Sexy and seductive, Ybor has long been one of my favorite destinations in Tampa. Upon my arrival almost ten years ago from California, I became enamored with this historic neighborhood and its multicultural flair. Ybor has strong Cuban, Spanish and Italian influences which are evident in both architecture and cuisine. Since day one, I have been in love with Ybor’s large array of eclectic shops, avant-garde bars and ethnic restaurants which remind me a lot of my beloved San Francisco.
One place that I had been anxious to try is Carne Chophouse which occupies the historic Centro Español building in the heart of Ybor on 7th Ave. My longtime friend and photographer, Bobby Azmitia, invited me to lunch at Carne, which is one of his favorite places in Ybor. I had a great time and learned a lot about the history of the building. Built in 1912, El Centro Español de Tampa was an ethnic and cultural clubhouse and received recognition as a U.S. National Historic Landmark on June 3, 1988. The building is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Walking into Carne Chophouse is like walking into an Ybor restaurant circa the 1940’s. The entire place has a nostalgic feel with high ceilings and dark interiors, thus exuding an old-school vibe. I smiled, as it reminded me of a few of my favorite classic restaurants in San Francisco. Bobby and I were seated and started off with two appetizers. As much as I wanted a martini, I stuck with an iced tea. Our first dish was Escargot which consisted of oven-roasted jumbo escargot, garlic “maître d butter”, and Parmesan encrusted bread. I love escargot and these were outstanding. The garlic butter was incredible and melted into every nook and cranny. They truly melted in my mouth.
Escargot, photo by Robert Azmitita
I was really excited about the next dish, Carne Oyster Rocks which were baked with Andouille Sausage, smoked corn, tomatoes, & spinach with a Cheddar cheese crust. Intense in flavor, these little babies were beyond delicious. I have always loved Andouille sausage and loved the combinations of flavors in this dish. The sausage paired with the smoked corn is an intoxicating blend and really set the tone for my lunch experience.
Carne Oyster Rocks, photo by Robert Azmitia
We each started off with a salad. I had the Wedge which was a mouthwatering plate of iceberg lettuce, topped with grape tomatoes, shaved red onion, crispy bacon, and Roquefort Bleu Cheese Dressing. I love a good wedge and theirs was fantastic. Nothing quite compares to savory blue cheese and crispy bacon.
Wedge, photo by Robert Azmitia
Bobby went with their Spinach Salad– which is a gorgeous blend of oven roasted pears, Havarti cheese, candied walnuts, crispy pancetta and warm balsamic vinaigrette. Visually stunning, this salad tasted every bit as good as it looked.
Spinach Salad, photo by Robert Azmitia
As it came time to order lunch, I was really torn since they offer so many tempting items on their menu. After much pondering, I went with the Carne Sirloin Chimichurri which is a 6 oz. portion and served with sofrito potatoes. I had broccoli in place of the potatoes since I wanted to save my carbs for dessert. I enjoy Chimichurri and Carne’s version Didn’t disappoint. A delicious blend of garlic, olive oil, oregano and other seasonings, it was soaked into every bit of my sirloin, which was a perfect medium rare. I enjoyed it immensely.
Carne Sirloin Chimichurri, photo by Robert Azmitia
Since we happened to be having lunch on “Fat Tuesday,” Bobby went with one of their specials of the day which was Jambalaya. It looked so amazing that I just had to try it. With jumbo shrimp, sausage and smokey chicken, it was a plate of Creole goodness and perfect on this celebratory day.
Jambalaya, photo by Robert Azmitia
As we wrapped up lunch, I was tempted by their dessert selection and opted for their Rum Caramel Flan. I figured, “when in Ybor……”. Rich vanilla custard topped with rum caramel sauce, dusted with sweet powdered sugar and paired with fresh strawberries, it was simply divine. I enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a house-made biscotti.
Rum Caramel Flan, photo by Robert Azmitia
I was nice and relaxed after lunch and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the bar working on my laptop. I spoke with patrons about their love of the restaurant and met some new people. I am anxiously awaiting my next visit to Carne Chophouse and can’t wait to have a martini on my next visit. If you are ever in Ybor, I highly recommend a visit to Carne Chophouse.
Carne Chophouse Interior, photo by Robert Azmitia