With beautiful warm weather year round, Tampa is the perfect place to enjoy dining al fresco. Weather you choose an option on the water or inland, many of the city's eateries feature lovely patios, terraces and decks on which you can enjoy star gazing, balmy breezes and a delicious meal. Perfect for a romantic evening or a night out with friends, 10 Best has put together a list of the top outdoor dining options to choose from.
Many options offer world-class cuisine and stunning water views. Perhaps the most impressive outdoor dining patio is Jackson's Bistro. Located on Harbor Island, diners enjoy views of Garrison Channel and the downtown Tampa skyline while sampling sophisticated and well-prepared dishes. The spacious terrace also features pergolas with romantic curtaining offering couples privacy for more intimate evenings.
If you're looking for more casual dining, there are many options to choose from. Check out Gaspar's Grotto for the two large patio spaces and upbeat atmosphere. A party every night, Gaspar's is located in the heart of Ybor City, Tampa's historic and entertainment district.
Let's just get this out of the way first: it's outdoors, it's a mostly-dirt floor, and you will probably be sitting at a picnic table. If you're still reading, you will love Skipper's. This is the go-to venue for fans of the really eclectic, not just in food but in music as well. It was also featured on "Man vs. Food" for its expansive seafood offerings. Skipper's even provides a chance to experience creations you probably can't find back home, native Florida dishes like gator tail and smoked mullet. The live music selection is quite varied, so it might be a good idea to check their website before visiting. (813-971-0666)
Gaspar's Grotto is a popular bar and restaurant located in Tampa's Ybor City historic neighborhood. Perfect for visitor's who have not had the opportunity to experience the annual Gasparilla Celebration, Gaspar's celebrates the famous pirate invasion all year long and everyone gets to party like a pirate. Three large bar areas offer patrons options for seating and entertainment and there is always something going on. If you get hungry, Gaspar's offers some very decent bar grub from Tampa favorites like the Cuban sandwich and Devil Crab to the hottest hot wings in the city. (813-248-5900)
Tampa Bay Brewing Company
Perhaps best known for their handcrafted brews, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company is a family-run microbrewery located in Centro Ybor. However beer also makes a great cooking ingredient and the hefty menu at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company includes many tasty dishes that incorporate their brews including the Stout Iron Rat Shepherd's Pie and the Beer Cheese Soup. An alumnus of the Travel Channel program "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," the menu indicates the dishes featured so guests can taste for themselves. The place has a comfortable, welcoming ambiance, and there is plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors on their open-air patio. (813-247-1422)
Rick's on the River
If you want to get off the beaten path, try Rick's on the River. Located on the Hillsborough River just north of downtown, Rick's is a popular local hangout catering to the river boating community. Amenities include a boat ramp and marina with docking space for visitors and overnight guests. Ample outdoor seating and a large bar area provide great vantage points for enjoying views of the river and downtown skyline. Combine that with three fully-stocked bars, good food and affordable prices, and you have the perfect recipe for a good time. There is also live entertainment every night starting at 5pm. ((813) 251-0369)
A new kid on the upscale seafood scene in Tampa is Aqua, the signature restaurant of the new Westin Tampa Bay hotel on the Courtney Campbell Causeway between the airport and Clearwater. Using fresh ingredients from all over the country, the chef has taken this opportunity to expand the culinary envelope when it comes to seafood. Try the smoked salmon flatbread, the black bean sweet chili-glazed grouper, or the Maryland Blue Crab cake salad. Enjoy the sunset and live music on the patio on weekend nights. You might even be inspired to take a Jet Ski ride on the hotel's private beach after your meal. (813-675-8700)
This small and charming restaurant, housed in a converted Craftsman-style bungalow, serves up big flavors at reasonable prices. Chef/owner Greg Baker opened The Refinery in 2010 with a vision to provide good food, prepared by passionate chefs, at a price that wouldn't break the bank. Tampa residents are wholeheartedly on-board and have made the restaurant an award-winning favorite. The menu changes every week (dishes are rarely, if ever, repeated) based on the availability of local products and Chef Baker is always introducing new and innovative flavor combinations and cooking techniques. Add to that a thoughtful selection of craft beers and reasonably-priced wine and you can't go wrong. ((813)-237-2000)
Columbia Cafe - Riverwalk Tampa
The Columbia Cafe is a picturesque dining spot located at the Tampa Bay History Center on the downtown waterfront overlooking Garrison Channel and the Riverwalk. The Cafe is part of the Columbia Restaurant Group with the original Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905, located in Ybor City. The decor is Spanish-inspired and both indoor and outdoor seating is offered. Menu options include some of the most popular dishes from the Ybor City restaurant including the original "1905 Salad" and a good selection of tapas. The cafe is open for lunch and dinner with live music every weekend. Public boat docks are available if you're arriving by boat. ((813) 229-5511)
Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi
Set slightly away from the downtown bustle, Jackson's Bistro features a large and sophisticated menu with dishes ranging from hand-rolled sushi to an oak-grilled NY strip steak. The setting is romantic and upscale, featuring dark mahogany walls and candle-lit tables, but it's the views of Garrison Channel and the Tampa skyline that steal the show. If the weather is good, take advantage of their large outdoor terrace. Sunday brunch at Jackson's takes the buffet route, offering a turkey, ham and roast beef carving station, pasta station, sushi station and waffle bar. (813-277-0112)
Ulele is a popular restaurant located on the northern end of Tampa's Riverwalk. The menu is inspired by the indigenous people of Florida and brings together fresh and local ingredients in unique flavor combinations. While the menu is changed seasonally, past examples include a deconstructed seafood pot pie, Yellowfin Tuna crusted with pumpkin seeds, and alligator hush puppies. To accompany the delicious dishes is a selection of hand-crafted signature cocktails and house-brewed beers. Housed in the renovated city water-works building, the restaurant could be described as rustic, industrial chic, creating an open and airy dining space. Outside dining options include a patio, beer gardens and rooftop lounge. (813-999-4952)
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)
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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