Brocato’s Sandwich Shop
5021 East Columbus Drive
Tampa, FL 33619-2401
Our friends Jacob and Phil have recently moved down to Tampa, so lately we’ve been going to the same places for lunch and dinner, or cooking at home. Falling into a habit of going to the same joints to grab a bite is easy, especially when life gets a little hectic (figuring out the new dynamics in our household isn’t stressful but it does require you to reassess how you spend your free time). So, when Chris, of our very own site’s fame, sent me a link (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/dining/27united.html?ref=dining) about the brief history of the devil crab croquette and Tampa’s abiding affinity for it, I was compelled to go find a joint to try this out. I wound up settling on Brocato’s from the title picture of the article. After loading up the Blue-Bomber on this sweltering Tampa afternoon, we trundled east on I4 to meet our fate.
The first thing I noticed was that Brocato’s was busy. Not just slightly busy, but the kind of busy where folks are ‘waiting to get a spot in the large parking lot’-busy. A busy restaurant is always a good indicator of a restaurants worth (this is not always true, see: Chili’s, Appleby’s, etc. I think people just like going to those places for beer specials… that’s the only logical conclusion; who is willing to pay $13 for a paltry amount of crappy nachos?). As we entered the restaurant I saw a steady stream of people coming in to place an order and sitting down or just grabbing their food and taking off. This rate of turnover is pretty amazing considering we got to Brocato’s shortly after 1pm.
Brocato’s offers a fairly large menu: sandwiches, soups, desserts, and of course crab croquettes. You may be asking, “What is a crab croquette?” Sauteed green onion, jalapenos (or green peppers), with Crab meat, next you cover it in a breading and deep fry; it’s like a Tampa empanada. They have a Pick 1, 2, or 3 lunch offer where you can choose from 6 or 7 different items and a drink. We mistakenly chose 2x ‘Pick-2’s and 1x ‘Pick-3’. Why were we mistaken? Well, we had misled ourselves on how much food we would receive. In the future, with 3 people, we would order the Pick 3 and get a couple additional drinks as the additional items we ordered were only sampled and not consumed en masse. If you order the Pick 3, you need to bring a bear’s appetite and the ability to hibernate (after consuming that much food). I had brought eyes that were much larger than my stomach and ordered the Pick 3; I chose to get the 6 inch Cuban sandwich, Devil Crab Croquette, and Fries. All washed down with an unsweet ice-tea.
What the picture fails to bely is the actual size of the crab croquette, which measured in at about the size of Shane Carwin’s fists (which are in fact the size of lunchboxes). The pictures also fail to convey the weight of the 6-inch Cubans. While they fail to weigh in at a metric ton, they are indeed loaded with enough meat to burden anyone stuck with carrying a bag of Cubans back to their lazy coworkers. Portions aside, the food itself was fantastic. A word of warning, if you don’t like crab you probably shouldn’t order a crab croquette. If you DO like crab meat, you will find that they must’ve used roughly 50 actual crab claws to make each croquette and will be pleased to find it’s not the fake, reconstituted fish parts (that get labelled as “crab meat” but in fact look like creamsicle colored crinkle-cut fries). From what I could tell the croquettes were made of crab meat, jalapenos, green onions, salt, pepper, butter, and maybe lemon. I thought this was fantastic lunch fare and would gladly bring out-of-towners here. I didn’t house my Cuban sandwich as I was loaded down from the crab croquette alone but the bit I did sample was fantastic, made like a traditional Cuban that has been stuffed to the gills with meat. The crinkle-cut fries were fairly standard ‘fry’ fair, but unremarkable only in that they were good fries and not excellent in some respect (they were cooked properly, not undercooked, not soggy).
Brocato’s has a very laid back atmosphere. While I was there they were serving everyone from suits to the working man. It appears if you like food you’ll wind up at Brocato’s regardless of your station in life.
I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed my food. Brocato’s earned a Rating: . My one minor complaint is that it took a while to get my food, but considering the volume of customers Brocato’s handles it’s very understandable.
-Matt in Tampa