Tampa, Florida may not be at the top of your destination list but being close to great beaches and other attractions such as Busch Gardens – and close enough to Orlando – it may be a place you will visit some day. And if you do, do NOT miss out on the great hole-in-the-wall Cuban food places in the city! I have been going to Tampa regularly for over 20 yrs. and I enjoy eating the real stuff.
La Teresita (http://www.lateresitarestaurant.com/) (in Columbus Ave.) used to be the grand dame of Cuban restaurants in Tampa about 20 yrs ago. Grand dame does NOT mean elegant or fancy. That would be all wrong for a Cuban restaurant. But it was the place with the best food and where everyone went. However, somewhere down the road, it became different. Other places came up. And some of us stopped going.
Florida Bakery (http://local.yahoo.com/info-14447698-florida-bakery-tampa) (also in Columbus Ave.) has been a long standing place to go to for typical Cuban pastries, cakes, and sandwiches such as the famous Cuban sandwiches. Of course, Cuban coffee too; nothing like a cortadito (expreso with leche).
But other alternatives have come up so the typical places are not the ONLY ones around town anymore. And the other places are, in my opinion, better.
Arco Iris (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/30/340198/restaurant/Tampa-Bay/West-Tampa/Arco-Iris-Tampa), also in Columbus Ave. and almost next door to Florida Bakery, offers really good food in a very homestyle environment. It is spacious and I typically haven’t had a problem getting a table.
Las Margaritas (http://www.allmenus.com/fl/tampa/60687-las-margaritas/menu/) in Hillsborough Ave. is a much smaller place and no frills. But the food is delicious – and cheap!
Pipo’s (http://pipos.com/) which, at last count, has 2 locations offers simple choices that are delicious. It has been around for a while and always consistent. Walk to the counter so you see what’s available and they serve you cafeteria style.
Angelito’s Bakery (http://www.cakes.com/bakeries/angelitos-at-la-caridad-bkry-5386/, where the former La Caridad was; the street sign still exists for La Caridad) has phenomenal pastries and seems a lot cleaner than Florida Bakery. And this one is in Hillsborough as well.
Mr. Empanada (several locations http://www.mrempanada.com/), while not strictly Cuban, deserves a mention. The fried empanadas are very similar to the ones I would eat for lunch in high school (ground beef, cheese, or pizza fillings). Except here, besides the ground beef ones, they have fillings I didn’t have as an option in high school such as guava, and cream cheese.
So if you go to Tampa, be ready to eat GOOD Cuban food and eat well – I do!
Any other favorite Cuban places in Tampa that you like? I am sure there are plenty I haven’t even discovered yet!