To be perfectly clear I’ve been to Bono’s at least a dozen times in my lifetime, if not more. The sign actually reads “Bono’s Famous Chicago Style Hot Dogs, Subs & Salads”. Since I recently started reviewing places I’ve been and because I ate there today for lunch, I decided it was high time I wrote to tell you about this little gem. This place has been here so long, that as the road widened (Ulmerton) they actually lost the front of their parking lot. So be prepared as parking is a premium and you may have to walk from up the block, but it’s worth it.
Let’s start with the decorum. This is a basic building painted bright yellow with red trim. It’s eye-catching but not very attractive. Don’t get me wrong the paint is clean and fresh but overall when you think of a big bright yellow building you don’t think fine dining. Inside you’ll find a simplistic layout with approximately 10 deuce tables with simple chairs in a room with very little decor. In fact it’s so plain it’s easily forgotten. As you walk in there is a counter immediately to your left with a small menu board on the wall much like a picture. It contains nothing fancy, basic sandwiches, salads, and a couple of side items with Coke products to drink. For entertainment, there is always a newspaper on one of the tables.
Let’s talk about the food. I’ve had at the Chicago style dogs and the Chicago beef sandwich on previous outings and they’re both delicious. Today I opted for my favorite here which is the cheese steak. Today I ordered the six-inch but I really should’ve ordered a 12 inch as I always forget just how tasty it is. It all starts with the bun which is lightly buttered and toasted perfectly with just the right amount of crisp. He uses a cheese whiz type sauce now (more on that later) which covers the tasty flavored shaved steak, and you can get optional mushrooms and onions which I always enjoy. All food here is cooked to order. That “he” I am referring to is the elderly gentleman who serves as the cook and owner. I’ve never actually heard him speak but that’s mostly because he is hidden partially behind a wall with a chrome pass-through and he is always slammed with business every time I’m there. This place is only open from 11 to 3 PM on weekdays. Did I mention that he wears a Greek sailor cap?
The other half of the ownership belongs to his lovely wife who is in the front of the house taking your order and getting the drinks and side items for you. I’ll never forget my first encounter with her. I ordered a cheesesteak 12 inch, a side order of fries and a large Coke, now my standard order, and I had asked her what comes on the cheesesteak, she replied “it comes with Swiss cheese”. Not really a big fan of Swiss cheese (well the kind with the holes anyway), as I voiced my opinion she scoffed at me and said, “oh you’ll love it dear”, I then inquired as to whether or not I could get peppers, onions and mushrooms, she smiled almost sarcastically and said “mushrooms and onions it is”. She’s quite the spicy one, but you’ll learn to love her like you do your own grandmother.
This last outing I decided to sit outside and enjoy the Florida sunshine. The concrete small round 2 person tabletops are nothing fancy, painted white, but I really just wanted to bask in the sunlight. When she brought my sandwich out, my fries were missing, and when I asked her about them, she said at first that she had forgotten them then she stated that she had burnt them. Either way it’s part of the charm. Unfortunately, this time when they did come out I had already finished the majority of my sandwich. She apologized several times which I found to be quite cute and endearing. I didn’t really care, to be honest, as I don’t really need fries, well at least my waistline doesn’t and it turned out to be a good thing as today’s fries seemed a bit freezer burned, plus, the packets of ketchup which she supplied in ample amounts seem to be quite vinegary for some reason. By this time, I was really turned off by the whole thing. I had eaten a couple of fries but that’s about it. I had already finished my sandwich at this point and stacked the 2 baskets up, gathered my Coke, and headed inside to bring her the baskets. By now a line 6 people deep had developed but she brushed everyone aside, came out from behind the counter, noticed that I hadn’t eaten my fries and said apologetically again and in a slight whisper, “I’m giving you $2 back” I refused a couple of times but she insisted saying that she would feel better. I couldn’t really resist. She also topped my Coke off as well, and halfway through asked me what I had after partially filling it up with root beer, all part of the charm really.
So with my impromptu refund, lunch set me back $7 cash. It is of course important to note that I said cash, no credit cards or checks are accepted at this location. Probably never have been and probably never will be. So in closing, if you’re looking for a great little lunch spot where you can get a good cheese steak sandwich, Chicago dog or Chicago Beef with a slice of Home-style service, this is the place for you. It’s not the best cheesesteak in the Tampa Bay Area, there’s nothing especially unique on the menu, and it’s not the greatest value, but the service is unique and it feels like family. Small things like the spotless dining room and restroom, his perfectly buttered toasted bread, and her smile, will keep you coming back over and over again.