Experience the Rich Cuban Culture in Ybor City, Florida

Ybor City used to be a thriving cigar industry composed of Cuban and Spanish immigrants and was founded in 1885 by a group of cigar manufacturers. After World War II, the cigar industry started to collapse and Ybor City was neglected and turned into a ghost town. Now, Ybor City is back up and running with vintage stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and breweries.

Ybor www.thetravelpockets.com

We stopped by Tabanero Cigars to watch cigar makers do what they do: make cigars from scratch. We could have watched this for hours. Every single cigar is hand-crafted. We were looking for souvenirs and the owner was very friendly and gave us several suggestions on what cigars would be best for our friends. There's a nice little sitting area and a coffee bar in the back where you can enjoy your cigar.

Ybor www.thetravelpockets.com
Ybor www.thetravelpockets.com

Cigars aren't the only thing Ybor has got going on. There are also great restaurants, shops, bars and breweries.

We had lunch at La Tropicana Cafe, which has been serving old fashioned Cuban sandwiches since 1963. Our server was very friendly and we learned so much about the significance and history of this restaurant. Apparently, it's THE meeting place for Tampa businessmen. They all gather at Tropicana (typically in the mornings) and apparently discuss a lot of business and local politics.

La Tropicana Cafe Entrance

La Tropicana Cafe Entrance

There is a "Kings" table in the back corner of the restaurant that's reserved for Roland Manteiga. He is the son of Victoriano Manteiga, who founded the La Gaceta weekly newspaper in 1922. He started the paper to serve the needs of the immigrant population of Tampa (mainly in Ybor). We had eaten at this restaurant many times before and didn't know any of this until now!

Crystal sitting at the king's table. Always reserved for ROLAND MANTEIGA.

Crystal sitting at the king's table. Always reserved for ROLAND MANTEIGA.

One of our favorite shops on 7th Avenue is Le France. This has got to be the most organized vintage store we've ever seen. Every piece of clothing is nicely preserved in plastic, clear garment bags. Their assortment of dresses, hats, shoes and accessories are incredible.

A vintage lover's paradise.

A vintage lover's paradise.

Crystal looking at all the vintage hats

Crystal looking at all the vintage hats

These suitcases were super heavy

These suitcases were super heavy

We wanted to buy everything in this store! BUT most of the dresses were pretty expensive. We'll have to come back when they have more sales going on. It's a fun store to browse around even if you don't end up buying anything.

A ton of vintage shoes!

A ton of vintage shoes!

Crystal trying on some vintage hats

Crystal trying on some vintage hats

Blind Tiger Cafe has been a popular coffee spot in Ybor lately. The atmosphere is relaxing and the tea, coffee and pastries we ordered were delicious. They support fellow local companies and get their pastries from Piquant pastries.

The Blind Tiger entrance

The Blind Tiger entrance

Coffee, tea, beer & pastries

Coffee, tea, beer & pastries

Not only is The Blind Tiger a coffee shop, but it is also a clothing store. Interestingly enough, this coffee shop was mainly created so that the owners could sell their clothing line, Black & Denim, and they make high quality, American-made shirts, denim and accessories. Pretty cool stuff.

Chilling in the back of the coffee shop

Chilling in the back of the coffee shop

These were only a few of the many cool spots in Ybor City. There's also Tampa Bay Brewing Company, who make their own handcrafted beer, Carmine's, famous for their devil crab, Columbia Restaurant, the largest Spanish restaurant in the world, and more!

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