Hidden café is Tampa campus’ ‘best kept secret’

Most USF students have heard about the new dining services available on campus, but not many have heard about Tarek’s Café.

“Many customers think it is the best kept secret on campus,” said Keith Simmons, the Assistant Director of Auxiliary Services at USF.

Even though Tarek’s Café has been on the USF campus for 11 years, not many students or faculty know about it due to its location. The small café is tucked away behind the courtyard between the College of Public Health and the Florida Mental Health Institute.

Although the café is not widely known, Simmons said, the students and faculty who do frequently visit it have had nothing but good things to say about it.

“The quality, service, price and everything about this place is outstanding and one of the best things we have going on this part of campus. His food is nutritious, fresh, tasty, economical and he always offers variety and convenience,” said Jeannine Coreil, a professor in the College of Public Health.

Tarek’s attracts Lee Bryant, a student of the College of Public Health, because of its atmosphere.

“There is no shortage of places to eat around USF, but I choose Tarek’s for the variety, the price and the personal charm that they place into every meal,” Bryant said.

The small café boasts a wide variety of inexpensive dishes and offers different daily lunch specials everyday, said Tarek Elsayed, owner of the café.

“I always try to do something different. I appreciate my customers, build close relationships with them and cater to their needs,” Elsayed said.

Tarek’s Café is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The café serves breakfast dishes including eggs, omelettes, bagels and breakfast sandwiches. After 11:00 a.m., Tarek’s Café switches gears and begins serving lunch. The dishes served for lunch include pasta, chicken, sandwiches, gyros, burgers, salads and fresh fish.

One of Elsayed’s favorite hobbies, he said, happens to be fishing, and he serves all the fish he catches to his customers.

“I enjoy cooking, and I know what fresh fish tastes like,” Elsayed said. “When it’s fresh, it’s real good. This is an extra for my customers.”

For students on the go, the café also offers cookies, fruit cups, coffee, fruit juices and homemade muffins, for which Elsayed is known for all over Tampa Bay, he said.

Before starting his café on campus, Elsayed said he used to be in the bakery business and sold a majority of his now-famous muffins to customers working downtown.

In addition to the wide selection of meals and low prices, Tarek’s Café also offers students and faculty a laid-back atmosphere with music. The café also has a television for those students looking to check the score of the latest Tampa Buccaneer’s game.

Currently, Tarek’s Café is beginning to offer catering services to the faculty at USF. Elsayed said he would like to begin catering to the student dorms as well. Incoming freshmen at USF need not fret either, because they can use their meal plans to dine at Tarek’s Café.

“I want reach further than this segment of campus. I want to expose my menu to the main campus,” Elsayed said.