Looking for a great lunch spot in Tampa? 10 Best is serving up ten of the city’s top options to choose from. Whether you want to grab a quick bite before heading out to do some sightseeing, or whether you want to make lunch an special occasion, here are flavorful options to satisfy your mid-day hunger pangs. Options such as Mel’s Hot Dogs and the Taco Bus serve up purely local versions of fast food favorites. Try the Mel’s favorite – a hot dog served Chicago style or dive into the fresh and authentic tacos at the Taco Bus. Guaranteed to give you a taste of Tampa culture while getting you on your way quickly. If you’re looking for water views and great seafood, give Oystercatchers or the Colonnade a try. Both are Tampa favorites with Oystercatchers being the more upscale choice. If you’re touring Ybor City and looking for a spot to rest and people-watch, there are several trendy options to choose from including our selection of The Bricks. For power lunches and dedicated shoppers, several popular spots in the hip SoHo and Hyde Park area are represented such as Datz or 717 South. Located in all areas of the city and representing all aspects of the food spectrum there is a perfect spot for everyone to “do lunch” in Tampa.
10 Nicko's Fine Foods
Nicko's Fine Foods is an old-school, greasy spoon diner in the best tradition. Housed in a classic Art Deco railroad car, stepping into Nicko's is like stepping back in time. It's so authentic that it has served as a movie set more than once. The owner, Nick, is around most days and is known to perform a little magic to entertain his customers. A favorite of locals for generations, the food is both good and very reasonably priced. The burgers and sandwiches are highly rated, as are the Greek specialties like the Greek salad and chicken souvlaki. Although they only accept cash, there is an ATM on the premises. Breakfast is served all day. ((813) 234-9301)
9 The Colonnade
Opened by the Whiteside family in 1935, The Colonnade Restaurant is Tampa institution that has been serving generations of loyal and enthusiastic customers for over 65 years. Located on famous Bayshore Boulevard, just minutes from downtown, the restaurant offers great views overlooking the waters of old Tampa Bay and the downtown skyline. Specializing in seafood, the owners pride themselves on using only the freshest and finest ingredients. The meals are simple classics with large portions and reasonable prices. One of the most talked about specialties is their fried alligator appetizer which is considered the best in the area. ((813) 839-7558)
8 717 South
Eclectic and sophisticated describes the scene at this South Howard address. The restaurant features an intimate atmosphere with décor featuring Art Deco paintings, stained wood trim, high ceilings and an open kitchen. But what visitors really flock to are the culinary creations of Chef Robert Masson. 717 South features a full lunch menu with selections including a variety of fresh and creative salads and sandwiches. A small selection of Italian and Asian inspired entrees are also on offer. A salad or sandwich will run you about $10 with entrees costing a little more. This is a great power lunch option for young professionals and is convenient to downtown. (813-250-1661)
7 Pane Rustica
Pane Rustica is a favorite local lunch spot in South Tampa. It is an European-style bakery, deli, breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant all rolled into one. The decor is trendy but comfortable with an Italian flair. Their crusty, flavorful breads are made from scratch using all-natural bread starters. A great base for creating one of their delicious sandwiches. Salads feature fresh ingredients creatively combined. If you're hungry, they also offer several lunch special entrees, the most famous of which is the daily "Shut up and eat, don't ask... You'll love it!!!" dish. The dish might be a surprise, but it won't disappoint. (813-902-8828)
6 La Teresita Restaurant
La Teresita is located in West Tampa, an area of the city that was originally settled by Cuban immigrants, and features authentic versions of Cuban cuisine. There is a traditional restaurant space, but La Teresita's charm is found inside the adjacent cafeteria. The atmosphere is decidedly retro-diner featuring three horseshoe counters where customers belly up on bar stools next to their neighbors. Although famous for their version of Tampa's Cuban sandwich, many other Cuban specialties are also featured such as Puerco Asado (Roast Pork), Ropa Vieja (Shredded Beef), and for the more adventurous, Patas de Cerdo (Pig's Feet). Each day of the week is represented by a list of specials but diners can also choose from an extensive list of entrees, sandwiches, side dishes and desserts. Beer and wine are also available. ((813) 879-9704)
5 Mel's Hot Dogs
Serving hungry Tampa locals since 1973, Mel's takes the simple concept of a hot dog and makes it as good as you could imagine. These dogs aren't the bland approximations you find at some fast food places. Instead, they're all-beef and come on poppy-seed buns, loaded with goodies like sauerkraut, onions, relish, pickles and hot peppers. They're offered in a variety of styles, too, so pick your favorite and taste what a hot dog should be like. If you're in the mood for something else, Mel's also has sandwiches, veggie burgers, corn dogs and more. A great location near Busch Gardens and affordable prices only add to the appeal of this Tampa institution. (813-985-8000)
4 The Bricks
If you're looking for a casual spot for lunch in Ybor City, try The Bricks. Owned by the Skatepark of Tampa, the ambiance is casual, hip, urban and of course, has free wi-fi. Happily, for all its style, the place doesn't take itself too seriously and everything has a sense of humor, from the art on the walls, to the servers, to the menu items. The food is a combination of salads and sandwiches featuring fresh ingredients and a good selection of vegetarian options. Lunch comfort food is highlighted in their peanut butter and grilled cheese specialty sandwiches, sending you happily back to childhood. They also have a good selection of local beers on tap. ((813) 247-1785)
The first thing you notice as you enter Oystercatchers is the amazing view. This seafood restaurant, nestled among lush, tropical landscaping, takes full advantage of its location at the edge of Tampa Bay. Inside, the decor is bright, simple and modern, serving as the perfect backdrop for both the views and the expertly prepared food. The star of the lunch menu is a selection of locally sourced fish served wood grilled, blackened or sauteed. Not only are the dishes inventive and fresh, they are also gathered with conservation in mind. While the food and the view will cost you (around $20 for a fish entree), the experience cannot be beat. Part of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Oystercatchers has cemented itself as one of the great restaurant spaces in Tampa. (813-207-6815, 813-874-1234)
2 Taco Bus
The Taco Bus is Tampa's most famous contribution to the nationwide food truck movement; although when the first Taco Bus rolled into town it was 20 years ahead of its time. Serving authentic, affordable Mexican favorites, the Taco Bus continues to be immensely popular among locals. Owner and Chef Rene grew up in Mexico preparing street food for the local farmer's market. Today he continues this tradition with tortillas made in-house and all dishes made daily using fresh ingredients. Not something you can say about most fast-food outlets. Seminole Heights is the original Taco Bus location, but if that's not convenient, there are four other area locations to choose from. ((813) 232-5889)
Datz is arguably Tampa's favorite lunch spot. At one time or another, almost everyone has visited this trendy gastropub and market. The interior is warm and inviting with a funky, industrial vibe and no one stands on ceremony here - flip-flops and shorts are welcome. The food is as comforting as the environment lifting America's favorite dishes to a whole new level. Looks for twists on the traditional such as their chicken and waffles served with jalapeno-maple syrup or their famous meatloaf stuffed with mac 'n cheese. They are known for their large portions, so bring an appetite. If you have room after lunch, wander next door to their new sister-restaurant, Dough, for some sweet treats and coffee. (8138317000)
About Skye Rodgers
Skye has lived in Tampa for over 16 years and spends much of her time exploring the region and discovering its hidden treasures. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no cold, no snow climate and enjoys basking on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and navigating the waters of Tampa Bay.
When not out exploring Tampa, Skye is a freelance writer and public relations professional. She currently provides public relations counsel on a freelance basis to non-profits, social enterprises and small business.
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