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. This Taco Bus location in downtown Tampa now occupies a brick and mortar storefront, but the taste is the same. The original bus is still located on Hillsborough Avenue, and there are now two other area locations to choose from.
Recommended for Best Value because: Tampa's Taco Bus is famous for serving delicious and authentic Mexican favorites at very affordable prices.
Skye's expert tip: Open late on weekends so you can satisfy your taco cravings after the club.
You can be assured of good barbecue when you see the pit smoking out back. Jimbo keeps close watch over it, taking great pains to ensure that all the meat reaches that moment of perfect flavor. When it's ready, they pile it high, add baked beans, mustard slaw and hushpuppies and bring it out to you. Whether you get chicken, beef, pork or ribs, you'll smack your lips at the tender, well-seasoned meat and the tangy sauce. It's down-home food and as good as you've ever tasted. Once you've finished licking your fingers clean, make sure to order up a piece of the apple pie. It's homemade.
Recommended for Best Value because: Located close to the airport, Jimbo's is one of the best BBQ joints in Tampa offering large portions of finger-licking-good at budget-friendly prices.
Skye's expert tip: They are especially well known for their delectable ribs, expertly slow-cooked in secret seasonings.
The Bamboozle Cafe is located in the heart of downtown Tampa and features Asian Fusion and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. From their fresh Bamboozle rolls to their hearty Pho Boats, the ingredients are fresh and healthy, and the presentation shows great attention to detail. If you're not hungry for a full meal, you can visit the Bamboozle Tea Lounge that features smaller portions of the menu favorites as well as a selection of tea, Vietnamese coffee, fresh juices and smoothies. As part of the restaurant's commitment to health, they have teamed up with Sweatshop Urban Gym to provide free workouts at nearby Curtis Hixon Park. In addition to a free workout, participants get 20% off their tab at the end of the night.
Recommended for Best Value because: Dining at downtown Tampa's Bamboozle Cafe is not just healthy, it's also affordable. The Pho is the way to go!
Skye's expert tip: Treat yourself to one of their specialty smoothies featuring hard-to-find ingredients such as lychee and jackfruit.
Folks in Carrollwood have long-recognized this small, Southern-based chain for its tasty, home-style breakfast and brunch eats, and justly so. Unpretentious and always friendly, Brunchie's is the type of place locals treasure and travelers long for, a casual place where diners are made to feel like neighbors and the food never fails to hit its mark. Signature numbers include waffles made using Carbon's Golden Malted Flour, Huevos Avocados, Maple French Toast, and Just Bubba, an order of biscuits smothered in old-fashioned country gravy. Salads and sandwiches are available for folks with appetites for something other than breakfast. Check their website for additional locations.
Recommended for Best Value because: Brunchie's, located in Tampa's Carrollwood neighborhood, offers up plenty of home-style hospitality with their great food, large portions, and affordable prices.
Skye's expert tip: For an ultimate Florida experience, try their fresh-squeezed orange juice! A rare find in this price range.
Located in Ybor City, Sunday's Delicatessen is a neighborhood mom 'n pop. This is the perfect spot for a delicious and filling breakfast, lunch or early dinner. The story here is the portions. Although a full hero may run you $13, it will also easily feed two people. In addition to their massive sandwiches, they also serve a nice selection of salads, and breakfast items are served all day. Almost everything here is made fresh from scratch including their fresh-from-the-oven bread, soups and stocks, salads, meatballs, sauces, and desserts! They use Boar's Head for the meats and cheeses that are not made in-house.
Recommended for Best Value because: Sunday's Delicatessen in Ybor City saves you money and offers huge portions that are ideal for sharing.
Skye's expert tip: Check their daily specials as they offer the best deals.
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.
Recommended for Best Value because: Mel's is a local landmark and budget friendly option for Chicago-style hot dog lovers located close to Busch Gardens.
Skye's expert tip: Mel's is a popular place, so if you're planning on trying it for lunch, arrive early or late to avoid the lines.
Anyone who comes here knows that Kojaks is good eating! Open since 1978, this laid-back restaurant is well-known for its fantastic ribs, and the locals concur, having named it an area favorite for many years. Diners tackle heaps of barbecue, braking only for a bite of coleslaw or some famous parsley potatoes. Although you can sit inside in one of three rooms, the best setting is out on the porch, where you can enjoy the breezes and the freedom that comes with outdoor dining. For an added treat, make sure you try a slice of homemade chocolate cake or a glass of ice-cold sangria.
Recommended for Best Value because: Kojaks is a quaint south Tampa eatery serving huge portions of mouth-watering barbecue at bargain prices.
Skye's expert tip: The everyday special is a quarter barbecue chicken with two sides for $5.75
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 barstools 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.
Recommended for Best Value because: La Teresita is one of Tampa's best loved authentic Cuban eateries. Try a new cuisine while taking it easy on your pocketbook.
Skye's expert tip: For the full experience, make sure you sit in the cafeteria, not the restaurant.
For some people, an authentic New York pizza experience requires a hole-in-the-wall setting. If you are one of those people, Eddie & Sam's is for you. The ingredients, including water shipped down from New York for the dough, only add to the authenticity. The pizzas come out crisp and hot from the oven and include such favorites as primavera, Hawaiian, and Sicilian, hot and cold sandwiches, and buffalo wings. Eddie & Sam's has been a lunchtime favorite of the nearby office crowd for years, but it's also nearby a few of the more popular hotels for a great nighttime snack.
Recommended for Best Value because: In the heart of downtown Tampa is Eddie & Sam's authentic New York pizzeria serving giant slices at value prices.
Skye's expert tip: If you're not looking for a whole pizza, this spot offers an extensive selection of pizzas available by the slice.
Fresh Kitchen is a healthy fast food option for lunch and dinner located in Tampa's SoHo neighborhood. On offer is a full range of fresh and delicious ingredients that are combined in a handy bowl to eat in or take out. Set up cafeteria-style, diners head to the counter and order their bowl ingredients from the menu, picking a base such as noodles, rice or Quinoa, then veggies and a protein, topping it all off with a delicious house-made sauce. There is also a range of yummy, but healthy, desserts to choose from and they cold-press a variety of juices made fresh each day.
Recommended for Best Value because: Tampa's Fresh Kitchen offers a healthy lunch and dinner option at a budget-friendly price.
Skye's expert tip: Not in South Tampa? This popular local chain has already expanded to 5 other regional locations. Check their website for the latest.