Tampa cuisine takes advantage of abundant local seafood, fresh produce and cultural influences. Pictured here is seafood paella served at Columbia Restaurant — Photo courtesy of Columbia Restaurant
Tampa has all the ingredients necessary to create delectable dishes: an idyllic location, tropical weather and a melting pot of ethnicities. A location on the Gulf of Mexico brings delicious seafood specialties. Generations of Tampa chefs have used ingredients such as grouper, blue crab, shrimp and oysters. The warm weather brings fresh fruit and produce all year, and cultural influences include Cuban, Spanish and Italian with a dash of Southern U.S., Mexican and Asian. This first-time in Tampa itinerary for foodies will explore where you can sample some of these traditional flavors.
Begin your day at Pinky’s Diner. Located in south Tampa, this small, cozy, retro diner space serves up the most popular breakfast in town. They are known for their frittatas, which are an Italian, open-face version of an omelet. Try the Tuscan Frittata, made with prosciutto, all-natural turkey breast, rosemary, spinach, onion, tomato and provolone cheese. It's delicious.
Prefer something a little sweeter? Try their decadent Stuffed Cuban French Toast. Cuban bread is a staple of traditional Tampa cuisine, and you’ll see it everywhere. Pinky’s also showcases Cuban bread in their six varieties of breakfast sandwiches.
Oystercatchers provides exquisitely prepared seafood and beautiful views — Photo courtesy of Oystercatchers
Lunch is for seafood. There are many different options in Tampa for great seafood; it depends on what you’re looking for. If you would like to try expertly prepared modern dishes using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, you can’t go wrong with Oystercatchers.
Located on the water, just northwest of downtown, this restaurant is part of the adjacent Hyatt Hotel. Their cuisine is consistently excellent. With a beautiful view of the water complete with casual outdoor seating, the location can’t be beat.
If you want to get down and dirty and experience a little backwoods Florida atmosphere, then Skipper’s Smokehouse is the ticket. A ramshackle-looking place located just of I275 in north Tampa, this establishment is a local landmark, famous for their seafood and live music.
You’re here for seafood, so try their award-winning Blackened Grouper Reuben sandwich made famous by Travel Channel’s Best Sandwich in America. Feeling a little more adventurous? Order a rack of their popular goo-covered alligator ribs and go local.
Dinner is reserved for two iconic and legendary Tampa eateries. Established in 1905, the Columbia Restaurant is located in the historic district of Ybor City, where the city’s Spanish, Cuban and Italian immigrants settled in the late 1800s. Mixing local ingredients with Spanish and Cuban influences, Columbia’s owners have created a timeless menu that beautifully reflects Tampa’s roots. Take advantage of their daily specials. The ambiance is elegant, and their flamenco show is a must-see.
Finish your day with a delectable sweet treat from Bern's famous Dessert Room — Photo courtesy of Bern's Steak House Dessert Room
Finish off the day with a nod to another legendary Tampa restaurant, Bern’s Steak House. Located in the trendy So-Ho neighborhood, Bern’s has been a Tampa institution since 1956. Famous for their over-the-top décor and premium steak options, this is the local restaurant of choice for landmark celebrations.
But you’re here for dessert. Upstairs from the restaurant is the Henry Waugh Dessert Room. This elegant and intimate space offers diners enclosed booths where you can privately enjoy their selection of over 50 decadent dessert options. Created from scratch by the Bern’s pastry team using only the best ingredients, the last taste of your day in Tampa will be the sweetest.