Hype can be the downfall a lot of things. You know, a certain movie or, in this case, restaurants get all the acclaim and notoriety before you go. Then, you make a visit and, even if pretty darn good, you feel somewhat let down amidst everyone else’s rampant praise. This is the situation I found myself in after a visit to Aguila Sandwich Shop in North Tampa.
Aside from a handful of friends who swear by the place, Adam Richman of Man Vs. Food fame has made not one, but two stops there to feature this tiny Cuban restaurant on his new shows. So, why out of literally hundreds of restaurants did he choose this one? I mean, there’s got to be something that makes Aguila and not, say, La Teresita or Palm Avenue Sandwich Shop worthy of national airtime on the Travel Channel…twice.
Judging from a simple lunch there on Wednesday, there could be, but it’s not sitting on the plate.
The first thing you realize walking in to Aguila; it’s tiny. After a few minutes I realize this is one of those places “where everybody knows your name” as Cheers so famously puts it. Even as a newbie, I was really impressed with the warmth the familial staff extends to, seemingly, everyone in the building. It’s not overbearing or disingenuous, just nice, really, which can go a far way in itself.
The food, at least what I tried falls somewhere between good and great. Devil crab is a Cuban restaurant staple and cheap enough appetizers at Aguila to not break the bank. It’s breaded to all hell with most bites just consisting of soft, chewy dough and not much crab. Still, it’s nothing a liberal splash of hot sauce can’t fix.
The sandwich Richman raved over in his shows was Aguila’s Medianoche sandwich. Medianoche is a carbon copy of a Cuban sandwich except instead of crusty Cuban bread, it calls for a fluffier, egg-based bread.
The difference was hardly overwhelming. For a large, this thing is a David to some of the Goliath sandwiches you can get around there. Everything was piled on so lightly it felt more like a sandwich sample than an actual sandwich. It tasted great, the egg bread was mildly sweet and pressed nicely. The pulled pork, when you could taste it, was right up there, but you can’t help but wonder how great of a thing this would be if they were just a little more liberal with the ingredients.
Overall, Aguila is worth a try. The whole meal came out to less than 7 bucks which is well worth the money, but the disappointment after all the hype is still lingering a bit.
Let us know what you think of your experience at Aguila Sandwich Shop with your own rating and review on their 813area business listing.