Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food now serving up tasty southern eats

Most people have heard of Al’s Finger Licking Good BBQ in Ybor City, but a few months ago they opened Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food while I was out of town and the buzz has been muted since then. The online footprint of the new spot is not too big and Google seems to confuse the listings, but if you make the trip along 7th Avenue to 23rd Street there is a surprise waiting for you with great food.

Swee Tea from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

From fried chicken and baked chicken to pork chops, turkey wings, fried green tomatoes, and boiled peanuts with neckbones, Al’s Soul Food is offering eats you won’t find easily find around Tampa Bay. I was personally happy to enjoy a great sweet tea with my food after spending far too much time out of the south.

Collard Greens from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Mac and Cheese from Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Fried Chicken at Al's Finger Lickin' Good SOul Food

I ordered a quarter of fried chicken during my visit (all white for a $0.99 upcharge) which came with two sides and cornbread. I went with mac and cheese (+$0.99) and collard greens as my sides of choice.

You can also find black-eyed peas, fried okra, green beans and potatoes, potato salad, french fries, white and yellow rice on the menu. Fridays also have an offering of cole slaw and grits. Daily specials are offered on the menu from Wednesday to Sunday and they have lunch specials as well.

Soul food isn’t my specialty since it is so uncommon here, but what I do know is good food and that is exactly what I enjoyed at Al’s Soul Food. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the attention to detail was exact. The collard greens were flavorful and the mac and cheese was unlike a mac and cheese I have enjoyed anywhere else and completely satisfying. Not super cheesy, but just enough.

Corn Bread at Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Menu at Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

The best part was that this all tasted like home-cooking, it wasn’t overly greasy or acid-inducing. The corn bread was absolutely delicious and a perfect started to the meal. I enjoyed every last lick of my fried chicken down to the last piece of fried goodness. I was in a happy place, I looked around at the somewhat empty dining room during my visit and thought to myself how has nobody reviewed this place? There are still two major publications left in town.

Then I remembered I am a writer and I can do that myself. So here’s my thoughts: Get in your car and drive to Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. Places like this deserve all our love and cash. Tell a friend. For as much as this town claims to love chicken, here is a spot doing it right.

Al's Finger Lickin' Good Soul Food

Restaurant Name: Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Cuisine: Soul Food

Address: 2302 E 7th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 405-8920

Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, 11:30AM-6PM, Friday/Saturday 11:30AM-8PM, Sunday 12PM-6PM, CLOSED Monday and Tuesday

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8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival Winners

The 8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival was a success yet again. Competitors came from all around to compete for the World’s Best Cuban Sandwich. Cuban Sandwich Festival is a precursor to the World Food Championships. This year’s event was held in Historic Ybor City at Centennial Park which is where the event was first hosted 8 years ago.

The winners of the event are split into categories that competitors participated in.

Tampa Historic Sandwich:

  1. Las Palmas Latin Grill: This is a small restaurant near Wesley Chapel and New Tampa serving Cuban food. 6431 E County Line Rd Suite 104, Tampa, FL 33647. (813) 803-3903. laspalmaslatingrill.com
  2. First Harvest Deli
  3. GloriRod’s Coffee Shop: Lowry Park coffee shop named after Figuereo matriarch founded by Juan and Kir Figuereo, Gloria that serves sandwiches, pastries, empanadas, and salads, among other things. They claim their secret is their pork, which is marinated with Gloria’s secret recipe and slow-roasted until it melts off the bone. GloriRod’s opened in late 2018 and found the Cuban Sandwich Festival via Facebook, they wanted to enter due to the important of the Cuban Sandwich to history and culture in Tampa. 7901 N. Armenia Ave Ste B, Tampa, FL 33604. (813) 650-1332. glorirodscoffeeshop.com

Non-Traditional Cuban Sandwich:

  1. That’s My Dog: Mobile food truck from South Florida in the Ft. Lauderdale and Miami area. facebook.com/thatsmydogfoodtruck
  2. Smokin Showin Catering: Two firemen who love to cook based out of Land O Lakes. They do a variety of bbq including smoked pork, chicken, meatloaf, ribs, and more.  (813) 294-9892. smokeshowincatering.com
  3. Firebread

Popular Cuban Sandwich:

