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Restaurant lunch highlights:

La Familia

La Familia

Great Cuban sandwich with side of attitude

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

LaFamillaSFThis is a story about a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that, if you haven't lived in Gainesville for a considerable amount of time, there is a good probability you don't even know this Cuban sandwich shop exists.

Terry Sapp and son Shea have been coming to work up the highway from Tampa every morning for 23 years. "That's a lot of pressed Cuban sandwiches," Shea says as he takes the order for three more Cubans, pressed, with black beans and yellow rice. They have a good driving routine down including a stop at a Tampa bakery to pick up the day's Cuban bread.

The pictures on the wall chronicle the years and a boat load of pressed Cubans. That's Buddy Crevasses, La Familia owner terry Sapp says as he points to one of the cut out newspaper images. "All those officers of the law on the wall, they were all regulars at La Familia." Terry adds in his short, to-the-point vernacular.



This sandwich shop did have a club house sense of familiarity about it. The regular lunchers knew the drill – paying homage to owner terry Sapp appropriately, they hoped to receive their fair share of recognition.

Five city workers in serious lime green fluorescent protective work clothes walked in, up to the counter, and looked at Shea with a knowing stare.



"Five pressed to eat here? " Shea asks knowing the answer.

It has been a while since the GLOB Master has been to this pressed sandwich lunch time haven of goodness. Did I say nothing fancy here at the lunch counter? As I enjoyed a feeling of acceptance, I counted at least 15 or more La Familia Cuban sandwiches ordered, eaten, or carried out of this SW 16th Ave lunch stop.

And one roast beef sandwich, pressed.

My friends, Jon Roosenraad and Ron Schmidt, arrived and joined me at the counter, and Shea was quick to take our order of three La Familia pressed Cuban sandwiches. Shea said if we wanted to add black beans and rice we should share the $8.00 order and he would split the beans on our plates. Our lunch also included a tossed salad with a very interesting vinaigrette.



The La Familia menu is no frills and served in a timely fashion.

As a courtesy, Shea included a portion of picadillo for us to enjoy. I quickly spooned a couple of dollops of the red, ground burger, and onion sauce onto half of my sandwich.

"I've been making Cuban sandwiches here for 23 years and I never seen any dumb ass put picadillo on their sandwich," Poppa Shea said. "You did a good job of ruining that Cuban," he added from behind his sandwich presser.



"Well it looked like a good idea to me," I said trying to make light of my culinary faux pas. "I only did it on half of the sandwich, now I can taste the difference and judge for myself."

"You can do what you want," Terry added, "I'm just saying that I'll be damned if I have ever seen anything like that."

I'm pretty sure I was getting the 'new guy at the counter business', but it was worth it. That was one of the best sandwiches I have had – pressed, Cuban, American, in a real long time. Plus a smart alec dash of attitude at this lunch counter.



The black beans were cooked perfectly--plump, tasty, with very few smushed beans from being over cooked and over stirred. The yellow rice was delicious and fluffy and, mixed with the black beans, created a perfect union of Latin American lunch time nirvana.

We should have listened to Shea before ordering the sandwiches, which must have measured 18 inches.

"Splitting the order of beans and rice is a good idea,'" Shea said. "You should have ordered the smaller Cuban." Shea added.



The next time you are thinking, 'Gimme a Cuban sandwich', take a trip over to the SW side of town and check out all the amazing construction creating a new world over what was once called Sin City. Then head over to the adjacent, hidden strip shopping center to one of G'ville's best Cubans.

The Pluses and Minuses of La Familia:

La Familia + indicators: Good food served with a charming attitude. Quick, fresh, delicious and loaded with Latin American Flavor.

La Familia - indicators: The Cuban sandwich and black beans and rice is an enormous lunch made to share. I should have asked to put my beans on top of my yellow rice. YUM!

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the La Familia.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!


Eating Professional Rule 2A: Delay judging lunch

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Pulling into the La Familia parking lot on the corner of SW 16th Ave. and SW 13th St. I spied a police cruiser parked in front this Latin Cantina.

My self-created Eating Professional Rule #3A is, if uniformed officers of the law eat at a lunch stop, the food is usually good.

La Familia is a good nuts and bolts kind of lunch spot. Nothing fancy here, so you should curb your expectations at SW 16th Ave. and withhold judgment until you have tried their Cuban Sandwich.

Walking into La Familia you immediately see a lunch counter with a busy attendant and the La Familia entrees list on a menu board behind him on the wall. The Counter Guy quickly walked up to us, ready to take our orders.

"Do you have a lunch special today, " I asked in a friendly tone of voice.

"No," the Counter Guy said with no further discussion.

"Well, I bet you have red beans and rice," I ask.

"And black beans," my lunch partner added, hoping for some order assistance. These questions were beginning to fill in the missing menu lunch blanks for me. "And picadillo. Do you have picadillo?" my lunch pal continued.

