There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Café Olé, the continental and authentic Spanish restaurant located in the Cross Creek Center plaza on Cross Creek Blvd. (at Kinnan St.; behind the Shell gas station) is still the best restaurant in New Tampa, hands down.
I know, some of you still haven’t tried it because you think it’s too pricy or because you think you don’t like “Latin” food.
At owner Frank Aliaga’s Café Olé, however, you can get so much more than just delicious authentic Spanish dishes — like real seafood paella, seafood colossal or shrimp in garlic sauce tapas — none of which I can eat because of my shellfish allergy.
In fact, even though I can’t enjoy those three dishes (all of which are pictured on these pages), everything I can safely enjoy at Café Olé is much better than anything you can get anywhere else in New Tampa.
Such As, For Starters?…
Although most of my favorite tapas dishes at Café Olé are usually included on the daily tapas specials list created by the restaurant’s “Sauce Man” Chef Wilson, I love the chicken raviolis on the next page (Café Olé sometimes offers lobster and even veal raviolis, too) in a creamy tomato sauce that is a perfect dipping complement to the amazingly crispy Italian-style bread served upon request with your meal (which already is served with pre-softened butte, which is so much better than any dipping oil, in one man’s opinion).
I’m also partial to Café Olé’s Little Neck clams tapas in garlic, white wine and onions and Galician-style grilled octopus (pulpo a la Gallega), both of which are still among the non-fish seafood I can safely eat). If you’re craving lobster, shrimp, mussels and scallops, There’s even unique bruschetta, fried calamari and traditional Spanish chorizo sausage Salteado (in herbs and a light red wine sauce) on the tapas menu.
But, there’s little doubt in my mind that Café Olé’s incredible fresh fish, steak and lamb and veal entrées are what keep me coming back for more. Whether you dine in or take out for lunch or dinner — and the only-slightly-smaller lunch portions are priced so well, it’s a perfect way to try Café Olé without breaking the bank. The lunch specials usually come with the classic Salade Olé, which comes with the best balsamic house dressing in town. The full-sized salad is more than worth splitting for dinner, too.
Whether you prefer the Chilean sea bass shown on this page without the shrimp and creamy white wine and lemon sauce, grouper, mahi, snapper, salmon or corvina, you really can’t go wrong with Café Olé’s fresh fish, which is always served with a starch (usually potatoes or rice) and sautéed, fresh julienned veggies. As for the fish on the actual menu, the pescado de la casa (fresh flounder sautéed with onions, garlic, olives, capers and finished in a fresh tomato sauce) also is outstanding.
I’ve also never had a sub-par steak, lamb or veal shank or lamb chops and although the prices aren’t cheap, neither is the quality of the food. Although I’ve had very good lamb chops at other local restaurants, the grilled lamb chops (in some sort of red wine reduction sauce) were the best I’ve had in New Tampa this year. And, I’ve had everything from New York strip to filet mignon to bone-in cowboy ribeyes from the specials list and all were tender and tasty, with sauce or without.
Aliaga and his top-notch staff have worked hard to keep up the quality at Café Olé, even though the place has gone through so many additions and changes the last couple of years. When Aliaga opened the restaurant six years ago, it was only about 30 seats and 1,500 square feet. Today, after annexing two other adjacent spaces in the plaza, it is more than 4,500 sq. ft., with seating for nearly 200 people (book a party there and I know the food will be a major hit), with a kitchen that is at least three times the size of the original.
Café Olé also hosts the New Tampa Noon Rotary Club meetings every Wed. at noon. Attend one time as a guest and you’ll love the food so much you’ll probably join.
The recently revamped bar areas is now much more spacious, and still features premium liquors, Spanish and other imported, micro-brewed and domestic beers and the best wine list in New Tampa. I recommend any of the Spanish reds (ribero del duero, tempranillo, rioja, etc.) or other equally upscale (but not overpriced) red or white wines.
And, Speaking Of Specials…
If you check out the Café Olé ad on page 40 of our current issue, you’ll see that Aliaga & Co. are making it less expensive for you to enjoy your favorite beverages Mon.-Thur. And, you can even enjoy $3 Estrella or Mahou draft or bottled beers during any of the COPA America and Euro Cup soccer games. You just have to root for Spain at the Euro.
And, coming soon is DJ entertainment on Fri. & Sat. nights and weekend brunch!
For reservations (not required, but suggested on weekends) & more info about Café Olé (10020 Cross Creek Blvd.), call 907-5242, or visit CafeOleRestaurant.com