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ISO really good Cuban Restaurant in Sarasota

I am planning a trip to Sarasota with some friends from NC, and I know that one of them will want some Cuban food, or, at the very least, a respectable place with a really good cafe con leche. We're staying on Siesta Key - anyone know of a good place?

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  1. The Columbia Restaurant on St. Armand's Circle. And the menu on their website shows cafe con leche. www.columbiarestaurant.com

    Another option is Selva Grill, which is more of a pan-Caribbean/Latin fusion place, rather than strictly Cuban. www.selvagrill.com

    You'll find lots more discussion and recommendations (for restaurants of all sorts) at www.chowhound.com/topics/459360

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for the reply; I actually did read through the listings on the post, but I was specifically looking for Cuban, which I didn't see there.

      My friend has already been to the Columbia in Celebration, so I don't think she's going to be that interested in the one in St. Armand's circle. I was wondering if there wasn't something a bit more locally oriented there, maybe something family-owned and particularly good.

      We were planning on checking out Selva Grill though, but it's still not quite what I'm looking for.

      1. re: jazzy77

        FWIW, Columbia is family-owned, currently managed by the fifth generation of the family that started the original location in Ybor City in 1905. And the St. Armand's location, which was the second location they opened (by the third generation of the family in 1959), is now the oldest restaurant in Sarasota. Anyone who has been going to the Sarasota area for a while (I've been visiting there for over thirty years) will tell you that Columbia is a local institution that has been there seemingly forever. There's nothing more locally oriented in Sarasota than Columbia.

        Good luck in your search.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Thank you, nsxtasy. I'm among the Columbia faithful, and I am grateful that it is nearby. I am a big fan of the 1905 salad, and the manager recently gave me a set of the signature salad plates. Nice gesture.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I'm not trying to argue your point here, because I do like to eat at the Columbian (and have in Ybor City, Celebration, and St. Augustine - the food and service were always generally fine). And I tend to read through the history of the Columbian restaurant every time I pick up the menu, so I am aware of their revered place in the Florida food scene.

            However, my friends have already eaten at the Columbia in previous trips to Florida, and they think the food there is fine, but not earth shattering, and, to be honest, I agree. What I was really looking for was a "jewel" living in the shadow of the noble Columbian, partly in order to dispell the common belief that Florida is the land of the franchise, but also to be able to discover something that is wonderful and distinct to a local community, as we do whenever we travel.

            If a Cuban restaurant like that doesn't exist in Sarasota, that is fine - there are plenty of other great places to eat - I was just trying to find something along the lines of what they were looking for.

        2. re: nsxtasy

          Columbia:
          worst food and attitude in Sarasota. They been there too long, and feel they have a captured audience, but guess what, all they have that is good is the 1905 salad.............................

          1. re: irwin

            You are funny. We should start a Grumpy Old Man's club and meet every month at the Columbia and just bitch about the state of everything. No jewish delis, cuban bread is stale by noon, our best friends are dead, the customary Florida Gulf complaints. e-mail me at my profile address and we'll get it started.

            1. re: irwin

              Hmmm...like I said, I think their food is tasty, although I'm not as much of a fan of the 1905 salad as everyone else here seems to be.

              My only problem that I've ever had at The Columbia was the fact that the one in Celebration has generally lackluster to horrendous service. On the worst (and last) occasion, we waited almost an hour for our drinks - don't ask me why we were willing to wait that long, we should have just told the manager and left, but I've worked as a server before and tend to be a little more understanding when bad service occurs. But, we don't go back to the one in Celebration anymore.

              In any case, the food is generally good there and would recommend the restaurant to those who have never been, it's just not where I'm looking to go right now.

          2. I know this is late but El Habanero on Burns Court and Pineapple just off downtown is Cuban and can be very good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lergnom

              You're not late at all - since we're going the second weekend of March! That's a great suggestion and I think we'll try it out. Thanks!

              1. re: jazzy77

                Second Habanero. Best for lunch, IMO. Definitely better than Columbian, and only Cuban I know of in town.

            2. Did you find a good cuban? Habanero, one of my favorites, closed. Does anyone know if it reopened somewhere else? I like columbia--the famous salad, tapas and cava sangria make a very nice meal but it's more spanish than cuban.
              Any good BBQ recommendations?
              A great old florida place is Phillippi Creek--oyster pots, poboys and great grouper sandwiches.

              1. Try Jose's Real Cuban Food on Cortez Road in Bradenton. Good food, good portions, not a fancy spot by any means. Jose is a character. Love this place!!!

                8799 Cortez Road West
                Bradenton, FL 34210

                (941) 795-4898

                1. My husband and I went to Jose's Real Cuban Food on Cortez Road in Bradenton last week and it was great!! We ordered a bunch of sandwiches (Cuban's, Pork, and Steak) to go, and everyone loved them. The pork (which Jose offers as a sample to new customers as soon as they walk in the door) was outstanding! Great customer service, clean, and great food!

                  1. Jose's on Cortez is the real thing in a simple setting.It's the type of small place that you die to find !