LafamilaLUNCHI applauded the black beans and rice idea and suggested we also get a Cuban sandwich and share our lunches.

"That's a lot of food," the Counter Guy said. "You should get the picadillo with a side of black beans and yellow rice, and the Cuban sandwich. That would still be a lot of food, but cheaper."

The Counter Guy made a good suggestion. The picadillo with beans and rice was a plateful of Latin American nourishment, and made better sense than ordering three entrees.

Eating Professional Rule #6D: If you talk to the server long enough, you can pull important information out them with a little patience.  Our lunch time ordering mission accomplished we headed out to seek a table.

LafamilaDiningWalking into the dining room the first thing you see is the back wall of long narrow room with a wall-to-wall photo of an early San Francisco trolley track that disappears into infinity in a visual perspective twist that makes the room appear much larger than it really is. A very cool trick, and a source for excellent conversation.

Counter Guy delivered our lunch in a quick fashion, and we consumed our lunches in an equally speedy manner.

The ground beef, onions, tomatoes, garlic, olives and cumin mixed together in the stew- like composition of the picadillo folded into the yellow rice is a very tasty combination. The black beans were good. The yellow rice was fluffy and cooked to perfection with out rice kernels sticking together.

The Cuban sandwich was pressed, and cut into two ample, lunch size halves.

This was an excellent interpretation of home style Latin American cuisine. The crusty bread of the Cuban sandwich along with being pressed to crispy, crunchy Cuban perfection gave this sandwich a B+.

Keeping in mind my preference is for a little more mustard in my Cuban, I thought the spices of the sandwich could have been pumped up a little bit.

My lunch mate and I agreed that, likewise, the picadillo could have also had that missing spice factor going on and also needed something in addition to liven the entree up a little.

My lunch mate also made a good point that all our lunch components lacked that hot-off-the-grill temperature.

La Familia is a busy lunch stop with the lunch counter full of LF regulars. Many customers come to LF for a Food on the Run lunch; they paid, picked up their meals, and left as we enjoyed out lunch.

If I worked at the VA Medical Center or lived close by, I could see myself eating these Cuban sandwiches often.

Nothing fancy in this Latin American, no frills, bells, or whistles lunch stop. You will find some serious eating, but my suggestion is to have your order ready for the Counter Guy.

The Pluses and Minuses of La Familia:

La Familia + indicators: Large portions, excellent Cuban sandwich.

La Familia - indicators: Pricey. Ask for them to double press your Cuban to get some fresh heat on the sandwich.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the La Familia.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

Last modified onTuesday, 06 June 2017 05:47

Additional Info

  • Phone Number: 378-2257
  • Address: 1209 SW 16th Ave., Gaineville, FL
  • Urban GLOB Location: 13th St
  • Latitude: 29.63597
  • Longitude: -82.338228


  • Abbie K
    Abbie K Thursday, 31 March 2016 19:16 Comment Link

    I just had to e-mail you about la Familia. It does have one of the best cuban sandwiches in town. However, I didn’t find the “Terry Sapp, behind the counter” guy’s attitude one bit charming, smart-aleck-y or funny. He was very rude to me when I went there for lunch several times and I will never go back again. I have enough of that in my life at work on the phone every day. I’ll be damned if I’ll be treated that way during my lunch hour, and I’m paying for it with my hard-earned money. Plus, he quipped he always hears the customer and gets their order right. To add insult to injury, he screwed up my order. I’ll miss the sandwiches, but not the attitude!!! Love ya, Abbie

  • Nadine
    Nadine Friday, 23 September 2011 10:57 Comment Link

    I've eaten plenty of lunches here and always had a good meal. The best thing about this place, besides a good cuban sandwich and yummy picadillo, rice, beans and homemade bread, is the speed of the service. If you only have an hour for lunch, La Familia is the place to go! I also like the easy atmosphere and the sense of a small family business too.

  • Allison
    Allison Thursday, 22 September 2011 19:09 Comment Link

    had lunch at La Familla today, a place I had not been to since 1990 or so. Just found myself wanting a good Cuban.
    I also ordered Picadillo on the side.
    The Cuban was very good, excellent bread & plenty of filling.
    The Picadillo was OK, fairly bland and served luke warm. both the items could/should have been hotter.
    La Familla seems to have a lot of regular customers, which is always nice to see.
    The tables and napkin holders could have used a wipe down.
    I think my next Cuban trip will be to La Fortuna

  • Keith
    Keith Monday, 22 August 2011 10:22 Comment Link

    One of my favorite sandwich shops of all time. A hole in the peverbal wall and has been since it opened. Owners drive fresh bread up daily from a cuban bakery in Tampa. Limited menu, but its the Cuban sandwich you go there for, so no need cluttering up the menu with too many other choices.

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