Did you ever have one of those King Midas days where everything you touch turns to gold?
I haven't caught a red light all day, I've received great news by way of the Internet and I swear I heard a cardinal singing an old Three Dog Night song in my front yard.
In spite of all my good fortune, I knew there was something a little better waiting for me, so I ate at the new Latin Cafe 2000, now located at 3318 John Moore Rd., Brandon.
It's within a mile or two from my house, so I'm happy about that.
The Latin Cafe was the cherry on top of my ice cream sort of day. I have been watching its progress over the past two months and was wondering when they were ever going to finish building and open the doors.
I understand they bought the old Mr. Li's Chinese restaurant and completely gutted the place. I haven't spoken to owner Anderson Ruiz about the particulars as of yet, and I guess I just missed him at the restaurant, but a cashier named Romy was very well-informed. When she spoke about the place, you could see the pride in her eyes. She might have been a manager because she knew an awful lot about the inner workings and was extremely proud of the air-conditioning system and window blinds they had installed, and I know how that was an issue with the former restaurant.
You will notice the outside looks a little rough with the staggered paint patches, but the interior makes you step back a little. Very nice with some of the memorabilia from the former Latin Cafe at Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue lining the walls. There were a couple of stained ceiling tiles, but I saw a box of tiles set outside and I'm sure they are waiting for an empty dining room to replace them. Enough about construction and interior decorating ... let's talk food!
I wanted something different, so I ordered the Cuban sampler with boliche, picodillo and ropa vieja and a Cuban sandwich to take home. I got two sides with my meal, so I tried the congri' (a white rice with black beans mixed in) and caramelized plantains.
The meat was awesome and fork tender, with the peppers cooked just the way I like them — a little crisp and full of flavor. I mixed what I believe to be the boliche and rice and beans together and had a feast with the plantains working their way into the soiree'. I’m not exactly sure which dish was what except for the ropa vieja, since none resembled the online photos. There were three different types of meat, and all were delicious. I’m asking for a tutorial the next time I eat there.
As I was getting ready to leave, Romy stopped me and gave me a bag of toasted bread with a souffle' cup of this green dip that I thought to be avocado. I couldn't have been more surprised or happier with the bite and flavor this salsa verde-looking stuff had.
The Cuban sandwich was very hot, with Swiss cheese oozing from the bread as it should be. Homemade pork and ham along with mayo and mustard finished off my great sandwich — no pickles for me. They were even polite enough to offer me lettuce and tomato for the Cuban, but I think that's illegal in at least four states, or at least should be.
Don't let the outside fool you — the jewels are always on the inside of the treasure chest. I'm giving them 3 1/2 stars and a portion of that comes from the always-smiling waitresses and the extremely helpful Romy.
Did I mention I am having a wonderful day? I need to buy a lotto ticket!
1 Star — Wouldn't go back on a bet
2 Star — Would have to go back, but only on a bet
3 Star — If I was in the neighborhood and hungry
4 Star — Would go out of my way even if I wasn't hungry
5 Star — Would make reservations and wait in a line