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EL MOFONGAZO! Near Hanley and Hillsborough Ave.

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Restaurants & Bars

EL MOFONGAZO! Near Hanley and Hillsborough Ave.

Mild Bill | Jan 30, 2012 08:54 PM

That's a word that needs to be capitalized baby!
I've never seen it before yesterday, and it's right around the corner, across the street from Cacciatore's Italian Market at Hanley Road & Paula Drive...
I needed stamps--- I dropped off some mail at the post office near Cacciatore's, and as I was heading back out to Hanley, around 3PM, I looked to my right and saw this bright yellow banner sign; EL MOFONGAZO!

I've been falling in love with Puerto Rican food the past few years, and I've become a regular at a couple other local spots that I'll want to mention down the road...
After confirming that I had my camera with me, I swung around just to get a photo of the store-front to send to a few Chowbuds who, like me, love discovering these small family owned restaurants, ethnic or otherwise, that spice & season-up the Tampa area itself as far as I'm concerned...
My excitement was turbocharged when I saw the sign also said 'LA CASA DEL JIBARITO SANDWICH'...

CFishman turned me on to the Jibarito a year or two ago at Mi Pueblo off of Columbus on Lincoln... It's a sandwich, but there is no bread... I know!
They press & flatten a couple unripe Plantains a lil' thicker than a tortilla and toss them on a hot griddle to cook, crisp, and color-up golden----then they're used as the bread, top and bottom...
I've only had it as a steak sandwich, but it's usually offered with most of the other meat or seafood options... Important words of advice that I'm simply passing on---- 'make sure you get the garlic sauce'!
I'll post a photo I have of a Jibarito from Mi Pueblo...

So as I'm getting ready for my photo drive-by, intending to pause for just a second to take the photo, I figured 'WTH, I got time' and I pulled in to a parking spot to quickly grab a to-go menu if they had one... I got some warm hellos as I entered from a gentleman and a young waitress.
As a natural response to their hospitality I sat for a minute, halfway in the chair next to the door to look at the menu and to ask how long they've been there... One month to the day! Still, I'm surprised I haven't seen them sooner... Maybe they just got their banner sign?

I eat when I'm no longer full, not when I'm hungry... They say you should eat smaller meals so that you never let yourself get too hungry---- that's why I'll often have two lunches spaced a couple hours apart...

I saw roast pork, rice w/gandules, and tostones for $6.95... Usually tostones are an extra $4.00----- and it's impossible for $6.95 to ever spoil dinner...

I almost always take a Spanish restaurant for a test-ride by checking out their roast pork... This was actually listed as roast pork with onions, and it was, simply that... Don't get me wrong, the pork was tender, moist, and tasted good... I may have expected more mojo, and maybe even a more intense flavor, but when I got into my groove I realized I wouldn't have changed a thing...

Rice and beans as a side dish, or in this case arroz con gandules (pigeon peas) never really excites me unless the main dish is very juicy or saucy, then I'm in heaven... Until very recently when I first took some of that garlic sauce and mixed it in... Now I love the beans & rice no matter what...
Same with tostones! Now I get it!
I think that garlic condiment has the DNA necessary to help clone a Unicorn...

I put some roast pork and onions onto a garlicky tostone and I was in heaven...
I have never eaten a full plate of tostones in my life... I usually take them to go, then forget about them in the van for a few days... These were thin and crispy, not pasty and dry...
It really makes me wanna get in there for a Jibarito!

Such a simple thing was so delicious!

I told the people that I never had an Alcapurria before, and ordered one for like $2.00... Wonderful!
Like a rustic croquette... Mashed plantain(?) and root veg masa, filled with chopped pork meat & porky bits, sofrito, herbs, peppers and other things... From the outside I had no idea what to expect...

After I was in full groove, a woman, the owner, came out of the kitchen and asked how I liked the food. She explained that her brother and granddaughter were here helping her out, and I explained why I was taking pictures...

In what I welcomed as a warm gesture--- as if she just wanted to get off her feet for a few minutes, she sat with me at my table. Some might feel that's unprofessional, but it was late in the afternoon and I was the only one in there, probably a lil' too happy & interactive. Me, not her...
She wouldn't let me take her pic, saying she looked a mess--- but I told her; 'nah, you look like a cook, you look beautiful'... With a grin she mumbled over her shoulder to her family; 'he told me I look like a cook!'...
I was very relaxed and at home... It felt like one of my wife's Argentinean aunts handing me a plate of food and a sitting at the table... I told her soon we'll get a nice family photo, and she said OK...

She explained how most places charge extra for the tostones, but they decided to include them, to help keep prices down, because people were having a tough time these days...

Please, pop in there and order some food... It's their first month or so and I bet hardly anybody knows they're there---- it's gotta be rough... I can't wait to try their other items... It's a full menu...
Tell them 'el gordito con la camara grande' sent you...
(The fat guy with the big camera)

El Mofongazo Restaurant
5502 Hanley Road, Suite 106
Tampa, Florida 33634
813.280.2929

Although the website doesn't seem to be functional:
www.elmofongazotampa.com

I'd scan the to-go menu if I could find it...
I'll have to go back for another one...

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