Penn Station's interior, rife with dark hardwood paneling, could have been carved from the trunk of an enormous redwood. Within that space and beneath the glow of old-fashioned street lamps, taste buds globetrot by way of American-style burgers, Italian shrimp scampi, and a full Cuban menu outlining such delights as seafood paella and lime-infused chicken. While two-handing a specialty sandwich named for North Carolina's regal mountains, guests can peruse Penn Station's many antique décor pieces such as a wall-mounted carriage wheel, ceramic boots, and the original wooden flippers from Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic.
Every day from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., the culinary artisans at Zapata's Café build sandwiches, fire flatbreads, and blend fresh smoothies using vibrant, fresh ingredients. The bright space comes alive at lunch time, when friends gather around rustic wooden tables before digging into berry-spinach salads or double-palming hearty pork burritos. To help diners wake up right each day, chefs also put together custom sandwiches and breakfast burritos stocked with veggies and eggs with inspirational messages written in salsa on the side.
The aroma of roasting pork and simmering mojo sauce wafts through La Teresita’s dining room, weaving past hanging tropical plants and a trellised ceiling. Back in the kitchen, chefs plate traditional Cuban dishes, ladling yellow rice and grilled onions onto succulent cuts of beef and layering pork or palomilla steak between slices of toasted bread. Dining companions can cap meals with classic Caribbean sweets such as flan, guava shells filled with cream cheese, or the edible chocolate cigars that Cuba is so famous for.
Ramon Sr. and Sinarah Hernandez opened this colorful Cuban café more than 30 years ago after fleeing Cuba. Luckily, they didn’t have to leave everything behind. Their mouth-watering family recipes have garnered bouquets of praise from publications including Weekly Planet and Tampa Bay Magazine. Today, the shop continues to churn out favorites from the original 1979 menu including Pipo’s famous pork wrap piled high with roasted pork, Spanish rice, and fried plantains. Part of the secret to their sandwiches’ success lies in the breads that are baked fresh every day, and the cornucopia of vegetables that are plucked fresh from the farm or holodeck. Customers can order house specialties a la carte, or graze at a fully stocked buffet. Pipo’s doles out its heaping portions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and hosts lives entertainment on the weekends.
For Las Vegas Cafe owner Francies Vega, cooking is about putting smiles on people's faces. So when she designed her menu, she didn't stick to just one cuisine, but instead incorporated all the dishes that make her happy. The result is a fusion of Cuban and Italian recipes such as chorizo spaghetti, vegetable breakfast crepes, and Cuban-style fried rice sprinkled with ham, peppers, and eggs. Vega's signature dish is the chancellor fish fillet stuffed with ham and cheese and fried until it's as crisp as the first day of autumn.
Every single thing on the menu at Country Cafe is made from scratch. At breakfast, the kitchen griddles up pancakes and folds cheese and veggies into omelets?all made even better before 9 a.m., when servers pour free cups of coffee for all their patrons. Later in the day, diners dig into plates loaded with country-style cooking. The crisp breading of the country-fried chicken stands up against a deluge of white gravy, and the homemade meatloaf is as warm and familiar as that crib you sleep in whenever you visit your parents.