Cuban comfort food
Cafe Masaryktown, on Broad Street north of County Line Road, offers tasty authentic Cuban dishes that's so hard to find in Citrus, and the price is right and servings are hearty.
By LOGAN NEILL
Published October 21, 2005
The wonderful thing about Cuban cooking is that it's the ultimate comfort food. While my Northern relatives may crave pot roast, red potatoes and biscuits for Sunday supper, make mine a warm plate of boliche with black beans and rice and a hunk of Cuban bread.
When I was growing up in St. Petersburg, my family's favorite monthly dinner outings involved a trek across the Gandy Bridge to Ybor City to storied venues like Las Novedades, La Tropicana, the Columbia Restaurant and Silver Ring Sandwich Shop. For a couple of bucks, you could eat like a king.
Sad to say, such home-cooked pleasures are few and far between once you get north of the Hillsborough County line.
Sure, you can get a decent Cuban sandwich at just about any local lunch counter. But finding authentic empanadas, picadillo and flan calls for some venturesome hunting.
All of which makes Cafe Masaryktown so embraceable. The bright yellow clapboard building on Broad Street north of County Line Road offers the kind of tasty traditional Cuban dishes we natives go wild over.
The edifice, originally built in 1925, served for decades as a hotel and later became a Slovak-style bistro. Cuban cuisine was introduced after the building was sold in 1997.
Proprietors Luis and Alina Cabrera and their husband and wife partners Esperanza Jimenez and Osvaldo Tejeda assumed the reins of the establishment in 2002 with the goal of expanding the limited menu that now includes a dozen sandwich items and nearly as many entrees, all made fresh daily.
Once inside the door you quickly realize you're a guest in a proud, family-run establishment. The warm and homey decor blends bright, colorful art with personal mementos, from vintage cigar box covers to a photo shrine filled with Latin baseball heroes.
Of course, what keeps customers coming back regularly to Cafe Masaryktown is the food. There's nothing fancy here, just deliciously prepared home-style cookery that's plentiful and cheap.
The roast pork ($5.95), also known in the more exclusive (and pricier) establishments as lechon asado, is a popular entree special. It features a generous portion of meat marinated in a light mojo and served with sides of black beans and rice, plus a delicious order of pressed Cuban bread.
Another popular choice, especially for dining couples, is the Cuban Completa. At $11.95 it tops the menu price-wise and includes a healthy sampling of every specialty of the kitchen, including empanada, boliche and roast pork, plus black beans and rice, and a serving of fried plantains.
The volume will challenge even the heartiest appetite.
A warm cup of cafe con leche or a slice of the wonderfully handcrafted flan (courtesy of Alina Cabrera's grandmother's family recipe) makes for a splendid finale.
True aficionados know that Cuban food doesn't need to be complicated to be good.
That's the spirit behind Cafe Masaryktown - comfort and joy.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or at 848-1435.
IF YOU GO
Cafe Masaryktown, 398 N Broad St., is open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. 754-2822.
[Last modified October 21, 2005, 02:15:38]
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