Thursday, July 12, 2012

Local Flavor: West Tampa Sandwich Shop

I discovered this place when Son of Hubmeister went to nearby Tampa Catholic High School. A  modest, stand-alone, homey establishment, West Tampa Sandwich Shop is on Armenia Ave. near MLK and it's easy to miss. The parking lot closest to the front door is always full but they have an overflow lot just south on Armenia. This is a quintessential Tampa haunt where you're just as likely to spy prominent local politicians as you are Spanish-speaking grandmas.

Yup, plastic covers are on the tables.  

This bustling place is on my list of culinary rarities I will miss if I ever move out of Tampa. The photos of family, friends and random diners papering the walls of the little house, the bizarre food-service carts rolled through the tiny dining area by ladies who look as if they've worked there for decades, the incessant grinding of coffee beans, the crowded, old-fashioned food counter overlooking women crafting Cuban sandwiches on bread that is 10 feet long, old Cuban guys meeting for a meal or simply getting a cup of Cuban coffee and reading the paper - it all adds to a certain retro Latin charm. I can best describe it as the Cuban version of the American diner.

Empty seats are uncommon. I was here at an off hour.

Breakfast and lunch are the meals I've enjoyed, but they serve dinner as well. I recommend the ropa vieja sandwich, but I usually can't resist ordering half a Cuban and a cup of black bean soup with a cafe con leche.

Half a Cuban and a cup of soup: Find a better meal for $5.50!

The Cuban sandwich offered here doesn't get enough media attention. It's one of the best in the city.

With prices so affordable, I don't know how they make a profit, but after 30 years in business, I think they've got it figured out. And the people watching is free!

Just a note: After a visit to WTSS, head south on Armenia to Cacciatore Bros., a family-run Italian market and butcher shop that also stocks Spanish products. Be sure to take home some homemade sausage. They also have terrific olive salad in their deli area.

Verdict: Local favorite

West Tampa Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

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