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.



4 Responses

  1. pt, a very lovely post. Nice to progress beyond politics (mostly, I did notice that reference to the Latino vote), but I have to ask…what exactly is Cuban toast?

  2. That’s it PT…torture me with the fact that there really is not much in the way of authentic Cuban in Tallytown . Cafe con leche is the top of the coffee menu as far as I’m concerned. I buy sweetened condensed milk to put in my “regular” coffee during the week and espresso during the weekends.

    From the map to that place, I see that I missed it because when we go to La Teresita (diner, not white tablecoth one) we take Armenia from the Interstate and then left on Columbus and this place is north of Columbus.

    But next time we’re in the area, we’ll check it out. “The Works”, with chorizo, sounds delicious. When we were in Seville and had an apartment, our typical breakfast included eggs and chorizo. And we still stopped in for hot chocolate and churros at the first opportunity.

  3. FN what is Cuban toast? Well first you have to have real Cuban bread which is rare north of the “Cuban bread line.” It is made in Tampa and Miami through a process developed in Cuba. Basically it is a simple dough recipe made without fat. It is baked in a brick oven with a palmetto leaf on top. LaSecunda Bakery in Tampa turns out 7,000 loaves a day. Because it has no fat it has a one day shelf life before it becomes hard.It has a cracker like thin crust and is soft as air on the inside. There is an ongoing battle between Tampa and Miami as to who has the best. Tampa Cubans say it’s Tampa because Tampa’s water is better than Miami’s. Cuban toast is a 6-8 inch length cut into quarter pieces, buttered and heat pressed, so that the “toast” is compressed but not crunchy.

    SC Remember that Armenia splits & becomes two one way avenues a couple of blocks north of the restaurant which is on the South bound lane. It is easier to take MLK to Armenia and turn south. It will be on the west side and parking is an adventure.

    Oh and once there was good Spanish food in Tallahassee though not exclusively Cuban.

  4. I figured it was something like that, pt, although I did think (sarcastically) yesterday that maybe it was toast made by Cubans 🙂 Maybe you and sc can meet there for breakfast on his next trip to Tampa. In Tallahassee, certain kinds of ethnic food are hard to come by. But I’d say that’s improving with the proliferation of food trucks. Because of the food trucks, sc was able to introduce me to Filipino food. He also taught me my one and only Filipino word: “Aso”–dog. As in, there’s no aso in this food is there?

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