Cafe' Tango is a Special Place to Dine
June 16, 2012 by Gwen Break
Many South Walton restaurants are lauded as exceptional -- for their food, ambiance, service, architecture -- any number of things can make a restaurant famous. Café Tango incorporates all those things and more.
Almost hidden from view on Scenic 30A, Café Tango is nestled about 100 feet off the main drag on Vicki Street, just about a half mile east of Gulf Place. Small and unpresuming, Café Tango occupies an old wooden beach house, with more charm and character than Katherine Hepburn.
“Among the elite . . . a local brand” is how Joseph and Andrew Morris, owners of Café Tango, regard their business.
The Morrises purchased Café Tango on July 1, 2010, “in the middle of the oil spill,” a risky move by some’s standards.
However, because of the uncertainty over the area’s future, “I got a better deal than I would have otherwise,” said the senior Morris.
“Based on its history of financials and sales, I believed it would continue to be successful. With my business background and the boys’ restaurant background, it seemed a natural. We were confident we could take something good and make it better.”
The two Morrises will be joined in November by their brother/son, Patrick, who recently got back from Afghanistan, and who is an accomplished chef.
Since 1999, The Morrises have plowed about $75,000 back into the business for infrastructure improvements and upgrades in equipment. During high season, said Joseph, reservations can be as long as two weeks out.
And you always want to have reservations at Café Tango because at maximum capacity, it can only seat 30 people at a time. There are two evening servings, from 6 to 6:30 and from 8 to 8:30.
“It’s a special-occasion place, for anniversaries, birthdays,” said Joseph.
But is more than the intimate and quaint atmosphere that draws people to Café Tango. It is the food.
“You’ll see some Latin influence from the previous owners,” said Andrew. “You’ll see some Spanish delicacies you won’t see anywhere else.”
Like the tuna Mojama, an appetizer.
“It’s blue fin tuna that’s been salted and cured in the caves of Spain for two years. We take the loin, slice it real thin, almost translucent, marinate it in olive oil, red onions, garlic, serve it with crostini, really pretty. Gently salty yet has that cured flavor, yet with the depth of the tuna. It’s my favorite,” said Andrew.
Other entrees include lamb, beef, foie gras, lobster ravioli and seafood. Approximately 60 percent of the restaurant’s wine list is of Spanish influence. The current menu -- and it is revised frequently -- lists 65 different wines. Every dish is prepared fresh.
“One of the things we are very fortunate about in being small is we can control things on a day-to-day basis. An example of that is we are so small we must get everything fresh every day because we have no excess storage,” said Joseph.
“We get our fresh fish in every morning and based on what fish we get in, we have five different preparations. We’re not a fried restaurant; nothing is fried,” said Andrew.
The Morrises are considering cloning Café Tango in another coastal location within 200 miles of its current location.
“I believe in small, local businesses,” said Joseph. “We will use the same name, the same business model, a concept we know is successful.”
Upscale yet warm and welcoming. Fresh ingredients combined with unique flavors presented rather than served, makes this South Walton restaurant a local’s treasure and a visitor’s prize.