Tampa's Best Spots to Find Comfort Food Faves



Comfort food classics and homestyle dining options abound in Tampa, whether you're looking to revisit favorite dishes from childhood, or you're looking to sample the comfort food of other cultures. With a large portion of the city's population hailing from other parts of the country and the world, there are a variety of traditions to choose from including Cuban, Italian, Greek, Southern cooking and soul food, as well as all-American favorites. Listed here, 10 Best has brought together just a few of the many options to choose from.

If you're looking to experience the comfort food of Tampa's many Cuban-American residents, try La Teresita. This old-school cafeteria offers large portions of traditional dishes developed from family recipes.  

Southern cooking is also well-represented with restaurants such as the funky, modern Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe where they serve up soul food favorites including their famous chicken and waffles surrounded by an intriguing collection of whimsical folk art. 



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Airport Area


 

You can be assured of good barbecue when you see the pit smoking out back. Jimbo's 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.


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Goody Goody Burgers is the resurrection of an iconic Tampa diner that was opened in 1925 as the first drive-in east of the Mississippi. The new incarnation is the brainchild of restaurateur Richard Gonzmart, owner of the famous Columbia Restaurant. No expense was spared in recreating the recipes, decor, and ambiance of the original with just a few changes to appeal to modern diners. This is fast-food, but using fresh, locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients and recipes made from scratch. Signature dishes include the their famous burgers with their special sauce and their pies, especially the butterscotch pie. They also offer a delicious selection of breakfast and brunch menu items, including the 12" griddle cakes.


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Back before there was a paved road, Skippers Smokehouse began as a small take-out joint north of Tampa. Over the years, the building has been added on to, first constructing a dining room that is a study in Old Florida rustic. The cuisine is described as Floribbean and features local staples including smoked fish dip, conch fritters, and fresh oysters and clams. Their award-winning Blackened Grouper Reuben sandwich was featured on the Travel Channel's Best Sandwich in America. While you're there, enjoy a drink at the Oyster Bar, another ad hoc add-on, and outside is a unique outdoor concert venue, affectionately known to locals as the "Skipperdome."


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Centrally located in the Westshore district of Tampa, Del Frisco's Grille serves perfectly prepared prime steaks and creative versions of comfort food staples. Popular menu items include the Grille Prime Cheeseburger, Cheesesteak Eggrolls, and the Prime Beef Short Rib Stroganoff. Also on offer are a variety of flatbreads and innovative salad options. The cocktail list is a treat featuring old standards and new recipes made with fresh ingredients. Examples include the house-made Sangria with peach schnapps and the VIP with Sweet Hawaiian Pineapple-Infused Svedka Clementine Vodka. The atmosphere is casual and modern with a large dining and bar area, outdoor patio, and rooftop terrace. Del Frisco's is fancy enough for important celebrations yet affordable enough for everyday dining.


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Orient Park
The Rez Grill
Photo courtesy of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa


 

Tampa's Rez Grill is the newest dining experience in the recently expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The restaurant is the brainchild of new Culinary Director, Frank Anderson, who has managed the kitchens of two James Beard-awarded restaurants in Los Angeles. Featuring a variety of comfort food classics, the menu includes primarily Southern-inspired dishes such as the mouth-watering chicken and waffles. Their seafood offerings are delicious and the oysters, shipped in from New England, are particularly spectacular. Many of the dishes are served family-style - they call it "Table Participation" - including lobster thermador and St. Louis-style ribs platters. The decor is sophisticated and understated with rustic touches and unique light fixtures.


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Bella's Italian Cafe
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


 

Bella's has been a favorite of locals in South Tampa for over three decades. Featuring home-cooked flavors, everything is prepared from scratch here including their pizza dough and pasta. Diners return often to tuck into the delicious wood-fired pizzas and full menu of classic Italian favorites. Although the decor could easily seem overdone, thanks to subdued lighting and gracious details, Bella's greets guests with a relaxed charm. The open kitchen provides a hint of what's to come for inside diners, and there is also a patio with outdoor seating. Late hours and favorable prices heighten Bella's appeal with the after-clubbing crowd.


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La Teresita Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


 

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 bar stools 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.


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Ella's Americana Folk Art Café is a fresh and funky eatery located in the charming and historic Seminole Heights neighborhood. As the name suggests, the ambiance is laid-back with walls decorated with a variety of American folk art providing plenty of eye-candy while you peruse their eclectic menu offerings. Dishes are designed to be healthy as well as delicious using fresh ingredients and a few unusual flavor combinations. Don't get carried away with the main course though as their desserts are amazing - give their peach fritters a try. There is live music on the weekends.


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South Tampa


 

Datz is one of Tampa's most popular restaurants. At one time or another, almost everyone has visited this trendy gastropub and market. The interior is warm and inviting with a funky, industrial vibe and no one stands on ceremony here - flip-flops and shorts are welcome. The food is as comforting as the environment lifting America's favorite dishes to a whole new level. Looks for twists on the traditional such as their chicken and waffles served with jalapeno-maple syrup or their famous meatloaf stuffed with mac 'n cheese. They are known for their large portions, so bring an appetite. If you have room after lunch, wander next door to their new sister-restaurant, Dough, for some sweet treats and coffee. Brunch is served on weekends from 8:30am - 3:00pm


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Élevage is located in the Epicurean Hotel, a boutique hotel that caters to guests wishing to experience life's indulgences, especially when it comes to food. Developed by the owner of Bern's, one of Tampa's most established restaurants, Élevage maintains the tradition of serving wonderfully prepared food. Dishes are modern versions of classic recipes from around the world. While the quality of the cuisine may indicate a level of formality, the restaurant's ambiance is contemporary but casual as evidenced by their jean-clad waiters. Dishes to try include the Duck, Duck, Goose, a foie gras & goose confit stuffed duck burger, or the Tuna Casserole featuring rare tuna, trofie pasta, peas, shimeji mushroom, and cantalet.


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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye

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