  1. Cuban Spot: Houston food truck serving up Cuban eats. Originally from Miami, but living in Texas for 14 years. These minds behind Cuban Spot have no formal kitchen training, but are passionate about Cuban food. Owners say the Cuban population is rising little by little in Houston due to the cheap cost of living. Cuban Spot’s founders were tired of all the taco spots in Texas and decided to create a spot for Cuban food 4 years ago in 2015. Initially focusing on Cuban dishes such as Cuban fritas, the Cuban Sandwich became a shining star for them and after being called the best by their customers, they decided to enter the Cuban Sandwich Festival. They credit their success on their modifications to their Cuban bread, their flavorful and juicy pulled park, and using hot pork instead of cold slices. (713) 679-3802. thecubanspot.com
  2. Tampa Sammich, LLC: Local sandwich standard serving up Cubans made with La Segunda Bread. (813) 447-4316. facebook.com/tampasammich
  3. This Little Pig: Food stand specializing in creole, bbq, fusion. Chef John originally hails from Miami and worked at the Brennan’s at Palace Cafe, Bourbon House, and Dickie Brennan’s Steak House in New Orleans. After reviving and running Maple Street Patisserie Et Deli on Magazine Street, Chef John held the Executive Chef position at Upperline restaurant before coming back to Florida to be closer to family and raise children in Tampa. This Little Pig does pop ups at local breweries and “open format” catering. Chef John used his influences from Miami and Tampa to guide him in this sandwich that uses in-house cured and smoked Tasso, pork roasted in traditional mojo, a dijon/majo blend, and crispy garlic dill with salami and swiss served on historic La Segunda Cuban bread with butter and foil wrapped cobblestones. This Little Pig also offered a Po’ Boy version with lettuce, tomatoe, and spice creole comeback sauce – a nod to their time in New Orleans. (813)526-3497 facebook.com/thislittlepigbbq

World’s Best Cuban Sandwich:

  1. Chef Iliana Concierge Chef: Chef Iliana competes all over the country in food competitions. This will be her second time at the World Food Championships and she has won 3 golden tickets in total to the competition. She works with Fight2Feed to create competitions to help feed people in need in 26 cities. She signed up for the Cuban Sandwich Festival as a way to challenge herself and competed with the support of her family this year who she cooked with as a family exercise. She also won the Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival earlier in 2019. www.facebook.com/conciergechefevents
  2. Cuban Spot: Houston food truck serving up Cuban eats. (713) 679-3802. thecubanspot.com
  3. Los Cochintos

8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival coming March 30-31st

Are you ready to eat all the Cuban sandwiches? I sure am.

The time is coming for the 8th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival on Saturday, March 30th and Sunday, March 31st in Tampa, Florida. Tampa is home to the original Cuban Sandwich.

Competitors will arrive from around the world including countries as far away as South Korea to compete for the best traditional and non-traditional. New to this year is the Home Chef Competition.

The event is organized by Latin Times Media.

Taste of the Cuban Sandwich

Saturday will feature the Taste of the Cuban Sandwich at Centro Asturiano on the edge of Ybor City with 25 vendors serving Cuban sandwiches from 11AM to 6PM. The organizers will break the world record for the largest Cuban sandwich with a sandwich that will be over 175 feet long.

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The sandwich will be donated to feed the homeless per festival tradition.

Taste of the Cuban Sandwich offers FREE admission for attendees and is family-friendly.

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There will also be a KIDS Cuban Sandwich Showdown organized by Junior Chefs of America.

International Cuban Sandwich Festival

Sunday is the big affair with the International Cuban Sandwich Festival competition happening at Centennial Park (1800 East 8th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605) in Historic Ybor City from 11AM to 6PM.

Over 100 food, cultural, and business vendors will fill the historic park for a day to remember. Live music and performances will occur throughout and their will be domino tournaments. Come hungry! General Admission is FREE.

