By day, Ybor City is a tourist mecca, inviting visitors to walk its cobbled streets and explore its fascinating history. By night, it’s an entertainment hotspot with oodles of bars and clubs lining the streets. At any time of day, however, you can find delicious dining options to choose from. To help you decide, 10 Best has scoured the charming streets of Ybor City to find the top ten dining spots.
Many restaurants in Ybor City feature Cuban, Italian, and Spanish dishes. This is a reflection of the area’s rich and colorful history. First settled in the mid-1800s, the original residents were workers in Tampa’s cigar factories. These families have shaped the cultural fabric of this vibrant and diverse neighborhood since its beginnings.
The Columbia Restaurant is a must-visit, not just for the food, but for the dining experience as well. Opened in 1905, the cuisine at this family-owned restaurant is primarily Spanish, using recipes that have been handed down for generations. You can also try Carmine’s, another Tampa institution that serves popular local Cuban and Italian dishes.
Newer notables include El Puerto, for their large portions of perfectly prepared Argentinian and Peruvian dishes and The Bricks, a trendy and casual spot owned by a local skate park. Wherever you dine, try and get a view of the street - the quality of people watching in Ybor City is second only to its flavors.
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)
Stone Soup Company
The Stone Soup Company is a friendly and casual neighborhood eatery located in historic Ybor City. The eclectic decor is enhanced with colorful local artwork that adorns the walls. Inspired by the "Soup Nazi" episode of "Seinfeld," the menu offers an array of, you guessed it, soups, but there is also a good selection of sandwiches, flatbreads, embanadas, and entrees to choose from. The restaurant has received several awards, both for its soup and for for its rendition of the classic and iconic Cuban sandwich. They also serve beer and wine. Be sure to ask your server about new selections, daily specials, and special chef's creations. Whether you're in the mood for casual dining or a special occasion, The Stone Soup Company is sure to please. (813-247-7687)
Carmine's is a Tampa institution located in the heart of the historic Ybor City neighborhood. Family owned and operated by Carmine Iavarone, the restaurant is named after his grandfather who opened the family's first restaurant in the 1940's and is a favorite spot for visitors and locals alike to indulge in traditional Tampa favorites. Make sure to check out their deviled crab, made from local blue crabs, and the Cuban sandwiches. Both of these specialties are Ybor City inventions intended to feed hungry cigar factory workers, and both are well worth trying for yourself. ((813) 248-3834)
Samurai Blue has two locations in Tampa, one in Ybor City and one in Westchase. The Ybor City location gets the thumbs up for cool ambiance, but both locations get high marks from savvy diners for the outstanding lunch choices. Their bento boxes, for example, carry everything from beef short ribs to sushi. If you're looking for something more visually familiar, their panko-seared crab cakes or teriyaki-salmon wrap sandwich pose tasty alternatives. Though prices elevate some at dinner, these fun-loving joints pack folks in, thanks to its sleek design, good service, and fantastic nigiri, sashimi and maki creations. (813-242-6688)
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)
Carne Chop House
The Carne ChopHouse is located in the heart of historic Ybor City and offers steakhouse fare with a Cuban twist. Situated in the historic El Centro Espanol Building that originally served as a social center for Spanish immigrants working in the cigar industry, the ambiance and decor are nostalgic reminders of Ybor's golden age. The menu features a surprisingly affordable selection of steaks, chops, and seafood with house specialties including the Pork Shoulder Pot Pie, Pork Chop and Lamb Shank. Full meals are served here with soup or salad to start, bread, and a side, all traditionally prepared using the best ingredients. There is live entertainment and outdoor seating is available. ((813) 341-9555)
Acropolis Greek Taverna
Maybe you're looking for a fun, casual setting for dinner, but burgers or pizza just won't do. Such situations are what places like Acropolis are for. Located in Tampa's historic Ybor City, this Greek taverna serves up an extensive list of traditional delicacies such as dolamdes, souvlaki, gyros, and moussaka. Inside the decor is inviting and modern, but and if the weather is good, you can sit outside at one of the tables that line the sidewalk and people watch. On weekend nights, crowds are entertained by live music and belly dancers, and guests are encouraged to join in the traditional Greek practice of plate-breaking during the performances. "Opa" indeed! (813-242-4545)
As you would expect from a place named after a famous Italian sculptor, Bernini is going for the classical vibe. Fine art and decorative columns may fill the space, but what we're really interested in is the gourmet food. Dishes include black Angus beef, orange-glazed duck, and fresh salmon. The highlight of the menu is the authentic wood-fired flatbread pizza and the opulent martinis. You're also going to need to save room for dessert, featuring fresh spins on classic Italian favorites. Lunch is definitely more casual than dinner, which includes live jazz music. This is a great spot place to fuel up before taking on the nightlife in Ybor City. (813-248-0099)
El Puerto Restaurant and Grill
El Puerto Restaurant and Grill is located just off the beaten tourist trail in Ybor City, Tampa's historic district. El Puerto is one of Tampa's hidden gems and well worth a visit. Just make sure you're very, very hungry as the portions are huge. Chef/Owner Nelson Umana has over 20 years' experience creating delicious Latin American specialties using traditional recipes from countries like Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and Peru. Their specialty is beef prepared with an Argentinian flair with their skirt steak always drawing rave reviews. Another good choice is the Parrillada, or mixed grill. There is also a good selection of seafood items and their Ceviche is a popular choice. ((813) 248-8222)
More than just a restaurant, the Columbia is a Tampa institution. Since 1905, this living history lesson has been serving some of the most authentic Spanish/Cuban food in Tampa Bay. The menu is expansive, spanning a wide array of traditional beef, pork, and seafood dishes made in the same way for generations. Today there are several locations in Florida, but the flagship restaurant is still located in the heart of Tampa's historic district, Ybor City. The building is a beautiful Spanish revival with Moorish influences and features hand-painted tiles, ornate antique furniture and rich fabrics throughout. The restaurant has been added on to over the years and now features 15 dining rooms that seat over 1,700 patrons and encompasses an entire city block. The Columbia even hosts Flamenco shows every evening except Sundays. No one forgets a night at the Columbia. (813-248-4961)
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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