The Hot Tomato – A Leap of Faith
RUSKIN – Tina Kandos, owner of The Hot Tomato, describes it as the restaurant that never sleeps.
The Hot Tomato opened in January of 2015 and, for Tina, the restaurant represents a leap of faith. She sunk her life’s savings into it.
The great news is Tina is not new to the restaurant business; she’s owned four. The Hot Tomato is the biggest to-date and she’s already built a loyal following.
In fact, Tina grew up in the restaurant business. She reminisces that her parents had restaurants when she was growing up.
“I remember standing on a milk crate copying whatever my mom and grandmother were doing,” Tina says. “My grandma always said ‘If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.’”
Tina has been hard working, and serving great food ever since.
The Hot Tomato Is Hot
If you’ve visited The Hot Tomato on SR 674 in Sun City Center / Ruskin, you know how good the food is. There’s always a line, but don’t let this stop you. The line is for good reason and it moves fast.
Tina says they’ve been non-stop busy since they opened, except for the one week they closed in September 2015.
“This location was a gas station,” Tina says. “When we opened The Hot Tomato there will still the pumps outside.”
The one-week closure enabled Tina, her son, Pete Detty, and friends to completely renovate the interior, while the gas pumps were removed and the parking lot was refinished.
Tina says their busiest days are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Holidays are busy, too. If you plan to order dessert, or want an event catered, it’s best to get your order in early.
The Hot Tomato: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert (a category unto itself)!
The Hot Tomato menu is extensive. They have a ton of signature items that customers come back for time and again, and they recently added more dinner items because of demand. If you cannot find something you like you probably just don’t like eating.
What makes their food so good? Good cooking for one, and the fact that Tina has been cooking, and in the restaurant business, her entire life.
“Most everything is fresh and homemade,” Tina says. “Our Dirty Bird sandwich gravy, a very secret recipe, is homemade.”
La Segundo bakery delivers their signature Cuban bread, and their homemade onion rolls are delivered every two days. The Hot Tomato also gets their famous ‘bucket bread’ delivered from a Clearwater bakery.
The Restaurant Never Sleeps
No, they are not open 24/7, but the restaurant is working 24/7.
Ruth, an Amish woman, arrives late at night and bakes until the wee morning hours, sometimes until 7:00am or 8:00AM (or later), to provide the delicious desserts you’ll find, including the ridiculously yummy pineapple upside-down cake.
A second baker, works through the day, to provide the cold case goodies.
The cleaning crew works their magic through the night, too.
The Hot Tomato: Highlights from Tina
“We’ve had an overwhelming reception,” Tina says. “We’ve loved meeting so many people and it’s been gratifying meeting regulars and people who’ve become loyal customers. It’s really great when folks come back from the North. It’s fun to catch up.”
Anyone who has eaten at The Hot Tomato knows the restaurant feels more like a family dining table. The staff and guests are friendly.
The day I visited to interview Tina I met a couple visiting from Ireland. They were staying at Little Harbor and learned about The Hot Tomato. They were so excited to find such a great and affordable place.
Contact / Location:
ADDRESS: 2702 E. College Avenue, Ruskin, FL 33570
HOURS: 7:00AM – 8:00PM
What’s Your Favorite Hot Tomato Item?
Their brand new Website lists their Cuban sandwich, club sandwich, tomato pie and strawberry shortcake as customer favorites, but I’m sure the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is the best…and, I’ve tried it many times.