La Pequeña Colombia Restaurant
6312 N Armenia Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
Some life updates that may not have been reflected on HalfTon:
1. My twin brother Dan got hired by my company and he moved to Tampa.
2. I was able to get one of my best friends Jake hired at our company.
3. Another one of my best friends, Phil, moved down to Tampa to check something new out for a while.
The four of us share a house north of downtown Tampa, about 5 minutes from Ybor. Our proximity to Ybor usually defaults us to visiting there (read: The Bricks) on the weekends. The past couple of weeks we have developed an informal ‘morning after Ybor’-ritual which usually involves going out with Phil so he can buy smokes and we all grab some RockStar Recovery Drinks and then we head out to Guitar Center. Through my ineptitude last weekend I had purchased the wrong heads for drums, so this weekend we repeated our little ritual.
As you can see, I wised up and just took the old heads off so that I can accurately match up what I needed to purchase. We purchased our musical necessities, but man can only be sustained on liquid energy drank for so long. Dan was interested in eating at a new joint so he commandeered Phil’s phone to use Yelp to plot our next steps. He found a 4 and a half star restaurant, which is fairly amazing on Yelp so off we went. Side note, we tried to get our roommate Jake to join us, but due to his inability to EVER answer his phone he missed out on the best meal we’ve had in Tampa.
I may have laid this out before, but it’s fairly difficult to write about excellent food. Eating at La Pequena was one of those times. The service we received was fast, friendly and very helpful without smothering us. At no point were we waiting on the wait staff to fulfill our requests. After having had a very poor service experience the past evening at another Tampa restaurant, La Pequena stood out for its competency and extremely high level of service.
On the recommendation of the Yelp information, Dan ended up ordering the Bandeja Montañera, aka ‘The Country Platter’, which comes with Grilled Steak (or ground beef), Pork Skin, Sausage, Red Beans, Rice, Eggs, Sweet Plantains, Corn Cake and a Salad. Clearly this is a meal that you have be packing an appetite to order. Phil and I opted to order the Bistec A Caballo which comes with Stewed Beef, Rice, Red Beans, Potato, Cassava, and Egg.
The red beans and rice showed up first, and frankly there was enough right there to make a meal. Phil and I started digging in as we had all been brewing a mean hunger. Shortly thereafter our main dishes came out.
The portions provided would make a lumberjack hesitate. There is enough food per meal to leave you full for the remainder of the day. The stewed beef was fantastic, the acidity of the tomato base and the starchiness of the potato and cassava complimented each other very well. The eggs on top of the platter were like the cherry on top of a sundae… unnecessary but totally delicious. My meal was outstanding but I think the real items that shone were on Dan’s plate. The thin-cut, hand tenderized steak was just that, tender. The steak was perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper, and the grill flavor on it was impeccable. The sausage was the other item that blew me away. From what I could tell it had a natural casing and was filled with high quality meat and filling. I have no idea what was in there, but I do know it was the best sausage I’ve ever had. The one surprise on the table was the pork skin. I didn’t know what to expect, but in hindsight I should’ve expected good things as everything we had today was the best we’d had of its kind. If you dig on swine, you should definitely give it a shot.
One thing we had noticed upon entering was the bakery. Well, that and some of the pretty patrons and pretty girls who were working there. They offer fresh baked breads, sweets, and pastries. As Jake wasn’t able to join us we purchased a loaf of 3 cheese bread that had literally just come out of the oven and an apple turnover. The bread was so good that as soon as it got home it was demolished.
This was one of those rare experiences where you try something new out of the blue and you are absolutely blown away. If you haven’t had the pleasure of being completely surprised with the excellence of something, you’re missing out. I don’t know that there is a way to cultivate having these experiences other than trying something new and avoid coming into that experience with a preconception of how your experience will be. The only thing I can relate to this was seeing The Matrix for the first time. Dan and I were in 9th grade, and we went with our parents to see it on opening day. There wasn’t a lot of advertising surrounding it. We knew of the movie but frankly had no idea of what it would be about other than it would have a base in science fiction. The graphics, the plot, the music, the acting (this was the perfect role for Keanu Reeves. Whoever his agent is, is brilliant) and each aspect of the movie hit on all cylinders. We walked in with virtually no expectations, and left raving. Minus the science fiction, we walked into La Pequena and left with that same Matrix-esque experience.
La Pequena deserved and received a Rating: . I recommend this to anyone with an appetite. It’s just too bad Jake (and any of you who read this) didn’t get to experience this with us.
-Matt in Tampa