On the surface, buffets seem to be the ultimate culinary idea. Everyone gets exactly what they want, at the portion size they want, at a price they want. Unfortunately, more often than not, when people think of buffets these days, a few things tend to come to mind: old people, spotty quality, and lack of variety. Perhaps because today's traveler is more cost-efficient or simply because of a new trend, buffets have enjoyed a certain renaissance in Tampa over the past several years. With the spate of new hotels opening or renovating throughout the town, new players in the buffet scene have emerged. Couple those new options with restaurants that have been favorites of locals and visitors for years and you have a winning combination that is sure to please everyone's tastes, style, and bank account. You will see that sampling buffets in Tampa doesn't mean skimping on quality, originality, or the dining experience.
Come along with 10Best for a tour of the best buffets in Tampa. You can start with the staple cuisine of the buffet scene, Chinese and other Asian styles, with the Crazy Buffet and Hao Wah. Bar none, the best Sunday brunch buffet in town is at Oystercatchers. The best overall variety can be found at Fresh Harvest in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Ethiopian and Indian foods are expertly prepared at Queen of Sheba and the Apna Kebab House. Vegans feel the love at the Loving Hut. Finally, New World Brewery is fast becoming a lunchtime favorite for their barbecue buffet.
10 Firestick Grill
The newly-renovated Tampa Bay Times Forum boasts one of the finest buffets in town. The Firestick Grill opens two hours before any event and features a revolving menu that rotates with each event you are there to see. There are also three "action stations" available, including a carving station, a taco bar, and a pasta station. Finish off with a dessert or a drink in the Bacardi OakHeart Lounge and you should be well-fueled to cheer on the Lightning or your favorite performer in concert. ((813) 301-6926)
9 Loving Hut
You don't have to be a vegan to enjoy The Loving Hut, but it helps. The Hut prides themselves on their locally-sourced vegan creations while still trying to remain accessible to non-vegans who are just looking for something healthy to eat. Obviously a lot of soy and tofu are used, but in recognizable dishes like Philly subs and wraps using a variety of ingredients. The desserts, particularly their smoothies, are to die for. And since they're vegan, you can tell yourself that you are still eating healthy as you go up for seconds. ((813) 977-7888)
8 Apna Kabab House
Fans of Indian and Pakistani fare may have found their treasure in the Apna Kabab House in New Tampa. As you might have guessed, they serve a variety of char-grilled kabab meats at their lunchtime buffet, but also make available a variety of vegetable and rice dishes as well as different flavors of naan breads. True fans of the cuisine might be also interested in their authentic grocery store, attached to the restaurant. (813-972-5900)
7 Hao Wah
One of the great buffet options in south Tampa is Hao Wah. Reliable, quality food at a reasonable price is the name of the game here. The options are wide-ranging, from a broad sushi offering to staple Chinese and Vietnamese dishes like Peking duck and pho, there is something for every fan of Asian cuisine and culture. You can also order off of the menu and be guaranteed to have enough to bring back for leftovers. (813-253-2095)
6 Queen of Sheba
If you're looking for a first-time experience in your buffet dining, Queen of Sheba might be your best bet. The best Ethiopian establishment in town offers a weekday lunch buffet. Ethiopian cuisine is quite different from almost any other food, using unique blends of spices on traditional meats and vegetable dishes like lentils, collard greens, and potatoes. There's something for everyone and the service staff is more than happy to help those who are new to the Ethiopian game. (813-872-6000)
5 The Laughing Cat
This is one of our local secrets. The Laughing Cat's dinner menu is both classic and rich, and the best dishes are brought out for their famous weekday lunch buffet. You can expect your beloved Italian staples like chicken parmigiana and ravioli Napolitana, all served in mass quantities. You will also find signature house specialties, including succulent roast pork finished in sherry wine. The Cat is well worth a stop if you happen to be exploring Ybor City during the day. (813-241-2998)
4 New World Brewery
The New World Brewery is an Ybor tradition for people looking to escape the techno dance club scene (and the college kids) down the street, but still like interesting beers and an eclectic selection of music. Their barbecue buffet lunch, weekdays from 11-3, might be the best lunch option in town. The beer list features over 100 different brews from all over the world, including about 30 on draft. There's also an interesting selection of pizzas and other snacks to munch on while you're taking in the scene. (813-248-4969)
Oystercatchers is simply the finest brunch establishment in town, with a buffet offering anything your heart could desire. With a recent move into the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, one of Tampa's most desirable hotels, Oystercatchers has cemented itself as one of the great restaurant spaces in Tampa. Not only are the dishes inventive and fresh, they are also gathered with conservation in mind. Located near the airport on Tampa Bay, there are expansive views of the water (and none of the runways). Even a stop on the way to the airport before a Sunday flight is worthwhile. (813-207-6815, 813-874-1234)
2 Fresh Harvest
As anyone who has visited Las Vegas knows, the buffet is a central experience to the casino culture. Luckily our local casino, the Seminole Hard Rock, didn't forget this when they established Fresh Harvest. And as everything is top-notch at the Hard Rock, Fresh Harvest has gained the reputation as the best full-cuisine buffet in town. Everything from brick-oven pizza to dim sum is available, cooked fresh in seven live-action kitchens. You can watch the food being cooked before it's brought to the line! (813-627-7625)
1 Crazy Buffet
Crazy Buffet originated the concept of upscale buffet dining here in Tampa. They serve a wide range of high quality Asian concepts, including a Hibachi station, sushi bar, seafood dishes, a chocolate fountain for dessert, and even some American offerings for children or the picky eaters in your group. As its a buffet, the prices are quite reasonable for the quality of food (especially if you can fast for a bit before your visit.) (813-998-9228)
About Scott Sterling
Whether it’s the mermaids of Weeki Wachee or the glaciers of Alaska, the gardens of Versailles or the Sunken Gardens in his beloved St. Petersburg, Scott's been there.
Scott is a member of that rare species known as the “native Floridian.” He’s spent the past 12 years in the Tampa Bay area, first living in Tampa proper and then crossing the bridge to St. Pete (to follow a girl, of course).
Scott has written for the New York Times, the University of South Florida Oracle, the Florida Today, and is managing editor of the popular parenting blog raisingarealist.com.
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