Every Phillies fan NEEDS to eat at Lenny's in Clearwater before they die
Once upon a time in a land far, far away (Clearwater, Fla.), there was a place untouched by time. A restaurant where unicorns existed (on T-shirts), the waitresses were local celebrities and the danishes were free. A place where the regulars turned out to be World Series champions and Hall of Famers. A place called Lenny's.
Second only to maybe Bright House Field, Lenny's is the must-see destination if you're going to swing through Phillies Spring Training. Opened 35 years ago by Lenny and Judy Farrell, this breakfast and lunch joint is nestled all but beneath US Highway 19, between about a half dozen hotels, just around the corner from the Best Buy parking lot (no pay phones, I checked).
If the window art didn't give it away, they basically lace the danishes with Phillies fandom down there. Mike Schmidt's jersey hangs on the wall and the wait staff rocks Phillies shirts.
Loraine -- who's been a waitress there for 15 years running and is imortalized on the menu -- says that the Phillies are "in her blood" thanks to Lenny's and it's not tough to see why, especially when the team hired her son as a bat boy.
She says that they provide breakfast for the teams at Bright House Field and the other local facilities. Lenny's itself is open at 6 a.m., but the opener is in at 3 a.m. and out the door by 5 a.m. (to make sure that the players get their bacon and eggs).
The players used to dine in Lenny's all the time. Loraine says that Jimmy Rollins had stopped in a bunch and that they used to let Roy Halladay in before they opened in the morning. According to Dan Farrell -- who took over as owner to help Judy after his father passed away -- and his brother Ben, they were asked to bring breakfast to the Phillies because players were hanging out too long after breakfast and would show up to the stadium late.
Before the change, though, the Farrells recall spending a significant amount of time with the players. Dan says that Darren Daulton and John Kruk and those guys from the rowdy 1993 team used to show up a lot. He remembers pulling Daulton's car around and leaving it running behind the kitchen so that Dutch could sneak out through the kitchen "Goodfellas" style when he was done with his meal.
Jim Thome once hit a home run that landed on US 19 and the Farrells reportedly traded two meatloaf sandwiches to the construction workers who came into possession of the thing. They've still got the "Meatloaf Ball," which Jim Thome has since signed.
Ben recalled an intimate exchange with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt shortly after his father -- the famous Lenny -- passed away:
"[Mike Schmidt] said, 'I really miss your dad.' And customers say that and people who knew him and it was always nice, but when Mike Schmidt says it ... it's Mike Schmidt sayin' it."
Ben says that Schmidt told him that he and Steve Carlton and a bunch of the older Phillies used to sit at the counter for free breakfasts back before they had meal allowances.
Whether you're looking to scarf some of the delicious raisin round French toast, drink a Lager with lunch like back in Philly, or just hoping to get a free paper with your breakfast, it really is the "best breakfast in Clearwater."
Go for the danishes, stay for the stories about Mike Schmidt and John Kruk.