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 the 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 5 pm and weekends at 4 pm.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: A favorite with the locals, Rick's is well known for its large and family-friendly outdoor dining space overlooking the Hillsborough River.
Skye's expert tip: If you're an oyster fan, Rick's brings them in fresh and local. Try their "Jacked-Up" version - steamed with spice, sprinkled with cheese and topped with a jalapeno ring.
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 a variety of options for seating and entertainment - and there is always something going on. If you get hungry, Gaspar's offers some very decent bar grub including Tampa favorites like the Cuban sandwich and Devil Crab and the hottest hot wings in the city.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Gaspar's features live music and a relaxing courtyard ambiance in their outdoor dining spaces, the perfect resting spot after a day of exploring Ybor City.
Skye's expert tip: Sunday brunch is fit for a hung-over pirate with a full buffet, unlimited mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar.
The Columbia Cafe is a picturesque dining spot located at the Tampa Bay History Center that overlooks 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.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Adjacent to the Tampa Bay History Center, the Columbia Cafe offers a large outdoor dining patio that overlooks Garrison Channel and Harbor Island.
Skye's expert tip: If you're a fan of sangria, try their sparkling variation, Spanish cava sangria, that is made tableside.
Set slightly away from the downtown bustle on Harbor Island, Jackson's Bistro features a large and sophisticated menu with dishes ranging from hand-rolled sushi to an oak-grilled NY strip steak. They are also known for their extensive wine list. 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.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Jackson's offers sophisticated downtown dining featuring beautiful waterfront and skyline views with a huge outdoor patio for dining and dancing under the stars.
Skye's expert tip: If you're looking for a quick snack or cool beverage, check out Fast Jack's walk-up service for a selection of gelato and iced coffees.
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.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Perfect for people-watching, the large outdoor seating area at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company offers sidewalk views of Ybor City, Tampa's historic district.
Skye's expert tip: Happy Hour is particularly good because it lets you sample six of the house-brewed specialties for a single price.
Another riff on the food hall concept, Sparkman Wharf offers the culinary stylings of ten of Tampa's top chefs as they experiment with new concepts. Dubbed a dining garden, visitors sample from specially developed street food menus. The twist is that the restaurants are all working out of renovated shipping containers. Dining options run the gamut from raw oysters to French Vietnamese, to gourmet popsicles. The cornerstone of Tampa's billion-dollar Water Street development, this open-air meeting space features dining options, live music, comfortable seating, lawn games, and of course, a beautiful view of the waterfront.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: With contributions from Tampa's top chefs, Sparkman Wharf features a delicious variety of dining options in a waterfront setting with plenty of outdoor seating.
Skye's expert tip: Long lines can form during peak dining hours. Visit mid-to-late afternoon, especially on the weekend, for a more leisurely dining experience.
Ella's Americana Folk Art Caf� 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.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: In the heart of up-and-coming Seminole Heights, Ella's features a large outside dining area nestled in the shade of large live oak trees.
Skye's expert tip: Soul Food Sundays are a real treat featuring BBQ pork and beef brisket, live music, and the award-winning Bloody Ella (a Bloody Mary garnished with a smoked BBQ rib).
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 lovingly restored industrial space is open and airy with a New York loft vibe. Outside dining options include a patio, beer gardens and a rooftop lounge.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: With several large outdoor seating spaces to choose from, diners can enjoy their delicious meals al fresco with views of the Hillsborough River.
Skye's expert tip: Watch for art installations that appear to be made from spare metal parts. These are locally made original artworks by Rustic Steel Creations.
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 menu is a selection of locally sourced fish served wood grilled, blackened or sauteed. Not only are the dishes inventive and fresh, but they are also gathered with conservation in mind. While the food and the view will cost you, the experience cannot be beaten. Part of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Oystercatchers has cemented itself as one of the great restaurant spaces in Tampa.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Oystercatchers features a spacious, multi-tiered outdoor deck, perfect for enjoying the delicious seafood and spectacular views of Tampa Bay.
Skye's expert tip: Sunday is the best day to visit to enjoy the finest brunch in town. Reservations are recommended.
The Heights Public Market is located in Armature Works, a beautifully renovated, historic building that faces the scenic Hillsborough River. With 22,000 sq-ft, the open floor plan food hall features communal seating surrounded by 15+ of the most innovative and up-and-coming dining concepts in Tampa. Designed as an incubator for area talent, there are a wide variety of tasty treats to choose from, including coffee and tea at Union by Commune + Co., modern Cuban fare at Hemingway's, cocktails from Fine & Dandy, breakfast at Graze 1910, and of course, ice cream at Astro Ice Cream Co. Guests are free to grab and go, settle in at an indoor table, or take your goodies outside to the large outdoor lawn area with river views.
Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The Heights Public Market offers a variety of innovative dining options and a large outdoor dining and gathering area complete with lawn games.
Skye's expert tip: If you're looking for table service, Armature Works also hosts two restaurants and a rooftop lounge, all of which offer extensive outdoor seating.