Cuban Food at La Teresita (Columbus Ave)
Tampa has a rich history of Cuban culture going back into the 1800s. While most people think of Miami as the US bridge to Cuba, Tampa is the real gateway to Cuba and has been importing Cuban tobacco leaf for cigars up until the embargo of the late 1950s and early 1960s changed the relationship.
As a result of this we have a lot of great Cuban restaurants. The most famous of these is the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City which serves a good high end cuisine. We think the better Cuban is along over in West Tampa (near the Buccaneers Stadium) on Columbus Drive that is known to locals as "Boliche Boulevard" after the Cuban dish Boliche.
The best Cuban restaurant to get you started is a bit of a dive is La Teresita. Service is spotty at best but food is great. There are two sides to the restaurant - one with fixed stools and countertops and the "fine dining" side. The countertop side is favored by the older West Tampa residents who gather to discuss today's political news and the other side is for gringos who want to sit and be waited on. Either is good but stools get a little hard after a while.
Cuban cuisines doesn't really encompass vegetables so you pick a meat and two sides. Salads aren't a specialty either so don't waste your time. The three house specialties are, in this order: (1) Roast Pork (to die for); (2) Boliche and if it is on the list that day (3) Flank Steak. Pick one of the soups as your side: black beans, garbanzo bean soup or for a special treat pick the Caldo Gallego (collard green soup) and you can't go wrong. You're third "vegetable" should either be yellow rice if your hungry or friend plantains (cuban bananas). Order Cuban Coffee 1/2 expresso and 1/2 milk and you'll have a treat.
If you are adventurous and want to try more Cuban restaurants along Boliche Blvd, we'd also recommend Arco Iris, Lincoln Restaurant, and West Tampa Sandwich Shop for a good Cuban sandwich.