sour Mix and garnished with a Pineapple Leaf, sliced pineapple, cherry and served in recycled Monkey Rum Bottle Glass.

Joel and his team are highly involved in their Westchase community having interns come from Alonso High School.

“We’ve rotated like 30 kids since we started. It wasn’t a job-job. It was fun, especially for a first-time job. We had them doing everything. It was not your typical job.”

Mother’s also hosts numerous Tuesday and Wednesday spirit night fundraisers where kids eat free and with ten percent goes back to the school, several large networking events, even bridal and baby showers. They are proud of their philanthropic efforts for St. Francis Society Animal Rescue. In July they raised over $3,000 with a pet-themed trivia and a portion of the proceeds from the September anniversary celebration will be donated to the rescue.

When asked why he thinks his customers love the restaurant so much: was it the friendly staff, the amazing food, the weekly specials, the innovative cocktails, the Yappy Hour for pet parents, the innovative changing menu, the weekly live entertainment, the special events, the community outreach or a combination of them all, Joel quipped, “Our motto is food, family, friends. I mean, who doesn’t love their Mothers?” 

Mother’s Restaurant is located at 12227 W Linebaugh Ave, Tampa, FL 33626. Reservations are encouraged. Visit mothersfl.com for more information or call 813-814-1533.