Though the restaurant’s unassuming exterior tucked away in Downtown Tampa can make it difficult to find, its charming, laid-back atmosphere and delicious, understated food offerings make Café Hey worth the hunt.
For almost seven years, the bistro has attracted a mostly young, college-age crowd with a quaint and modest atmosphere with a menu that is filled with coffee, soup, salad and sandwich selections, including a vast amount of vegan options.
Owner Cheong Choi said the soups, salads and quiches change often depending on what ingredients are in season.
“The sandwiches stay the same, so if you have a particular one you like, you can depend on it being there,” he said. “But you can depend on a variety of choices for the soups, the salads and quiches.”
The soups are always a great choice. The tomato, Swiss chard and white bean soup was the perfect match for a rainy day, and the ingredients came together perfectly in an inconspicuous blend.
Though I ordered mine with provolone instead of jalapeno jack, “Rebel Rebel” combined with turkey, avocado, tomato and lettuce on Cuban bread makes the perfect sandwich.
“Summer Lovin’,” a sandwich comprised of jicama, cream cheese, avocado and tomato, and “ABBA,” an almond butter, banana and apriocot jam sandwich available pressed or cold, make great vegetarian options.
Service is not intrusive, but polite and accommodating, which is perfect for those who want privacy or a chance for uninterrupted conversation with friends.
The secluded locale on Franklin Avenue is the perfect getaway for students looking for a change of scenery to hang with friends and do homework, as they offer free WiFi. Choi said though the eatery is hard to find, he chose the location on purpose.
“We wanted to offer a place to revitalize this little area downtown,” Choi said. “(My business partners) wanted more of a restaurant and I wanted more of a coffee shop, a destination to go to gather with friends.”
On select nights, the eatery offers live entertainment with open mic nights on Thursdays, monthly travelogues, sporadic live music performances and frequent art shows, including one this Saturday.
While Café Hey is not for everyone and may throw off patrons who expect a cookie-cutter atmosphere that matches other bistros. Café Hey not only aesthetically stands out, but also offers a noteworthy treat for a patron’s taste buds.