If you Google “hidden gems Ybor” you will find several reviews boasting El Puerto as one of Tampa’s best kept secrets. Nestled among charming Ybor City homes, just off the beaten path of the 7th Street hustle and bustle, you’ll find this quaint restaurant located on the corner of 17th street and 5th avenue. Its brick façade is typical of Ybor City architecture and welcomes you in to a small family style restaurant. Wooden chairs and tables topped with El Puerto Restaurant and Grill white linens fill the space. High ceilings, large windows and artistically hand-painted walls make the room bright and cheerful. The atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for a delightful meal.
It seemed promising as we were served fresh warm rolls with a crunchy crust and soft centers. Unfortunately, here’s where the charm ended. The lunch entrees ordered included the Grilled Churrasco (skirt steak), Mini Parrillada (mix grill of skirt steak, Argentinian sausage, short rib, chicken breast and pork chop), and Ravioli pasta with pink sauce. After what seemed like an extensive amount of time, we were served hot meals, plainly presented on the plate without garnishes and the soft drinks were refreshed without new ice.
The ravioli dish was the best of the three; the sauce was good and the pasta was done properly. The Churrasco was ordered medium well and the Parrillada medium rare; however, they were both served well done. The Parrillada dish was missing the short rib and could have used a little more salt. The pork chop did not seem as though it had been prepared fresh and took a considerable amount of effort to cut with a knife. When the server asked how our meal was, she was told that the pork chop was very tough and not suitable to eat, to which she responded, “oh, sorry.” and promptly walked away and continued with her task at the counter. This complaint was never addressed.
Even though the food was average, edible and the portions generous, we were disappointed, as El Puerto’s “hidden gem” reputation did not prevail. In addition, the price tag for three entrees with soft drinks came to $53…too pricey for a casual lunch time meal. Overall, the food was seasoned nicely but not prepared properly and the service was less than desirable; therefore, we would not return or recommend this restaurant.
Photo above is of their Ravioli pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach. Below is Grilled Churrasco with a rice side dish. The picture at the top of the page is their Mini Parrillada Argentina.
El Puerto Restaurant and Grill
1623 E. 5th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605
Area: Ybor City, Tampa
Cuisine Style: Latin American with Peruvian Influence
Bar: Beer and Wine
Meals: Lunch and Dinner
Price Range of Entrées: Lunch $10 – $16.50, Dinner $11 – $27
Written by Sandra Grenier