Tampa features a host of dining options that offer views of the City's many waterways. Whether located on the Hillsborough River, downtown's Garrison Channel, or the open waters of Tampa Bay, these restaurants will feed the belly and the soul. After considerable and pleasurable research, 10 Best has developed a list of the ten best options for waterfront dining in Tampa.
Options run from sophisticated and upscale to flip-flops and finger food, so there is a spot for everyone to enjoy to views. Oystercatchers offers wonderful panoramic views Tampa Bay coupled with the best prepared and freshest seafood in town. With a location perfectly situated to catch the brilliant sunsets, this is the perfect spot for intimate dinners and celebrations.
On the other end of the spectrum you'll find Rick's on the River. Views feature the lively waters of the Hillsborough River enjoyed from a large and very casual outdoor patio. The seafood is still fresh, it's just more simply prepared and less expensive. A must-try is their "Jacked-up Oysters." Locals love this spot and it's very popular with boaters thanks to the adjacent boat ramp and docks.
If you're looking to experience a taste of Tampa while enjoying the views, try the Columbia Cafe adjacent to the Tampa Bay History Center. A downtown version of the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, this restaurant carries on the tradition of serving expertly prepared Spanish and Cuban favorites.
Taste of Boston
If you're searching for a casual seafood restaurant with great views of Tampa Bay and downtown, then Taste of Boston is a perfect choice. This unpretentious eatery features authentic New England fare and boasts "the best deep fryer in the Tampa Bay area." The kitchen here offers a full array of fresh deep fried seafood goodness including shrimp, clams, oysters and scallops as well as a wonderful New England Clam "Chowdah." Conveniently located at Ballast Point Park, the restaurant is a perfect stop for families enjoying a little fishing or cooling off at the children's water park. (813-831-2112)
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)
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)
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)
Sono Cafe occupies a choice spot on the downtown Riverwalk affording unparalleled views of the University of Tampa minarets, the Hillsborough River, and the Tampa skyline. Located in Tampa Museum of Art building, the decor reflects the ultra-modern exterior and features stunning glass walls that bring the outside in. While this is a true cafe, there is a tasty selection of very civilized starters, salads and sandwiches along with a carefully curated, list of wine, craft beer, specialty cocktails and coffee beverages. They pride themselves on sourcing as many local ingredients as they can and creating dishes from scratch, so the menu changes with the seasons. Lunch is offered daily, dinner on Friday only, and brunch is available on the weekends. (813-421-8379)
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)
Yacht Starship sails from Tampa's Channelside neighborhood and is billed as America's first three diamond rated dining yacht by AAA. Perfect for an intimate night out or a group celebration, Yacht Starship provides a three-course dinner while cruising the waters of beautiful Tampa Bay. Prepare for a sophisticated night out - there are spectacular views, private seating, table service and dancing under the stars. The menu changes seasonally, and although limited, takes advantage of many regional flavors and takes into account both gluten-free and vegetarian lifestyles. Public dinner cruises are offered most weekend nights, but there are also lunch cruises, party cruises and special event cruises on their schedule. ((813) 223-7999)
Bright and airy, this chic restaurant rests atop the Hyatt Regency and affords extensive views of the Tampa area. Its menu of northern Italian cuisine centers around seafood, pasta, poultry and steaks, but the specialty of the house is veal, especially scaloppine Armani. For a first course, guests may choose their own appetizers from the selections on the antipasti bar. Entrees, which include marinated salmon and rack of lamb, are classic but creative and have contributed to the many awards the restaurant has garnered. Frequented by celebrities, Armani's is also ideal for romantic dinners and special occasions. Jackets and reservations are required. (813-207-6800, 813-874-1234)
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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