Although you may never of suspected it Tampa has a booming Gastronomy scene. In the last 10 years there has been a lot of development to revitalize downtown Tampa, especially along the Riverwalk, which made its premiere about 2 years ago. Now Tampa has seen a huge growth in their food and entertainment industry with new farm to table restaurants, cocktail bars and upscale dinning experiencing popping up everywhere. With all those options where would one start, you may ask…
1. ANISE GLOBAL GASTROBAR - 777 N. Ashley Drive Tampa, FL
Anise is one of downtown Tampa’s trendiest cocktail bars and restaurants. What once started off as a food truck selling Asian-style stinky buns, Anise has become a young professional hotspot for lunch and after work drinks. With killer cocktails and an expanded menu (which still includes those delicious sticky buns they got their start with) the restaurant is always busy for weekend brunch, dinner and lunch during the week. The comfy lounge chairs outside on the patio also make Anise a great place for people-watching as the sun goes down and downtown’s lights along the Riverwalk come up.
2 FLY BAR & RESTAURANT - 202 N. Franklin St. Tampa, FL
This craft cocktail bar pioneered Tampa’s downtown bar scene. 10 years ago when there was nothing going on in downtown Tampa, Fly Bar was the first bar to open its doors and soon after became a legendary hot spot for craft cocktails and live music. What once was a destination bar is now see as the pioneer to Tampa’s downtown revitalization and started the boom of bars and restaurants opening up in the area. With a great global inspired Tapas menu and their rooftop patio/bar weekends at fly get packed with college students and young professionals often pouring out onto the sidewalk patio. Arrive before 9PM Thur – Sat to ensure you can get in without waiting in line.
3. ULELE - 1810 N. Highland Avenue Tampa, FL
This once public water pump house, situated on the banks of the Hillsborough River and at the North end of the Riverwalk features a menu inspired by Tampa Bay’s early native and Spanish explorers. With seasonal seafood options and a large selection of offerings (including their very own award wining craft beer) Ulele is an absolute local favourite! The restaurant also features a great outdoor patio and beer garden making it a great place to enjoy the sunset or to grab a drink after you bike down the Riverwalk.
4. HOTEL BAR – 200 N Tampa St Tampa, FL
Tampa’s newest cocktail bar is the sister bar to downtown’s legendary Fly Bar (remember #2?) When the owners opened Hotel Bar 2 months ago they were looking to reinvent hotel cocktails in a modern cocktail bar setting. With a swanky atmosphere, cool music and late night bites (serving food until 2AM) Friday night at Hotel Bar is the place to be.
5. OXFORD EXCHANGE - 420 West Kennedy Boulevard Tampa, FL
The Oxford Exchange offers one of the most historic settings in Tampa. Located near the University of Tampa this once upon a time horse stable was redeveloped into what is now the Oxford Exchanged. Inspired by the architecture of the building and English interior design the owners decided to use the space to combine a restaurant, coffee bar, bookstore and home décor shop. Now the Oxford Exchange is a popular place for locals and tourists to pass time drink coffee, eating in their courtyard and perusing through their masterfully selected boutique and bookstore features. Not to mention it’s a great place to snap some photographs!
6. EDISON FOOD + DRINK LAB - 912 West Kennedy Blvd Tampa, FL
The Edison is one of the most innovative restaurants in Tampa. Chef Jeannie Pierola creates every dish with the intention to push the boundaries of what’s possible in a kitchen. With the help of liquid nitrogen and other unusual cooking techniques her dishes make this restaurant rise to the top when it comes to Tampa’s gastronomy scene. With strong cocktails, an excellent wine list and classic workingman's beer on tap it’s the perfect place to make yourself right at home.
7. BERN’S STEAK HOUSE – 1208 S Howard Ave Tampa, FL
Bern’s Steak House is truly a Tampa staple. Known for having the largest private wine collection in the world, Bern’s draws every politician, well to do businessmen and movie star that passes through Tampa. Their reputation as the finest steak house in Tampa holds true and many locals will easily put this restaurant on their top 10 list. From their dry ages stakes to their dessert room Bern’s Steak House is a destination within itself and is always packed which is why I recommend making a reservation well in advance.
8. FRANKLIN MANOR - 912 North Franklin Street Tampa, FL
Franklin Manor is downtown Tampa’s newest venue. With a large outdoor patio featuring a stage for nightly live performances Franklin Manors adds a whole new dimension to the food and entertainment in downtown Tampa. Often filled with young professionals Fraklin Manor is the place to see and be “scene”. Hand crafted cocktails, vibrant live music, delicious bar bites and Taco Tuesday specials (try the oyster taco – it is a delight!!!) this is a place you want to be on a night out.
9. EDGE - 1207 S. Howard Ave Tampa, FL
The Edge cocktail bar located on the roof of the Epicurean Hotel is completely open to the public. With a view of Tampa’s posh Hyde Park neighbourhood the Edge cocktail bar tends to draw a more affluent crowd that has no qualms paying $11 for a drink. Offering small snacks and drinking accompaniments the Edge rooftop is a place you would go for a pre dinner cocktail or a delicious night cap.
10. HAVEN - 2208 W. Morrison Ave Tampa, FL
Located just down the street from the Epicurean Hotel, Haven is the sleek contemporary sister restaurant to the famous Bern’s Steak House (remember #7). Having just opened in 2015 Haven is one of the most popular restaurants in Tampa. With an always-delicious modern Mediterranean dinner menu that changes seasonally Haven’s menu focuses on charcuterie, a large selection of cheese (more than 60 types), and a variety of meat options. This upscale date night spot also features an extensive bar selection and is famous for its 300 varieties of bourbon and 40 different wines by the glass. They also have a $2 oyster and $4 cocktail happy hour from 5-7PM Monday to Saturday!
11. CIRO’S SPEAKEASY & SUPPER CLUB – 2109 Bayshore Boulevard Tampa, FL
Although Ben Afflicts 1920 blockbuster Live By Night was based on Tampa Bay in the 1920s – this speakeasy is the real deal. At Ciro’s Speakeasy you can really get a feel for what it was like during prohibition thanks to their intimate setting, private cocktail booths and well crafter cocktails. This small cocktail bar fills up fast on weekends with a capacity of only 70 patrons so make sure to call ahead for a reservation or you may find yourself left out in the cold, sugar. This small cocktail bar is also password protected and it changes nightly so check their website for info.
12. DATZ – 2616 S. MacDill Tampa, FL
If a gluttnous boozy breakfast/brunch is what you are after this place is perfect. A very popular spot among locals, Datz is always busy for brunch on weekends. This south Tampa gastropub smokes all of the meat in house and bakes all of their bread nextdoor at their bakery Dough. The family friendly restaurant doesn’t take reservations on weekends however you can go on their website and get on their waitlist via a text app. Make sure to try their monkey bread and eggs barbacoa (a gluten free option), two dishes they are absolutly famous for. Also if you need a little hair of the dog they have many local craft beers on tap and make amazing bloody marys!
13. COLUMBIA - 801 Old Water St Tampa, FL
Columbia is Florida’s oldest Spanish restaurant! Located in the heart of Ybor City (Tampa Bat’s historic Latin Quarter). Columbia brother restaurant to Ulele (remember #3) has been around since 1905. This family run restaurant expanded over the years from a bar and sandwich shop to a restaurant that now spans the entire block and seats 1,700 people. Columbia, like Bern’s is a major attraction in Tampa Bay and draws politicians, movie stars and big businessman that are passing through. With great menu offerings (like their famous salad and paella) there is no wrong choice. Want a little entertainment with your dinner? Columbia has a flamenco show six nights a week! Olé!!