Cafe Con Leche & Cuban Toast

I was looking for a family style restaurant in West Tampa, having just deposited Frau at St Joe’s for a procedure at O Dark Thirty. I was hungry and wanted to get out of the frigging hospital. I was pretty sure there was a yet unknown discovery close by that would have some Cuban breakfast fare which has always been a personal favorite. I am particularly fond of café con leche and hot buttered Cuban toast. So I swung on to Armenia Ave which runs through the heart of the Latin community in West Tampa and was rewarded after a few blocks.

It was exactly what I was looking for a warm, busy, family style café with all the traditional Cuban dishes. I had a full breakfast and read the paper as I watched friends and relatives come and go. As I looked around the walls I noticed autographed pictures of local and national celebrities who had discovered and visited the café over the years, I was happily surprised to find a new jewel in Tampa’s crown of multicultural eateries.  Before I retired from Economic Development much of what I did involved meeting for breakfast and lunch so I am pretty familiar with Tampa/ St Pete’s  establishments thus it is a double pleasure for me to find a new spot. Feeling quite satisfied and a little self-congratulatory to have discovered” new” digs, I returned to the hospital to await the results. (which were good).

Several months later while watching the election campaign coverage I saw the West Tampa Sandwich  Shop featured on the local news. It seems President Obama’s staff had followed me into the café, for there he was pressing the flesh and back slapping the heart of Tampa’s Latin community. Hillsborough County narrowly favored Obama in the Nov 6 election and the Latin voting districts were his margin of victory. Pretty sure Romney’s radar did not include the spot.

Last week I found the opportunity to revisit the café and entered with my FSU attire on. After I had been seated for a couple of minutes another retired guy approached and began talking about FSU. He asked if he could join me so we chatted throughout my Cuban breakfast of authentic café con leche and Cuban toast. Seems he was in the first ever graduating class after FSU became co-ed in 1946. So he graduated in 1951, in pre-med. He then went to Med school at the University of Florida, got his MD and practiced family medicine in Ybor City until he retired.  He was Italian and quite proud of his heritage and of his children and grandchildren.  Mostly he just wanted to reminisce about the time he spent as an undergrad at FSU, what the campus was like and his life experience while there. He apparently suspected that by my appearance I might be old enough to remember some of the locals he frequented.  He was right.

This experience is but one of many Tampa/St Pete adventures I have been blessed to experience over the last 40 years and one of the reasons I so love the area.  What I most want after this writing is a cup of café con leche and Cuban toast.



This is the Moment

Some years ago my wife surprised me with some tickets to a Broadway show at the Performing Arts Center in Tampa. It was a musical adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, the Robert Louis Stephenson classic Novella of the duality of man…good and evil. I had no idea at all how the story could be done well as a musical. But it was a Christmas Eve Matinée fun idea so I suspended disbelief and off we went. When we were seated and reviewing the program we saw that an understudy was doing his first time role as the lead, and we wondered how that would go over….but not for long. He was sensational and went on to do the lead many more times when the show reached Broadway where it played for 4 or 5 years. I became a “Jekky” and saw the show both on Broadway and in Tampa several more times. I love the musical score which I now realize is difficult to describe by providing links from you tube, as the emotions and passion of the score are vastly contrasting. There is beauty and love (the good) and there is dark and pulsating intensity (the bad.) In order to fully appreciate the individual songs one must see the play. There is however one song, This is the Moment, which stands out as a classic. It is the moment when the good Dr. Jekyll injects himself with the serum that he has developed to experiment with the evil side of man. It is the beginning of his end , but he does not yet know that, and so the song has a dramatic double meaning. Ultimately the good Dr. Jekyl is destroyed by his evil twin Mr. Hyde.
So what right? Why write about this now? Well, being a Jekky, I just last week saw the reprisal show in Tampa. ( I don’t think it will accomplish its goal of making Broadway), but it was fun to once again enter into the world of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde And then I saw the 2008 highlight of Barack Obama’s speech “This is the Moment “ when he said generations form now we will look back and recall that this is the moment when the planet began to heal and the oceans were lowered, and universal healthcare flowed like manna from the heavens.
Well sir, we will see.