Local history buffs and Tampa Heights residents may be the few who knew the Ulele (You lay lee) name, well before it became synonymous with a multi-million dollar project.
It first gained fame for legendary Native American Princess Ulele, who saved the life of a Spanish explorer facing certain death at the hands of her tribe. Ulele also identifies a spring that was a vital source of Tampa’s drinking water.
Now it is widely known as the namesake of a restaurant concept created by Richard Gonzmart, a native son of Tampa, noted restauranteur, marathon runner, philanthropist and devoted family man.
Ulele’s latest incarnation is as a sparkling waterfront dining spot within a former pumping station, dating back to 1902, that has been dramatically re-purposed and re-designed. Gonzmart, who hails from the same neighborhood where the restaurant has risen, has been a galvanizing force behind the efforts to re-invent and revitalize Tampa Heights.
Ulele’s two-story space spans more than 10,000-square-feet, encompasses indoor and outdoor seating, facilities for making beer, as well as ice cream, and features furnishings by local craftsmen.
Under Executive Chef Eric Lackey’s direction, indigenous ingredients from local farms and water will define the menu.
Neighboring Water Works Park and the newly extended Tampa Riverwalk path that hugs the Hillsborough River through downtown, have already created public interest and access for this area.
“The development group that purchased 50 acres to the north of us has started the renovation of the Armature Building. I have heard talk of a hotel, residents, offices. That’s how this all changes now,” Gonzmart said.
—–Mary Lou Janson
Ulele is due to open this summer for lunch and dinner daily, plus brunch dishes Saturdays and Sundays. 1810 North Highland Ave. (corner of West 7th and Highland Avenues), 813-999-4952. Visitwww.ulele.com for more information.