By Erik Butler
105 E. Shell Point Rd.
As a new resident to the SouthShore area, I explained to my Osprey editor that I may be exploring my new surroundings for my next articles. No better place to start than Ruskin’s award-winning Ybor Grille. Current plaques for the 2014 Tampa Tribune’s “Best Spanish Food” and Trip Advisor’s “Certificate of Excellence” now overlap the multiple “Best of SouthShore Awards” from years past. Owner Bob Fernandez has over 40 years of successful experience as a local restaurateur, and many of his gracious team of servers and cooks have been with him during much of that time.
I got straight down to business as we had plans to hit the iconic Ruskin Drive-In Theater just up the road. As the restaurant marquee proclaims the best deviled crabs in the Bay area, I thought to put Bob to test. One thing I have learned from working in the restaurant industry is that you can’t always believe what you see. In this case, it is worthy of the acclaim. The devil is in the details (and the ingredients) and these are all crab and all authentic.
For the main course, I made the cop-out decision to “decide not to decide” from so many great options. The Taste of Ybor was my easy out as it combines generous portions of Picadillo (seasoned ground beef in tomato sauce), Lechon Asado (mojo marinated slow roasted pork), and Ropa Vieja (tender flank steak in a burgundy-tomato sauce.) I selected garlic mashed potatoes and Spanish green beans as sides. Great food combined with attentive service and an environment where I could actually hear my wife for just $12.95. This trifecta of classic Cuban meat was as authentic as it was tasty, and the only reason I preferred the Ropa Vieja was that I could pronounce it easier. The sweet and tasty flan finished it off and it was time to hit the line for the movies, well-fed and happy.
Truth is now that I am on the “other side of 50,” the idea of going to Ybor City for authentic food is not all that appealing. My comfort level falls proportionately as dusk becomes night. I prefer to take a leisurely drive to Ruskin for a great early meal, than circle back for a double header at the Ruskin Drive-In. As for my new SouthShore neighbors, when you can’t conveniently get over to the Ybor Grille for whatever reason, I can suggest a well known delivery service that can bring the Ybor Grille right to you. Are you hungry?