If you are embarking or disembarking from a cruise at the Port of Tampa, there are many delicious dining options close by. Listed here are ten of the best spots to choose from. Many are conveniently located just next door in the Channelside Bay Plaza, while others are just a short walk away.
If you’re disembarking early in the morning and need some fuel to get you on your way, Zelda’s Café and Deli opens early and serves all your breakfast favorites.
If you’re looking for a quick lunch, Precinct Pizza is a nearby option, but if you have more time, it is well worth the effort to make the short walk to the Columbia Cafe. A downtown version of the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, here you can enjoy amazing water views while sampling the dishes that have made the Columbia a local legend.
For a fun, casual evening, check out Splitsville. With a full bar and menu filled with American favorites, it’s probably the coolest bowling alley you’ll ever see. Your options don’t end there as there are many other great restaurants close by ready to satisfy almost any craving from Mexican to Thai.
Oishi Japanese Restaurant
Located in Channelside, Oishi Japanese Restaurant offers authentic Japanese cuisine and is close the Port, cultural attractions and entertainment. The warm and inviting dining room provides a comfortable atmosphere for a complete Japanese dining experience. Entertaining chefs show off their grilling expertise at the hibachi tables. There's also a sushi bar offering ringside seats as the chefs carefully create their masterpieces. If you're looking for a little more privacy, there is traditional seating as well. The menu is extensive and in addition to hibachi and sushi, Oishi offers Donburi, Katsu, and a variety of fried rice and noodle dishes. (8132289202)
Hablo Taco is a Mexican-inspired restaurant located in Channelside Bay Plaza, convenient to most downtown attractions. The perfect spot for a fun, casual meal, the decor is bright, bold and modern with plenty of seating both inside and out. Dishes consist of the usual list of taco combinations, starters, salads, and wraps, however there are a few things that makes this Mexican inspired menu different. First are the puffys. These are flour tortillas that are quick fried to produce a crunchy outside and soft inside, definitely worth a try. The second are the ingredients. You will find a few ingredients that don't usually show up as taco filler, such as kimchee chili, kale, and southern fried chicken. This is all part of the fun! The food at Hablo Taco is fresh and flavorful, don't hesitate to sample fresh and ingenious food combinations. ((813) 405-8226)
Hooters - Channelside
The Channelside version of this national chain restaurant is located next to the Port of Tampa and convenient to many popular attractions. Hooters is popular in Tampa, partly because of the laid-back atmosphere, but also because the restaurant originated in the nearby city of Clearwater. Characterized by bright orange décor, lots of TVs, and well-endowed, short-shorts-clad waitresses, Hooters cultivates a casual, sports bar atmosphere. A great spot to meet and hang out with friends before downtown events. Their menu consists primarily of their famous chicken wings and burgers. Made all the better when washed down with cold draft beer. ((813) 221-2600)
Conveniently located in the Channelside Bay Plaza, Splitsville bills itself as "luxury lanes and dinner lounge." Just look for the huge bowling pin and you'll know you're in the right spot. This may be the coolest bowling alley you've ever visited with modern décor and comfortable seating in addition to the well-maintained bowling lanes. Splitsville goes far beyond the ordinary with its full menu of traditional and upscale dishes as well. It does get quite busy, especially if there was an event at the Forum earlier that night, so reservations are recommended, especially if you want to bowl. Deciding to bowl after you arrive usually means a solid wait. ((813) 514-2695)
What is notable about Precinct Pizza isn't necessarily the pie (which is great in itself), but the story behind it. A New York paramedic, after coming down with post-9/11 respiratory problems, decided to move down to Tampa and open a realistic New York pizza place. He has filled it with decorations and memorabilia from the city, enough to give even the strongest native New Yorker flashbacks. Precinct Pizza uses fresh, high-quality ingredients to prepare their pizzas combined with homemade marinara sauce and dough made from scratch each day. Then they are cooked in a brick oven that rotates to ensure a perfectly baked pizza every time. (813-228-6973)
Zelda's Café and Deli
It's hard to believe that a former BP gas station downtown could be re-purposed into a truly one-of-a-kind dining establishment, but that's exactly what happened at Zelda's. With a casual atmosphere and fast but fresh food, they specialize in Southern classics and Jamaican flavors. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Zelda's serves the neighborhood well. The breakfast menu is comprehensive, lunch features a wide variety of deli sandwiches and wraps, and dinner offers a small selection of specialty dishes. This unique eatery is located in the Channel district near the Aquarium, the cruise terminal, and the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (813-226-0257)
City Dog Cantina
City Dog Cantina brings south-of-the-border favorites to the Channnelside neighborhood. Located within blocks of Channelside Bay Plaza and the Port of Tampa, City Dog is popular with both locals and visitors to the area. The décor is modern and contemporary featuring an outdoor patio area for when the weather is good. Their fresh and spicy Tex-Mex dishes include tacos and burritos, a selection of appetizers, and salads. Many agree that the Rollin Nolan Nachos are huge, delicious and a great value for your money. There is a full bar and a good selection of beer on tap. They also offer an all-day Mexican-inspired breakfast menu for late risers. ((813) 280-2999)
Thai Thani is conveniently located in Tampa's Channelside Bay Plaza, close to the Port, cultural attractions and entertainment. This beautifully appointed Thai eatery offers an all-around dining experience that's sure to set your senses ablaze. Known for their great service and authentic food, their menu features an extensive list of Thai favorites. Popular appetizers include Tom Yum Goong (a hot and sour soup), sticky-good pot stickers, and peanut-buttery satay sticks. Favorite entrees include the Red and Green Curries, a good selection of seafood offerings and duck specialty dishes. If you're looking for pedigree, Thai Thani is actually endorsed by the Thai government. (813-228-9200)
Quiet, casual, romantic; Café Dufrain represents all the qualities that make Harbour Island seem worlds away from Tampa's bustling downtown area. Set among high-rise condo and apartment developments, this award-winning restaurant quietly serves up some of the best dishes in town. With a focus on local, organic and sustainable ingredients combined in recipes that are changed seasonally, they have called this approach "new American comfort food cuisine" and are quickly making converts. Combined with great service and a carefully selected boutique wine and craft beer list, lunch or dinner at Café Dufrain is sure to please even the most discerning. For an added bonus, the views of downtown from the waterside patio leave quite an impression, especially at night. (813-275-9701)
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)
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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