Finding Love on MacDill Ave
Once an auto dealership, Love's Artifacts is now a hot spot for its funky food and quirky decor.
Love’s Artifacts Bar and Grill might be one the only places in the world, let alone the entire universe, where an individual would be able to find a large knight’s axe, the best fried chicken this side of the North, a disco ball and jalapeno poppers stuffed with peanut butter.
The History Channel’s “American Pickers” have nothing on Love’s Artifacts.
You will not find an article or a review about this restaurant that does not include the words eclectic, unique, and quirky. And this is no exception. This place should be in the dictionary under all three adjectives, for there are no other words to describe Love’s Artifacts more accurately. Even the history of the establishment reflects its unusual nature.
Before March 2010, the sign that now says “Love’s Grill” used to read “Love’s Auto Sales.” If you look close enough, you might just spot a glimpse of the auto shop it used to be.
For almost a quarter century, Lynn Love was the owner of Love’s Auto Sales. As the economy declined, Love decided he needed something more to lure the customers. So he began selling BBQ out of a food wagon from the car lot. For two years, people came in droves to Love’s – not for his automobiles, for his BBQ. With such high volume, Love listened to his customers and opened up a restaurant.
In the spring of 2010, Love’s Auto Sales became Love’s Artifacts Bar and Grill – and a choir of angels sang and the Bay Area rejoiced. The restaurant has been going strong for over a year now and has even been visited by Guy Fieri on an episode of “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives.”
As you walk into Artifact’s, you immediately realize that there is no other place quite like it. The walls are covered with strange antiques, swords, vintage music albums and posters, and even a World War I uniform. Love owned his own antique shop a few years back, which explains a lot. It seems his entire antique collection makes up the décor of the restaurant, including the mismatched tables and chairs. There is a disco ball overhead that comes alive on weekends when it sparkles and spins to the sounds of the live music.
Love's offers a full bar, a varied selection of brews, and a simple wine list. In fact, the wine selection could be improved, but Love's isn't the type of place you would want a bottle of Silver Oak breathing at the table.
The atmosphere is comfortable and homey, and the food has the same vibe. The menu follows the theme of the restaurant and its mismatched tables and chairs. It is a smorgasbord of Southern comfort food and BBQ, with a tad of Cuban and Italian mixed in. When it comes to the comfort food you must go with the South MacDill Fried Chicken Platter ($9.95). A half (farm-raised) chicken lightly coated in a stand out seasoning and dipped in their secret batter and fried to a golden, juicy crisp. The list of sides is endless – the most memorable being the sautéed spinach, the buttery garlic mashed potatoes, baked beans and collard greens.
The brisket sliders ($10.95) are the best barbeque dish on the menu. Creamy – but not too creamy – coleslaw is stuffed under the soft and buttery bun along with super-thin slices of smoke-infused tender beef. The Pork Conquistador ($9.95) is a thick and juicy slab of Cuban pork with a lemon-wine-butter sauce. There is also a selection of pastas for the vegetarians.
And don’t forget the peanut butter-stuffed jalapeno poppers.
Take a second to let that sink in…peanut-butter-stuffed-jalapeno-poppers. Yes, it sounds a bit interesting, a bit disgusting. But surprisingly these little guys are quite tasty. They’re served with a cilantro cream dipping sauce and grape jelly ($7.95).
You would never guess that a little over a year ago, Lynn Love was a car salesman. He has very successfully converted to a restaurant owner who really, truly cares about his customers, their experience, and the quality of his food and service. Among SoHo’s long list of hip, fine-dining spots, Love has created something a bit unusual.
It’s a refreshing change-of-pace for Tampa foodies and garage sale junkies.
If you go:
What: Love's Artifacts Bar and Grill
Where: 4918 S MacDill Ave Tampa, FL 33614
When: Mon. - Wed. 11 am. - 10 pm.
Thurs. 11 am. - 11 pm.
Fri. and Sat. 11 am. - 12 am.
Sun. 11 am. - 9 pm.