Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City

May 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm

After all the kids left this morning, I headed to the gym for Bodyflow.

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This class has always been at 10:15 on Saturdays, but they recently changed the schedule and now it is at 11:15. There was a smaller than normal turn-out, so I’m guessing it might be because of the later time.

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The class was good, but I janked up my knee somehow coming out of a Hindi squat. It wasn’t hurting that badly right after class, so I was hoping it was no big deal. I skipped relaxation, the last 8 minutes of class, to hurry home so that the boys and I could head to Ybor City in Tampa for the Cuban Sandwich Festival.

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Mack fell asleep in the car on the way there. He was exhausted from his party (so was I).

Centennial Park in Ybor was PACKED!

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The first thing we saw when we arrived were tons of people standing in extremely long lines.

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We did a once-around the entire festival to check things out.

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We were really looking for the Hialeah’s Cuban Guys kiosk, because they were supposed to have Miami-style Cubans which do not have salami, unlike Tampa-style Cubans. We never did find them. We even asked multiple vendors and people in the crowd and all we got were shoulder shrugs and blank stares.

Centennial Park was beyond packed. It was even hard just to walk around the festival, much less get any food. We only saw about five or six vendors actually selling Cubans (despite the poster above that says “Up to 40 Florida Restaurants Competing!”). There were tons of vendors, however, selling just typical festival food. We were there for Cubans, darnit! Every vendor that was actually selling pressed Cubans had an insane line…like 50+ people. And the lines were moving at a snails pace. We inadvertently ended up in one of the lines at one point and just stayed in that line while we discussed what we were going to do.

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I should mention that it was about 1:30, we were starving, and it was close to 95 degrees out there in the blaring sun. In our trip around the festival we had noticed that there was no line in front of the kiosk for Alessi Bakery, so I left Chad and the boys in the never-ending line and went over to the Alessi stand to check it out.

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It turned out that the reason they had no line is that all they had were cold Cubans (Tampa-style), and everyone was waiting in the huge lines for pressed Cubans. Since we couldn’t find the vendor we really wanted to try, and we were starving, we decided to go for the Alessi Cuban.

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We split it four ways and found a semi-shady spot to wolf it down.

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It was pretty tasty, but obviously we were still hungry, so we decided to just find something else to eat other than a Cuban. We pushed our way through the crowds and I ended up standing in a shorter line at this place…

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for chicken and beans and rice.

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While I was standing in line for that, Chad stood in another line to get hot dogs for the boys. By the time I got the chicken, the boys had already finished their hot dogs. Chad and I shared the chicken and beans and rice and it was really good.

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Overall the Cuban Sandwich Festival was really disappointing. I was expecting tons of Cuban sandwich vendors to choose from, which was not apparent. I was not expecting it to be so overwhelmingly crowded. They also had a bunch of craft vendors, like almost as many as there were food vendors, which I thought was kind of odd. They had extremely loud live Latin music blasting in the park, which was pretty good and I didn’t mind, but it made it really hard to communicate with each other and with the vendors.

I just think the festival was poorly organized, but by the size of the crowds, I’d guess that the organizers consider it a success. However, unless it is at a larger venue with more actual Cuban-sellers next time (although with the false advertising, I don’t know how we would be able to determine that), we won’t return to this festival. It just wasn’t worth the drive to Tampa, the $7 for parking, and facing the intense heat.

We had contemplated just walked through Ybor and looking for a restaurant at which to buy Cubans, and I wish we had done that. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Mack fell asleep again on the car ride back to St. Pete.

Now I’m bumming because the knee that I twisted this morning is throbbing. Seriously painful. I hope it’s better tomorrow, because I want to go to Bodypump and yoga at the Dali. I’m feeling kind of defeated by today. Maybe it’s just because I’m worn out from the party last night and the day’s activities. I think I’ll go ice my knee.