TAMPA, Fla. - You could say Chris Forney grew up in a house of ribs. He was 12 when his dad put him to work at Kojak’s, an old restaurant with a huge porch, stuck in time near Gandy and Bayshore boulevards in South Tampa.
"It was a regular home built in 1927," said Forney. "I met the lady whose father built it. She mentioned this was the first house on this block and close to the water, nothing but woods."
But the woods get smaller as the city gets bigger. Within the next few months, the old house that became Kojak’s will be replaced with new apartments. A developer made Forney an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Although, some say South Tampa doesn’t need more new apartments as much as it needs old-fashioned values.
"It’s a good product and good service," said Forney. "We never cheated on the product and it was always hard work. We keep doing the same thing. It’s consistency and it’s hard to find these days."
Historical photo of house before it became Kojak's
He credits his dad for his work ethic and his uncle for the name Kojak’s, a TV detective back in the 1970s.
"My uncle, before he was in the restaurant business, he was the chief of detectives in Midwest City, Oklahoma and he caught a lot of bad guys," Forney said.
He also had a killer recipe for ribs, served for decades at his restaurant in Oklahoma and Kojak’s in Tampa. But it may not be the final chapter. Forney says he’s looking for a location where Kojak’s could make a comeback.
He would like something smaller and easier to maintain than a 1927 house. The ribs will be just as good, but they’ll never duplicate the setting, stuck in time in South Tampa.
Kojak’s will be torn down sometime this summer to make way for the new apartments. In the meantime, they are open for business at 2808 W. Gandy Boulevard in Tampa.