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."
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.
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.
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.
The Heights Public Market is located in the 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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, they are also gathered with conservation in mind. While the food and the view will cost you, 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.