My family moved back to the Tampa area when I was twelve years old. We spent my elementary school years in Sarasota and returned to live in Temple Terrace. As many know, Café Don José has been a fixture in Temple Terrace for years. I remembered when I was a kid looking over at the full parking lot in the Sherwood Forest Center on 56th Street and noticing how Café Don José must be packed that night. Clearly, this statement is now dated since the restaurant has moved north of Fowler Avenue into its own, very charming building.
So, for the last 30-plus years of living in and around Temple Terrace, I had never had a meal at Café Don José. Strange, huh?
DeeDee and I have been looking for restaurants to consider for our wedding next year. Since the proximity of Café Don José was so close to our new house, we felt we had to include it in “the list”.
We arrived fairly early on a weekday night. We called and let them know we were coming so that they could show us their private banquet rooms.
The owner greeted us courteously and show us the room available for a special event. Afterward, we were seated and began to look over the menu for something different (and a glass of wine to go with it).
First Recommendation: If you are ever dining at Café Don José, YOU MUST TRY THE OSTRICH APPETIZER. Not only is it delicious, it is good for you Ostrich is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Let me clarify – even if it was bad for you, I’d still recommend it.
Second Recommendation: If you want to go to a restaurant that has outstanding service without seeming pretentious, give Café Don José a try. Our server was on the ball with everything. She was polite and well-mannered. Truly a pleasure to give her a tip a the end of our meal.
After looking over the menu, DeeDee decided on the Filet Mignon (I know … shocking) and I opted for the Shrimp Scampi. Both dishes came out without a long delay. The presentation was adequate but not exceptional. I had a bite of DeeDee’s steak – it was …. good. Not great… just good. The same can be said for my shrimp scampi. It was good. Not great…. just good.
I enjoyed it, but I was expecting more. The food quality was good. The temperature on serving was good. The seasonings and spices used to prepare our two dishes were good. But nothing we experienced (except for the aforementioned ostrich appetizer) was outstanding. It was good.
Without question, I am a sucker for a nice dessert and one of my favorites is creme brulee. I wish I could make it myself, but I have not been successful at making it to the point I can brag about it. The creme brulee was caramelized right in front of us. Eagerly we tried our first bite and … it was just good.
After reading some of my thoughts, I want to be quite clear in my conclusion. This NOT a bad review. This is a good review. Over the years my expectations have grown extremely high. So much so that anything short of a superior dining experience was going to be seem somewhat negative, but this was not a negative experience. Good food and outstanding service should never be put down. I was just expecting something special.
Would I eat at Café Don José again? Yes I would. In fact, I don’t think I will wait for thirty years to pass before we return.