VIP tickets are available and includes sampling of the Cuban Sandwich contest entries and refreshments as well as mingling with judges, red carpet access, and more. Tickets start at $25 for kids and $45 for adults. Family packages are available. Buy VIP: http://bit.ly/2HK8fxV

Event name: 8th Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival

Date & Time: Saturday, March 30th, 11AM-6PM and Sunday, March 31st, 11AM-6PM

Buy VIP tickets: http://bit.ly/2HK8fxV

Ages: All ages welcome

Website: http://www.thecubansandwichfestival.com/

International Cuban Sandwich Festival seeks home chef entries

Cuban Sandwich

The International Cuban Sandwich Festival, held annually in Tampa is seeking home entries for this year’s festival which will occur on Sunday, March 31st, 2019 at Ybor City’s Historic Centennial Park. The festival is now in its 8th year.

The organizers of the festival are seeking home chefs or someone with an incredible Cuban recipe to enter their competition. The new category is officially called: “Homestyle Cuban Sandwich Smackdown Contest!”

There will be cash prizes and media packages for winners of the new category.

Interested participants can send an email to vpadilla@latin-times.com. Hurry because entries are limited.

For those who don’t know, the Cuban Sandwich was created in Tampa by immigrants in the last 1800s who worked in Ybor City’s cigar factories. Ybor City was home to a number of immigrants during this era with community buildings such as the Cuban Club and Italian Club. Those buildings can still be seen today in Ybor City.

Despite some controversy with Miami, Tampa is the home of the Cuban Sandwich and has been served since at least 1905 in restaurants there.

Party Like Its 1999 NYE Party at The Bricks Ybor

Want to spend New Year’s Eve in a throwback? The Bricks Ybor located at 1327 East 7th Avenue is hosting a “Party Like Its 1999” New Year’s Eve Party going into 2019 on December 31st, 2018 from 10PM to 3AM.

Hits from the Late 90s and 2000s will be spinning from DJ Kamran Mir all night long.

Enjoy a champagne toast at midnight and watch the ball drop.

No cover charge. The event is for ages 21 and older only.

TBBW: Brewery Battle of the Bands – 3/7

Coppertail BrewingTampa Bay Brewing Company81Bay Brewing Co.Dunedin Brewery, and Cigar City Brewing will go head to head in a Brewery Battle of the Bands at Crowbar Ybor (1812 N. 17th St., Ybor City, FL 33605) on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 from 7PM to 1AM for Tampa Bay Beer Week 2018!

Judges include John Palumbo of Replay Guitar ExchangeJosh Jensen from 98ROCK, Skip Sampson from 1603 Tattoo Collective, and Ray Roa from Creative Loafing Tampa!

$5 cover.

All proceeds from this event benefit Instruments Of Change, a charity that provides instruments to underprivileged youth in the Tampa Bay Area.

Replay Guitar Exchange is supplying prizes for winners and $1000 donation to Instruments Of Change.

TBBW: Sons of CANarchy Pub Crawl – 3/7

Ready to drink your way around Ybor City? Head out for the Sons of CANarchy Pub Crawl on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 for Tampa Bay Beer Week 2018. 11 breweries, both national and local brands, will participate and serve 11 beers at 5 different bars around Ybor City. The event is FREE to attend.

The events kick off at 6PM at The Bricks of Ybor. The schedule is as follows:

6PM: The Bricks (1327 East 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33706): Brew Hub, Sierra Nevada

7PM: Reservoir Bar (1518 East 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605): Bell’s Brewery, Two Henry’s Brewing Co.

8PM: The Brass Tap (1600 East 7th Ave. E-113, Tampa, FL 33605): Dogfish Head Brewery, Crooked Thumb

9PM: Boneyard (1823 East 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605): New Belgium Brewing, Brew Bus Brewing

10PM: The Dirty Shame (1929 East 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605): Terrapin Beer Co., Cigar City Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing

Coppertail Stein & Vine Kitchen now open

Coppertail Brewing had the Grand Opening for Stein and Vine Kitchen (S &V Kitchen) last week at the brewery in Ybor City. The pub fare from S & V Kitchen will be available to guests daily from 11AM to 11PM when they visit the brewery.

Coppertail Brewing is located at 2601 East 2nd Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605 just outside Ybor City near IKEA.

Menu items are identical to what you’ll find at the Stein & Vine location in Brandon and includes the “Juicy Lacey” Cheeseburger, Pig Wings, and Tator Tots…to name a few. Food is also available for take-out with a special Monday special that includes a growler on the Coppertail Facebook page.

