Cl will have our full report on the new food and drink choices for TIA travelers (that's in addition to the already entrenched Burger King and Chili’s) in our special Food Issue, which hits the street two weeks from today (June 14).
But let's take time out today to talk about Don Shula, the namesake of the Shula Steak House franchise, which has had a very successful run at its location in at what is now the InterContinental Hotel on Westshore since 1994.
After being fired by the Bengals in 1996, Dave Shula went into the new family business, running Shula's Steak Houses. His father told reporters on Wednesday that, "Dave does a great job running the restaurant business. My wife Mary Anne's involved. I'm just the pretty face who shows up, " he said smiling.
TIA is the third Florida airport to host a Shula's, with other locations in Miami and Fort Myers.
Coach Shula said he got into the business back in the 1990s when the son of the owner of the steak house located at the Miami Lakes Inn and Golf Resort asked him to lend his name to the then-struggling eatery.
"I resisted for 2-3 years, and I finally said 'let's try it,' and we finally tried it and it immediately tripled in business from what it had been doing, and I thought to myself 'this is not a bad deal,'" Shula joked with reporters inside his newest franchise.
Located right next door to Shula's Steak House in the new Airside C wing of the airport is a Shula's Burgers, where patrons in a rush can get fast (within seven minutes) gourmet burgers prepared for them.
As anyone who has ever visited a Shula's Steak House knows, the portions are sizable, as are the prices. That's not so much the case with the airport restaurant, as it features more casual fare — burgers, salads and sandwiches.
The 82-year-old legendary coach called it a career coaching the Miami Dolphins after the 1995 season. His greatest reign was in 1972-73, when the Dolphins won back to back Super Bowls and were truly Florida's team, as that was still years before Tampa Bay had their franchise.
The coach employs a healthy sense of humor. He said while in Tampa three years ago for the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, he and wife Mary Anne decided to beat the traffic and head out before the game ended to watch the last quarter at Shula's Steak House on Westshore. But he never made it in.
"We get back to the restaurant and there's a guard waiting at the end of the restaurant, and I said I'm Coach Don Shula, I want to watch the end of the game. (The guard) says there's a private party that the Steelers have booked the restaurant, and no one's allowed there. I said you don't understand, that's my restaurant. And the guy said, "I've been told', and he wouldn't allow me in"
After a pause he says, "That guy didn't have a job very long."
If you want to visit the new Shula's Steak House or Shula's Burgers at Tampa International, you better have a flight with Southwest or Frontier, as those are the only carriers currently with flights out of TIA's Airside C.