The Curly Girl Goes Cuban in Ybor City, Then Feasts on Tacos

Saturday found my friend Leah and I down in Ybor City, the Cuban part of town. A Cuban toasted cheese sandwich and coffee is the perfect way to start your Saturday, when you’ve been up far, far too late the night before.

Remember that. Melty, gooey goodness on Cuban bread, and strong coffee.

Ybor City has free roaming chickens. They are beautiful, with striking multi-colored feathers, and they are protected, so no, you may NOT have one for dinner! They are quite companionable, in a fussy, squawky, loud way, and are fun to have along while perusing the Saturday market items. We strolled, shopped (in my usual manner, I’ll be shipping a box home!), and talked to a photographer who said I should move there;  discussed plants with a brilliant woman working in a volunteer program with local at-risk kids to teach them where their food comes from; and chatted up the T-shirt girl wearing a UVA hoodie (her husband got his undergrad degree there). For those who need context, at least a third of my high school graduating class went to UVA!

Ybor City is full of great restaurants, shops, and bars, and old architecture blended with new. Beer was consumed at an excellent craft brewery–unfortunately, the distillery we hoped to visit was closed– then it was time for…

The Taco Festival!

I mean, The Curly Girl is from Missouri–our festivals are dedicated to other things, not tacos. But…I do love me some tacos.

We paid our admission fee and joined the thundering herds, all intent on dancing to the local cover band and tracking down tacos. Our first venture was the brisket taco, with caramelized onions and cheese. Three bucks a taco. It was….

Wrong. So wrong. A ridiculous amount of disappointing wrong.

The idea was good, but the portion consisted of a nearly flavorless scrap of meat, onions that had been walked past the grill and barely introduced, and a sprinkling of questionable cheese. We bravely consumed the portion, and started looking for beer.

Beer involved a tremendously long line to show a photo ID, get a wristband, THEN get a beer or other beverage. We began to seek more tacos.

This time our luck changed. Hanging out in line, we fell into conversation with a couple of guys, and all of us discovered the Tacos Al Pastor, cooked and spiced beautifully, with the proper add-ons. But yet, nothing to drink. Not even water. I finally flagged down a passing paramedic and, channelling the courage and charm of my parents, asked him most kindly if he had any water. While he had none, he did have Gatorade, bless him!!

We wended our way back to the car, and headed for enchiladas and beer at on of Leah’s favorite local places. I had never had a potato enchilada before! Something to recreate when I get home…

Tomorrow is my last full day here, and the weather is warming up…feet in salt water could finally happen!!


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