COCKTAILS AND GASTRONOMY IN TAMPA

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!!

 

MONTREAL EN LUMIERE

Montreal has always been a city that had to be different from its other Canadian counterparts. If Montreal had a voice it would say, “show me your best and I’ll make it 10 times better!” and they do. Don’t get me wrong – there is no competition going on here but rather a touch of savoir-faire only a Montrealer can add to an outfit, an event, or even a lifestyle; and when it comes to Montreal’s 375 Anniversary you know they are throwing around their savoir fair like it’s pixie dust!

Evolutions by Yann Nguema, EZ3kiel - Lyon, France

This year Montreal went all out for their 18th edition of Montréal En Lumière. With over three weeks of festivities 1.4 Million people descended upon the city to partake in special cooking events, attend musical performances, explore the art instillations that adorn the city and of course stay up all night to enjoy Nuit Blanche! With over 200 activities on Nuit Blanche alone there is no way you were going to run out of things to do.

For this year’s edition of Montreal en Lumiere, Lyon, France (nicknamed the world capital of gastronomy) was the featured city and with it came their regional flare on French cooking! With over 29 guest chefs participating in 44 gourmet cooking events Montrealers and tourist alike came out in hordes to feast like kings at these unique tastings. For those who were unable to attend one of these special cooking events there were also 240 other food related activities going on throughout the three week long festival, some even free!
 
Some of the food related events I was able to attend included Le Bouchon Lyonnais at Balmoral where the restaurant was transformed into a traditional Lyonnais bistro to serve up incredibly tasty customary dishes that made you feel like you were transported in space to the capital of French gastronomy. Guest Chef Joseph Viola’s menu consisted of French specialties like ‘Le Pate en croute au fois gras de canard (pastry encased pate of duck foie gras and sweetbread) – a dish that takes approximately three days to make and won him a championship award in 2009! I also had to try the beef sirloin steak, flambéed with cognac and doused in a black peppercorn sauce (highly recommended by my waiter and happy that he did). This dish was quiet generous and was accompanied by thinly sliced fried potato’s, string beans and my very own side of mac and cheese!

The second food related event I was able to attend included a tasting at Montreal’s Ikanos restaurant where guest chef Neil Jewell teamed up with restaurant patriarch Constant Mentzas to develop a unique seafood menu just for the festival. Ikanos restaurant located in the Old Port of Montreal is housed within a brilliantly renovated and decorated old warehouse building. The ambiance alone would make me want to sit at the bar all evening eating and drinking. For a pre dinner palate cleanser I tried an item off their cocktail menu called ‘It's Spritz thyme!’ and as an appetizer I had their cured snapper with mountain tea gel, grapes, radish, horseradish and, lemon balm. My second dish was the samos and miso roasted black cod with turnips, porcini mushrooms and, mushroom flavored dashi. This dish was definitely my favourite! To add a little carb to my meal I also had the Saffron-butter poached lobster, chorizo, fennel, and orange tortellini in a bouillabaisse broth, rouille. Is it just me or was the red carpet rolled out for this special Montreal en Lumiere collaboration?!

Ikanos Restaurant - 112 Rue Mc Gill, 514-842-0867

Nuit Blanch, a one night event full of art instillations, music and drinking, attracts 350,000 (let’s say between 300,00 and 350,000) to the streets of Montreal alone. On Nuit Blanch you could have found me in Montreal’s underground exploring 77 different projects and exhibitions from various contemporary artist. Each exhibition or project varied from interactive instillations, video exhibits, special enactments and performances to photography and sculptures. With hours of entertainment you could spend all night running around Montréal’s underground while also benefiting from free shuttles to different neighborhoods, extended Metro service and last call hours!

As part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary Montreal en Lumiere also added Illuminart to this year’s event schedule. With over 25 works that fuse art, lighting and technology, these instillations were a must see! The urban installation spread over 3.6 km surrounding the heart of the festival, Quartier des spectacles. I ran around to discover some of the best pieces to show you below! Many of the artists that participated in Illuminart were actually from Lyon, which not so coincidently holds a big festival of lights annually that historically dates back to the 1700s called La Fête des Lumières de Lyon!

It doesn’t end there though! This year at Montreal en Lumiere came an eclectic assortment of musical acts ranging from DJ’s to Francophone to Jazz and Blues musicians. Even Vancouver’s own indie band Mother Mother and rock band The Tea Party performed during the festival. Needless to say there were plenty of shows to choose from, the hardest part being more about which ones to attend.

To say that Montreal en Lumiere surpassed my expectation would be a massive understatement. They pulled out all the bells and whistles this year and pretty much threw a three week long party! Even as a non French speaker I found it very easy to navigate through the festival activities and city. With lots of fun events both outdoors and in, taking your loved one, friends or even family will end up leaving you asking yourself why you hadn’t done this sooner


If you have any questions about the festival I encourage you to visit the Montreal en Lumiere website by clicking -> HERE

To see how else Montreal is celebrating their 375 Anniversary click -> HERE

Have you read my article about the newest boutique hotel in Montreal? You can now! Click -> HERE

If you have any questions you would like to ask me feel free to leave them in the comment section below!