The culinary squad at Cuban Breezes presents a menu that lists bountiful arrays of authentic Cuban cuisine. An appetizer of pan con queso acclimates taste buds to south-of-Florida flavor via grilled cheese and a garlic spread ($3.49), and empanadas pack seasoned beef or chicken into a flavor grenade ($1.69 each). Eight pressed sandwiches, such as The Big Havana, which melds together a half pound of ham, turkey, havana sauce, lettuce, tomato, and bacon with a cheese adhesive ($6.99), easily slide under closed doors. The pan con lechon, a slow-roasted, marinated pork masterpiece under an awning of onions ($5.59), is one of eight specialty sandwiches that come both grilled and fried. Hungry humans can obviate drastic cuisine-acquiring measures by selecting a signature platter, such as the lechon asado, a shredded, slow-roasted pork marinated in mojo ($8.99); or a veggie wrap, which binds bands of onions, peppers, cucumbers, cheese, pickles, lettuce, and tomato in a garlic-herb wrap ($5.29).
Cuban-born owners George and Zulima Chavez evoke a latin villa with faux window arches, iron sconces, and elaborate murals of ivy scored doors and old-world brick. Amid these rustic trappings, waiters deliver traditional Cuban platters of salmon a la plancha, Spanish sausage sandwiches, and flame-kissed NY choice-cut steaks. While munching on fried plantain chips at the granite-top bar, patrons can peruse the framed artwork of the Cuban countryside and roosters setting their alarm clocks.
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.
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.
Originally built in 1919, the building that houses The Bungalow Restaurant and Bar has seen its fair share of history in the making. But today it's a haven for spirited revelry that even earned a spot on CBS Tampa Bay's 2014 Best Sports Bars In Tampa Bay. To start with, The Bungalow's private skybox?a 1,200-square-foot luxury suite with its own bar, poker room, and vault of vintage Sports Illustrated issues?provides an uber-premium game-day experience. But the rest of the restaurant is more than prepared to accommodate fans. Twelve flat-screen TVs adorn the walls, providing plenty of viewing opportunities throughout the dining areas and around the fully stocked bar. On some days, celebrations are known to spill out onto the outdoor patio section, which features shaded seating and its own views of the surrounding foliage.
The Bungalow's menu also shares the vibrant, eclectic spirit of its environment. Beginning with traditional comfort foods, the chefs incorporate Latin, Cajun, and international flavors into their dishes, creating distinctive items with familiar roots. Orders of shrimp and jalapeno-spiced grits arrive with roasted salsa, and beer-battered fish and chips are accompanied by remoulade and a key lime tartar sauce. The chefs even inject a bit of Cuban flair into the egg rolls by stuffing them with mojo pork, salami, ham, and swiss cheese. Perhaps most importantly, pints of beer, shaken martinis, and specialty cocktails all help keep spirits high between bites.
Veering away from the mainstream molds of personality-devoid coffee shacks, Tre Amici aims to establish itself as a local, independent hub for cappuccinos and creativity. Camp out on the squishy, orange sofas and admire local artwork while sipping on fair-trade and organic products. The full menu of hot and cold beverages includes the slushy latte frappamici with frozen espresso, milk, and a flavor shot ($4.75), chai latte ($4.20), and Italian soda ($3). Counter caffeine with a selection of good-for-you grub, such as Kashi oatmeal with either raisin spice and sliced apples, or brown maple and apple cinnamon ($2.95); organic low-fat yogurt parfaits layered with berries and maple-nut granola ($3.95); and hummus plates served with toasted pita ($5.75). Heartier fare includes crisp salads and gourmet sandwiches.