Best Spots for Hungry Cruisers Close to the Port of Tampa

If you are embarking or disembarking from a cruise at the Port of Tampa, there are many delicious dining options close by. Listed here are ten of the best spots to choose from. Many are conveniently located just next door in the Channelside Bay Plaza, while others are just a short walk away.

If you’re disembarking early in the morning and need some fuel to get you on your way, Zelda’s Café and Deli opens early and serves all your breakfast favorites.

If you’re looking for a quick lunch, Precinct Pizza is a nearby option, but if you have more time, it is well worth the effort to make the short walk to the Columbia Cafe. A downtown version of the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, here you can enjoy amazing water views while sampling the dishes that have made the Columbia a local legend.

For a fun, casual evening, check out Splitsville. With a full bar and menu filled with American favorites, it’s probably the coolest bowling alley you’ll ever see. Your options don’t end there as there are many other great restaurants close by ready to satisfy almost any craving from Mexican to Thai. 

Ferg's Live
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


Ferg's Live is a live music venue and sports bar located in downtown Tampa next to Amalie Arena. With a chic, urban vibe, interior seating is bright and airy, however the real star is their huge courtyard. Featuring two bars, tons of seating and their "stage in the sky" this is the perfect spot to enjoy some live music. Live entertainment is offered 6 days a week and sports fans can't complain about the TVs with over 60 huge, flat screens to choose from. The menu consists of sophisticated pub grub with wings, flatbreads, burgers, and more.



The Channelside version of this national chain restaurant is located next to the Port of Tampa and convenient to many popular attractions. Hooters is popular in Tampa, partly because of the laid-back atmosphere, but also because the restaurant originated in the nearby city of Clearwater. Characterized by bright orange décor, lots of TVs, and well-endowed, short-shorts-clad waitresses, Hooters cultivates a casual, sports bar atmosphere. A great spot to meet and hang out with friends before downtown events. Their menu consists primarily of their famous chicken wings and burgers. Made all the better when washed down with cold draft beer.

Photo courtesy of Splitsville


Conveniently located in the Channelside Bay Plaza, Splitsville bills itself as "luxury lanes and dinner lounge." Just look for the huge bowling pin and you'll know you're in the right spot. This may be the coolest bowling alley you've ever visited with modern décor and comfortable seating in addition to the well-maintained bowling lanes. Splitsville goes far beyond the ordinary with its full menu of traditional and upscale dishes as well. It does get quite busy, especially if there was an event at the Forum earlier that night, so reservations are recommended, especially if you want to bowl. Deciding to bowl after you arrive usually means a solid wait.



What is notable about Precinct Pizza isn't necessarily the pie (which is great), but the story behind it. A New York paramedic, after coming down with post-9/11 respiratory problems, decided to move down to Tampa and open a realistic New York pizza place. He has filled it with decorations and memorabilia from the city, guaranteed to give native New Yorkers' flashbacks. Precinct Pizza uses fresh, high-quality ingredients to prepare their pizzas, combined with homemade marinara sauce and dough made from scratch each day. Then they are cooked in a rotating brick oven that ensures a perfectly baked pizza every time.



City Dog Cantina brings south-of-the-border favorites to the Channnelside neighborhood. Located within blocks of Channelside Bay Plaza and the Port of Tampa, City Dog is popular with both locals and visitors to the area. The décor is modern and contemporary featuring an outdoor patio area for when the weather is good. Their fresh and spicy Tex-Mex dishes include tacos and burritos, a selection of appetizers, and salads. Many agree that the Rollin Nolan Nachos are huge, delicious and a great value for your money. There is a full bar and a good selection of beer on tap. They also offer an all-day Mexican-inspired breakfast menu for late risers.

Harbour Island


Quiet, casual, romantic; Café Dufrain represents all the qualities that make Harbour Island seem worlds away from Tampa's bustling downtown area. Set among high-rise condo and apartment developments, this award-winning restaurant quietly serves up some of the best dishes in town. With a focus on local, organic and sustainable ingredients combined in recipes that are changed seasonally, they have called this approach "new American comfort food cuisine" and are quickly making converts. Combined with great service and a carefully selected boutique wine and craft beer list, lunch or dinner at Café Dufrain is sure to please even the most discerning. For an added bonus, the views of downtown from the waterside patio leave quite an impression, especially at night.



The District Tavern is a neighborhood bar and gastropub serving the young, urban professionals living in the centrally located Channelside area. As with any great bar, the beverage menu takes center stage. The outstanding cocktail list highlights modern takes on the classics as well as new creations. There is a carefully curated wine list setting this pub apart from most others in town, and the selection of craft brews rotate based on the season. Complimenting the comprehensive drinks menu is a tasty menu of casual pub food that includes staples such as chicken wings and burgers as well as a selection of healthier options including salads and flatbread. The atmosphere is casual if a bit upscale and the decor features rustic brick, a long wood bar, and tons of TVs for the sports fans.



It's hard to believe that a former BP gas station downtown could be re-purposed into a truly one-of-a-kind dining establishment, but that's exactly what happened at Zelda's. With a casual atmosphere and fast but fresh food, they specialize in Southern classics and Jamaican flavors. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Zelda's serves the neighborhood well. The breakfast menu is comprehensive, lunch features a wide variety of deli sandwiches and wraps, and dinner offers a small selection of specialty dishes. This unique eatery is located in the Channel district near the Aquarium, the cruise terminal, and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.



The Columbia Cafe is a picturesque dining spot centrally located in the Tampa Bay History Center on the downtown waterfront. Overlooking Garrison Channel and the Riverwalk, the views from the large outdoor patio are some of the best in town. The Cafe is part of the historic Columbia Restaurant Group with the original located in Ybor City. As with the Ybor City restaurant, the decor is Spanish-inspired featuring hand-painted tiles and custom woodwork. Menu options include some of the Columbia's most popular dishes including the original "1905 Salad" and a good selection of tapas. The cafe is open for lunch and dinner and features live music every weekend. Public boat docks are available if you're arriving by boat.



Tucked away in a corner of Tampa's Channelside district is Cena, a popular Italian restaurant that has gathered a loyal following despite a somewhat out of the way location. Chef Michael Buttacavoli presents simple, modern menu items that are elevated by expert preparation, creative presentation, and quality ingredients. Chef's mastery of rustic Italian cuisine shines in his risotto dishes, a definite must-try, as well as in his charcuterie and cheese selections. The wine and cocktail lists are very well curated featuring the classics as well as more modern options. The decor matches the cuisine and is also modern and minimal, but still very cozy and friendly, with diners raving about the great service.


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