My wife and I lived in Winter Haven for a short time before moving to Lakeland. During that time, our favorite restaurant was a Mexican place called El Norteño. It was in a convenient downtown location, the food was outstanding, and the service was always pleasant. We were semi-regulars and quite sad when the restaurant closed.
I was aware through social media that a new restaurant, Tempo 1930, opened in the space occupied by El Norteño. So we looked forward to visiting to see what was happening in the space we remembered so fondly.
Tempo 1930 has maintained some of the features from the previous restaurant, but they have updated the space in a style that blends vintage and contemporary. There was a small lounge area with a screen playing a Charlie Chaplin film. The walls had vintage photos and contemporary art. The music was loud but this might be a case where loud music is actually appropriate, because they describe themselves as a jazz and blues club (Facebook) and a cocktail bar (Google). And the music was good – mostly blues along the line of B.B. King. Also, we were there early in the day, but I’ve read that some evenings they have some very good live acoustic performances.
Our server was delightful, welcoming and enthusiastic during our entire visit. The menu is primarily salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and a short list of entrees – rather than maintaining an extensive menu, it looks like they’ve chosen to focus on a smaller quantity of higher-end offerings. There is a lunch menu currently offered from 11AM – 4PM and we ordered from that. I had the impression that Tempo 1930 is fairly expensive (in fact, a couple of their current entrees are over $20), but the lunch menu options were only $8.95 each.
My wife ordered a muffaletta sandwich with classic fries (Cajun fries, fried okra, and red beans and rice were also options for the side). The fries were excellent. They didn’t taste salty, a relief considering how overly salty a lot of restaurant fries are. They must have been fried in very hot oil because they achieved a crispiness that was almost a potato chip/French fry hybrid. The sandwich is a half portion when ordered from the lunch menu. It was focaccia bread with giardiniera, mortadella, ham, and salami. The focaccia bread tasted made from scratch. The giardiniera came on the side but also on the sandwich, and had pepperoncini, carrots, cauliflower, and green olives, all chopped and marinated in a spicy vinaigrette. It gave a nice crunch that contrasted nicely with the bread and meat of the sandwich. It was all very delicious.
I ordered a triple bacon BLT sandwich, also with classic fries. As with my wife’s, these fries were delicious. The sandwich was outstanding. I should qualify that I’m not a lettuce fan so I ordered mine without. That meant the bacon was a little out of proportion compared to what it would normally be, but I still loved the sandwich. One of the three bacon varieties was chunks of pork belly. I’ve never had pork belly before so can’t compare it, but it is decadent (a special occasion kind of dish) and full of flavor. The bun was good but a bit overwhelmed by the generous contents.
We thoroughly enjoyed Tempo 1930 and look forward to returning and sampling more of their dishes. They have clearly put a lot of thought into their menu and overall image and, for us, it worked well. It was just the right amount of food with friendly service and a fun ambience. With tip our total came to $31 (we only had ice tea to drink, of course this would be higher if you chose from their cocktail menu). Tempo 1930 may be our new favorite restaurant in Winter Haven. They are on 4th St NW, across from Central Park, in downtown Winter Haven. Enjoy!