When you move to Tampa, one of the first things you discover are all the options for things to do. They include Golf courses, amusement parks, historical sites, museums, beaches, quaint downtowns and so many festivals.
And, of course, restaurants. The Tampa food scene has undergone huge changes in the past decade, with new restaurants opening every year. But there are some iconic, time-honored places that you should consider once you decide to join the thousands of people moving to Tampa.
Here are some of our favorites
We won’t get into the newest restaurants or latest trends, although Tampa offers plenty of that, as well. Rather, these are the places that you must visit to know the great restaurants that have stood the test of time. We’ll limit ourselves to just the Tampa restaurants, there’s plenty more in nearby St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
The quintessential steakhouse, with an entrance decorated a bit like a bordello. It all makes sense when you see it. You’ll get one of the best steaks you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, but don’t forget to head upstairs at the end of your meal to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. It has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for sweet concoctions.
Started in 1905 in Ybor City, the Columbia continues to offer guests a fantastic ambiance that involves stained glass, a beautiful mosaic tile fountain and “Love and the Dolphin” statue. Make sure to try the 1905 salad and the Cuban sandwich, both are exceptional. Take a stroll after your meal through Ybor City, which offers plenty of shops and entertainment.
Tampa also has a strong Italian heritage, and Donatello provides exactly what you want in Italian fine-dining, all bathed in a pink glow. They make their pasta by hand every day, which is reason enough to set the place apart. So is a menu packed with Italian favorites and, of course, the rose they give every female patron when they leave after their meal.
Jamaican-born Andrew Ashmeade opened Jerk Hut in 1991 in the back of a Fletcher Avenue heavy metal bar – a Tampa story if ever there was one. Now, it’s moved to Fowler Avenue, with a couple other locations around the city. You’ll get the spicy jerk chicken and a host of other treats, like the Jamaican patties.
A casual Tampa mainstay since the 1970s, this West Columbus Drive restaurant offers Spanish and Cuban dishes with all the favorites you’d expect. It’s also a great atmosphere, where locals hang out and you can pick up some great stories if you pay attention.
It’s French for “everything in its place.” And that’s certainly the case for this Tampa mainstay just across the Hillsborough River from downtown on Kennedy Boulevard. The great thing about Mise en Place is the care taken with every single dish, no matter how small. And for a place known for sophistication and fine dining, they sure have a killer burger.
Eating out might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tampa, but maybe it should be. It’s a place where you can get many kinds of food, along with a variety of experiences. What more do you want from a food scene?