You can find the full menu for S & V Kitchen on Coppertail’s website at: http://coppertailbrewing.com/the-food-1/

Coppertail Brewing was founded in 2014 by Kent Bailey and Casey Hughes. The idea was to bring more hop-forward and Belgian influenced beer to the market. All their beer is brewed and bottled in Tampa for Florida distribution. Coppertail beer is available at tap rooms and restaurants, Total Wine, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Publix, and at the brewery.

Stein and Vine was founded in 2012 by Ty and Lacey Mathis. The owners live within walking distance of their restaurant and pub and are friends with the owners of Coppertail Brewing.

Festa Italiana 20th anniversary this weekend!

Festa Italiana will celebrate their 20th anniversary this weekend in Ybor City.

The opening event, Wines of Italy, has already taken plan and the weekend will bring plenty of delicious feasts and events on Saturday with the main event happening Sunday, April 9th, at Centennial Park from 11AM to 6:30PM.

Over 35 of Tampa Bay’s top restaurants will participate in the festival. Italian singer, Zucchero, will headline the cultural food and wine festival on Sunday. Proceeds will benefit the Italian Club Restoration Fund.

The Italian Club was founded in 1894 that was created to unite the Italian community in Tampa to overcome social and economic challenges when they first arrived in the area. The mission of the group is to preserve and honor the culture, traditions, and heritage of the Italian community and maintain the historical facility as a memorial to the working class immigrants.

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Tickets can be purchased online via Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/festa-italiana-the-main-event-20th-anniversary-feat-zucchero-tickets-29982099266

Children ages 12 and under are FREE to the main event. Centennial Park is located at 1800 East 8th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605.

Gaspar’s Grotto in Ybor City now serving weekday breakfast

Local Ybor City pirate-themed restaurant, Gaspar’s Grotto, is now selling breakfast daily with an expanded menu on Saturday and brunch buffet on Sundays.

The weekday breakfast menu is available from 7AM-10:30AM and has items ranging from $4.95 to $8.95 with most items at around $5.95. Items on the menu include 3 Egg Cheese Omelet, Two Eggs Your Way, Cuban French Toast, Breakfast Skillet, Biscuits and Gravy, and more.

I visited yesterday and had a late breakfast with Ybor City Geeky Gal and Chef Mark Hook.

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One of the first dishes I tried was the biscuits and gravy. Everything is prepared fresh in-house and it really shows. The biscuits were soft and delicious and the gravy was incredible – definitely one of the best gravy toppings I have ever had in Tampa Bay. Even the side of potatoes was delicious – normally something that isn’t even worth mentioning on breakfast dishes.

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The bacon was notable for having a peppery flavoring to it and was perfectly crunchy. Many of the breakfast items come with bacon, but if you want more you can get 2 strips for $2.

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You can also take a more traditional route with simple eggs made you way with sides and Cuban toast from La Segunda Bakery. The great thing about Ybor City being the heart of historical Tampa is great Cuban bread is always nearby.

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I also checked out their Gaspar’s Specialty Bloody Mary of the Day at Gaspar’s Grotto – it’s loaded with all kinds of toppings including cheese, meats, sausage, ribs, and more. It could very well be a meal on its own.

All of the breakfast items were delicious and fresh and the price was right – easily beating out many breakfast chains and competing with the pricing of diners. The best part is you can enjoy your breakfast outside on the outside decks of Gaspar’s Grotto and there is plenty of free 2-hour parking available in the morning hours in Ybor City.

Breakfast is also available for take-out – you can call ahead to 813-248-5900 and pick-up your breakfast to take to work or whatever engagement you may have.

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Finally, I couldn’t leave without trying the Cuban Sandwich at Gaspar’s Grotto with the 6th Annual National Cuban Sandwich Festival approaching. The Cuban here was excellent – the bread toasted perfectly and the pickle having just the right crunch. The Cuban sticks to traditional with the exception of a mayo-mustard mix. Plantain chips on the side were also excellent. I love plantain chips and these did not disappoint.

Gaspar's Grotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gaspar’s Grotto. 1805 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 248-5900. http://gasparsgrotto.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gasparsgrotto/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/gasparsgrotto/