“Strong enough to make the rooster crow” is how one nearby La Teresita regular narrated the arrival of small cups of inky espresso to our place at La Teresita’s counter one Saturday morning in West Tampa. It is powerful brew, with enough body to deliver a wallop even when you order it con leche. In the morning on the weekends (La Teresita doesn’t open until lunchtime on weekdays) many customers sit at this counter with their newspaper (in Spanish or English) and drink cups of con leche with lengths of toasted and buttered Cuban bread. It is elegant bread – crisp with fluffy insides – and needs nothing more than butter to attain a certain simple perfection. With coffee, it is a great breakfast.
At lunch and supper seven days a week, the long tubes of bread become the foundation for wonderful Cuban sandwiches of roast pork, and shorter lengths are served alongside huge portions of such Latin specialties as bistec palomilla (sirloin steak, thinly sliced, pan fried and served with yellow rice), chicken with yellow rice and black beans, and ropa vieja, a beef roast cooked so long in a spicy tomato sauce that the meat falls apart when you lift it from the plate with a fork.
There are tables at La Teresita, but the choice seats (and swift service) is at the counters. Seats are arrayed along a sweeping serpentine surface where whole families line up on the rows of stools at dinnertime.