Safety Harbor's Sausage House is smokin'

Aniko Rakoczi knows how to turn out terrific fried bacon.

“If it isn’t greasy, it ain’t good,’’ Emma Jean would tell my hubby as she heaped their platters with fried bacon. The frat house cook, whose cholesterol count probably was 800, could have learned a few tricks from Aniko Rakoczi.

Aniko knows bacon, too. The co-owner of First Quality Sausage House calls this Hungarian fried  concoction, teperto,  flavors it with paprika, and cooks it crunchy during almost an hour of frying. These  bacon bites, albeit a calorically prodigious lot, are pure porcine pleasure.

Customers know where  there’s smoke, there’s flavor and descend to First Quality for racks of ribs, ropes of cserkela,  and smoked butts. You hanker for the world before cholesterol consciousness.

Most patrons come from a tightly-knit community of Eastern European immigrants who know the meats are an echo of the delights they remember from home. The delicatessen, slightly off the beaten path from Safety Harbor’s tony Main Street, sells more than $1,000 worth of smoked meats to a Georgia customer who drives south twice a year.

Aniko’s Hungarian sausage has black pepper and paprika, the Polish varieties contain coriander and garlic, and German sausage is set apart by white pepper and onion.
“It’s a lot of work – I’m here 24/7,’’ she adds.

When Aniko moved to Tampa from Hungary, 27 years ago, she often drove across the bay in pursuit of her favorite meats.

“This is home,’’ she thought. When the owner decided to retire, he knew he could preserve his secrets by passing them along to one of his best customers.

Ribs, sausages and other meat are slow smoked in the old world tradition.

The Easter season finds Aniko hopping with customers wanting poppy-seeded koliche and raisin filled babka. Aniko stocks specialty groceries: farmer’s cheese for pierogies, sour cherries for strudel, and raspberry syrup for homemade, sparkling beverages. One customer almost cried when she found the syrup that reminded her of times gone by.

Her only regret: the government denies customers from using their food stamps at her store. Familiarity does not breed contempt.

“I eat smoked meats every day and never get tired of them,’’ she says.

First Quality Sausage House
605 9th Avenue N.
Safety Harbor, FL (727) 725-5705
Website

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Pondering po’ boys: Alert reader Sandy C. remembers the hoagie po’ boys at Sapido’s in Tampa in the ‘80s. The white sauce on the sandwiches was the best, she says. Does anyone know how to make it?

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First Quality Sausage House is just a few blocks from Safety Harbor's Main Street.

Fill ‘er up at New World Brewery: Smoked pork shoulder, smoked chicken, ribs, sausage and other barbecue are part of New World Brewery’s new lunch buffet. Find it 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. You pay by your appetite; right now they charge $6.50 a pound.1313 E. Eighth Ave., Ybor City, 813-248-4969
WEBSITE

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Galley slave: “The satisfactions of making a good plate of food are surprisingly varied and only one, and the least important of them, involves eating what you’ve made. In addition to the endless riffing about cooking-with-love, chefs also talk about the happiness of making food: not preparing or cooking food but making it … I can’t think of many other activities in modern urban life that give as much simple pleasure.’’ –  Bill Buford, who critiques gastronomic superstar Mario Batali in his must-read book, “Heat, An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.’’ WEBSITE

Bill, having thought himself a mighty fine cook, met the chef at a dinner party and offered his assistance as a dishwasher, prep chef and “kitchen bitch” at New York’s Babbo restaurant.

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What’s the rush? Cory Brennan, a permaculture designer (one who specializes in sustainable land use design), will teach about how farming can benefit the environment through preservation of natural resources at the next Slow Food Tampa Bay meeting. It’s 6:30 p.m. on March 28 at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library (2902 S. Bearss Ave.) If you want to learn more about this worthy idea, show up. There’s no fee.

As a bonus, a free West Coast Florida farm tours on March 30 at the Fair House Farm and Emmanuel Roux’s community garden in St. Petersburg. For more information, go to: WEBSITE

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2 comments to Safety Harbor’s Sausage House is smokin’

  • Hi Taylor, Just stopped by to say hello and check out your site. Love the Sausage House post.
    Best, Gina Melton

  • Julie Smith

    FQSH is on my list next time I come south. I LOVE bacon and am still waiting for a restaurant that serves nothing but.

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