Aguila Sandwich Shop
3200 W. Hillsborough
Tampa, FL 33614
Our first full day in Tampa, so we of course had to start our day with a solid breakfast place. We were going to be playing tourist all day, so we definitely needed something to fuel us for a long day of taking pictures, seeing the sights, and shopping for souvenirs. Of course with the time change we got a slower start to the day than we thought we would, so it was actually closer to lunch time than breakfast. I had no doubts where we would be headed for breakfast on this day, Aguila Sandwich Shop had our names written all over it.
Aguila Sandwich Shop is another Tampa restaurant that has been featured on TV shows. Adam Richman included one of the sandwiches from Aguila's on his popular show, "Adam Richman's Best Sandwich", and also his, "Man V. Food" show. Since this restaurant had been featured on both of Adam's shows, I really had high hopes for this sandwich shop.
We got to this tiny, house-like restaurant at 11 on a Saturday morning. The place was packed, but we got lucky and found the only open booth in the restaurant. The restaurant was pretty loud and bustling with activity. Aguila's has been around since 1986, and looking around it does not appear that much could have changed since that time. Not a dirty place, but this is the kind of restaurant that the term, "hole in the wall" could have been coined for.
After sitting for a couple minutes, the owner Mario came over to our table to explain the menu and take our order. I had recognized him from the TV show. His smile stretches across his face, and his pride in the food he serves is very evident. Writing this blog we have met many restaurant owners, and I would be hard pressed to think of an owner that has as much pride in his food as Mario. I watched him throughout our visit here, and he greeted and took the orders of every table in the place. Very friendly vibe here, but let's get down to why we are here, the food.
We started our Aguila's adventure with a Ground Beef Empanada and a Chicken Empanada ($1.99 each). These fresh made empanadas had a very solid and flaky crust, which did its job of holding the meat inside. The meats were seasoned very well. The chicken was tender, the ground beef had a little zing to it, and these were a steal at less than two dollars. Not a bad start to our meal.
Both Sabrina and Katie were in a breakfast mood, so they both got the Regular Breakfast Sandwich ($3.95). This huge sandwich came with three eggs, cheese, and choice of breakfast meat, which they opted for bacon. The crusty bread here was a highlight for Katie. They both had issues with the cheese used on this sandwich. They described it as a very processed cheese. Not sure if it was processed, but the texture of the cheese was all wrong for their taste. They did say that the eggs and bacon were cooked well though.
I usually am in a quandary when I am at a place that serves Cuban sandwiches and media noche sandwiches. I never know which one to get. Lucky for me, Anthony decided to get the Media Noche ($4.75), so I did not have to make a choice on this trip. This would be Anthony's very first time having a media noche, and I think it is safe to say that he is hooked. The media noche differs from the Cuban sandwich by having a sweeter egg bread. Anthony also veered toward the less traditional route by adding lettuce and tomato to the sandwich. The sandwich also comes with the customary mustard, pickle, roast pork, and ham. Anthony seemed very pleased by his selection.
Since Anthony had gotten the media niche, that left me with the Cuban Sandwich ($3.95). This Cuban was as good as the one I had in Miami. Starting from the outside and working our way in, the bread was crusty and toasted perfectly. The Swiss cheese added more moisture than it does flavor to the sandwich. The meats bring the saltiness. The roasted pork here is cooked for four hours, and could definitely stand on its own. The mustard brings a little tang, and it is not traditionally on a Cuban sandwich, but I added some mayonnaise to add even a little more moisture to this sandwich. I have said it before, and will probably say it again, this is one of the most balanced sandwiches ever invented. The Cuban sandwich at Aguila's is in the upper echelon of the Cubans I have had.
As much as I was raving about the Cuban sandwich, the Steak Sandwich ($4.95) was just as good. The steak here was thin cut and very tender. The mojo sauce, which is a citrus and garlic sauce brings this sandwich to a new level. I would eat this mojo sauce on everything if I could. Dried onions are then added to the sandwich for a little texture, and then the sandwich is pressed. What a simple, but yet fulfilling sandwich. If I had to try only one sandwich here on my next visit, it would be hard to choose between the two I had on this trip. Even though Sabrina did not want to try this sandwich, she did eventually, and she became an instant fan. For a sandwich to make Stubborn Sabrina change her mind, that is a powerful sandwich.
The last item we had at Aguila's was the Mango Shake ($2.75). Mario talked Sabrina into ordering this one, and she mentioned this shake at least 20 times on the rest of our ten day vacation. Most fruit shakes are overly sweetened, but not this one. It still had the sweetness from the fruit, but it was not over the top. You can tell that they use real fruit here. Great consistency to the shake, and it was very refreshing.
As you can probably sense from the above paragraphs, Aguila Sandwich Shop definitely did not disappoint. I would even go as far to say that this restaurant is a must not miss kind of place when you are visiting Tampa. Their hours are a little funky, (they are only open from 6-3pm and closed on Sundays), and their location is kind of off the beaten track, but with all of these obstacles to overcome you will be rewarded with a great sandwich when you get to Aguila Sandwich Shop. With this food as our base, we were ready to tackle everything that Tampa had to throw at us.
Out of five eagles, (because aguila in Spanish means eagle), five being best to zero being worst, Aguila Sandwich Shop gets 4 solid eagles.
Aguila Sandwich Shop does not have a web site, but you can find out information about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/aguila-sandwich-shop-tampa