Jorge Castillo: These two places are worlds apart – both geographically and philosophically.
Raúl Musibay: You guys are going to have to quit using such big words!
Jorge Castillo: What we're trying to say Raúl is that La Ideal is a place that doesn't try to be more than it is.
Glenn Lindgren: It isn't in the least bit pretentious.
Raúl Musibay: There we go with the big words again!
Jorge Castillo: OK, let's keep it simple. If you want to experience some true, down home Cuban culture in Tampa, you can't beat La Ideal Sandwich Shop.
Glenn Lindgren: This is a place where people come for their daily fix of Cuban coffee and conversation. The manager keeps the place hopping with his good humor and friendly personality.
Raúl Musibay: In the morning, most people buy Cuban café and pastelles, the very traditional Cuban breakfast.
Jorge Castillo: They even have a pastelito we have never seen in Miami: apple and guava.
Glenn Lindgren: However, the real attraction here is the sandwiches. During the noon hour they keep three large planchas busy turning out nine different Cuban sandwich favorites.
Raúl Musibay: And the prices, que barato! They charge just $3.50 for a Cuban sandwich.
Glenn Lindgren: We were a little surprised to see shaved meats on a Cuban sandwich. But we have to admit, the sandwiches are very tasty and the meat is very moist and flavorful.
Raúl Musibay: That the way it is. Different places have different ways of making the Cuban sandwich.
Glenn Lindgren: La Ideal also makes a very good pan con bistec. For $3.75 you get three tender filets on a fresh loaf of Cuban bread.
Jorge Castillo: Make it a complete lunch with a sandwich and one of several soups. The caldo gallego here is very hearty and filled with delicate white beans.
Raúl Musibay: They also have an assortment of Cuban bocaditos – papa rellenas, empanadas, tamales and croquetas.
Glenn Lindgren: My ideal lunch at La Ideal? Any one of the sandwiches, two tamales, and a bowl of their delicious garbanzo bean soup.
Jorge Castillo: They even have a few desserts – if you are still hungry that is!
Glenn Lindgren: La Ideal is strictly a breakfast and lunch place, although if you can make it there before 4:00, you could always bring some soup and sandwiches home for dinner.
HOURS: Monday through Friday 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | Closed Sundays
PRICES: Did we say cheap? Que barato!
DRESS: Extremely casual
However, sandwiches are the real attraction here and during the noon hour, they keep three large planchas busy turning out nine different sandwich favorites. They do something here that is almost treasonous: they use shaved meats on the Cuban sandwiches. Somehow, they manage to pull this off and the meat is moist and flavorful.
At least they don't follow one Tampa tradition: there is NO Genoa salami on La Ideal's Cuban sandwiches. This is strictly a breakfast and lunch place, although if you can make it before closing, you can always bring some soup and sandwiches home for dinner.