Completely worth the drive from Orlando to Tampa, Brocatos’ Sandwich Shop has been a Tampa Bay tradition since opening in 1948. Similar to crab cakes, but much heartier, devil crabs are lightly breaded and deep fried, with a healthy dollop of hot sauce on the top, if you are so brave. I was first introduced to devil crabs by my Italian mother-in-law, Mimi, whose mother was born and raised in Ybor City. Since meeting my husband, I have been gifted with Brocato’s devil crabs every time we visited her. Mimi even made the effort to bring them on the airplane when she visited us while we were living abroad!
Although devil crabs originated in the late 1920s, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover from which heritage their roots began. Mimi says they’re Italian, of course, but another might say Cuban or even Spanish. What’s not up for debate is the taste. Brocato’s has the best devil crabs in town, hands down, and it’s likely because of their incredibly generous amount of crab and light, seasoned breading.
Brocato’s hasn’t always been a superstar in the food service business, however! At least not until Joe and Michael, the sons of the original owner, nearly hit rock bottom and decided to try out their Aunt Nina’s devil crab recipe. They’ve been a household name in Tampa ever since. Good food combined with a casual, family-friendly outdoor seating area, and floor-to-ceiling memorabilia make it worth a visit. The historical photographs are worth taking time to peruse, too.
Since our family has relocated to Orlando, having Brocato’s just around the corner is quite possibly one of the best things about moving here, at least as far as my stomach is concerned.
What’s your favorite local spot?