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Best Waterfront Dining in Tampa

Tampa's waterfront restaurants feed the belly, lift the soul


Tampa features a host of dining options that offer views of the City's many waterways. Whether located on the Hillsborough River, downtown's Garrison Channel, or the open waters of Tampa Bay, these restaurants will feed the belly while lifting the soul. After considerable and pleasurable research, 10 Best has developed a list of the ten best options for waterfront dining in Tampa.

Options run from sophisticated and upscale to flip-flops and finger food, so there is a spot for everyone to enjoy the views. Oystercatchers offers wonderful panoramic views of Tampa Bay, coupled with the best prepared and freshest seafood in town. With a location situated to catch the brilliant sunsets, this is the perfect spot for intimate dinners and celebrations.

If you're looking to experience a taste of Tampa's ethnic history while enjoying the views, try the Columbia Cafe adjacent to the Tampa Bay History Center. A downtown version of the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, this restaurant carries on the tradition of serving expertly prepared Spanish and Cuban favorites.


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10
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 condos 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." 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.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: In addition to scenic views of Tampa's downtown waterways, Cafe Dufrain offers modern American comfort food and thoughtful wine and beer lists.

Skye's expert tip: Watch for daily specials that are reasonably-priced and come paired with a glass of wine or beer.

Read more about Café Dufrain →


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 Waterfront Dining because: Jackson's offers sophisticated downtown dining featuring beautiful waterfront views in a romantic outdoor setting.

Skye's expert tip: You can enjoy a more casual experience by heading outside to the Island Bar or finding spots at a high-top in Back Jack's Lounge.

Read more about Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi →


The Columbia Cafe is a picturesque dining spot located at the Tampa Bay History Center overlooking the downtown waterfront. 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 delightful selection of tapas. The cafe is open for lunch and dinner with live music serving as an extra draw on the weekends. Public docks are available if you're arriving by boat.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This waterside version of Tampa's famous Columbia Restaurant features the same traditional Spanish and Cuban cuisine with downtown water views.

Skye's expert tip: For a refreshing adult beverage, order their signature sangria prepared tableside, available in both white and red varieties.

Read more about Columbia Cafe - Riverwalk Tampa →


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Salt Shack on the Bay
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Salt Shack on the Bay is an open-air restaurant with terrific views of Tampa Bay. Featuring two large covered pavilions, one for the bar and one for the restaurant, there is plenty of shady space in which to enjoy the Caribbean-inspired menu. In keeping with the location, seafood is the main attraction on the menu featuring Gulf-caught fish and shrimp prepared in a variety of ways. For starters, try the daily variety of Caribbean Fritter - check their board for details - or the locally made Mahi fish spread. There are several sandwiches and burgers to choose from including their own take on Tampa's ubiquitous Grouper sandwich. For an entree, try their fresh catch of the day prepared just the way you like it.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: With Caribbean vibes, delicious seafood and expansive water views, Salt Shack on the Bay is an outdoor restaurant where you are always on vacation.

Skye's expert tip: The west-facing view of Old Tampa Bay makes this a premier spot to enjoy Tampa's beautiful sunsets.

Read more about Salt Shack on the Bay →


6
Channelside

Yacht Starship sails from Tampa's Channelside neighborhood and is billed as America's first three diamond rated dining yacht by AAA. Perfect for an intimate night out or a group celebration, Yacht Starship provides a three-course dinner while cruising the waters of beautiful Tampa Bay. Prepare for a sophisticated night out with spectacular views, private seating, table service and dancing under the stars. The menu changes seasonally, and although limited, takes advantage of many regional flavors and takes into account both gluten-free and vegetarian lifestyles. Public dinner cruises are offered most weekend nights, but there are also lunch cruises, party cruises and special event cruises on their schedule.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Yacht Starship in Tampa offers lunch and dinner cruises featuring a three-course dinner and 360 degrees of ever-changing water views.

Skye's expert tip: The cruise schedule varies so call or visit their website for up-to-date information.

Read more about Yacht StarShip →


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5
Channelside
Sparkman Wharf
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


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 Waterfront Dining because: With views of Garrison Channel, Sparkman's Wharf offers plenty of outdoor seating and dining concepts from ten of Tampa's best chefs.

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.

Read more about Sparkman Wharf →


4
Tampa Heights
Ulele

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, 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 a renovated historic waterworks building, the rustic and industrial decor creates a dramatic dining experience. Outside dining options include a patio, beer garden and rooftop lounge.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Ulele is a popular dining option with gorgeous views of the Hillsborough River serving unique, Indigenous-inspired dishes.

Skye's expert tip: Ulele is a comfortable spot to hang out and enjoy the views with several outdoor bars and terraces and lots of lawn seating.

Read more about Ulele →


3
Airport Area


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 Waterfront Dining because: Oystercatchers serves the finest seafood in town and features beautiful views of Tampa Bay in a contemporary dining space.

Skye's expert tip: Oystercatchers offers a wildly popular Sunday brunch, perfect for celebrating. Reservations are recommended.

Read more about Oystercatchers →


The Heights Public Market
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Heights Public Market is a 22,000 square foot food hall featuring over 15 local and innovative emerging dining concepts. Food options run the gamut from bar-b-que to baked goods and are suitable for any meal of the day. Beverage options are just as varied from fresh juices to crafted cocktails. The Market is located on the Hillsborough River in a large mixed-use space called the Armature Works that also houses special event venues and co-work spaces. The historic brick building has been re-imagined from a maintenance barn for streetcars into a modern gathering space. There is also a large outdoor lawn with games, plenty of seating and great river views.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: The Heights Public Market is an expansive food hall with 15+ innovative dining concepts, a large outdoor seating area, and views of the Hillsborough River.

Skye's expert tip: The Heights also has a active calendar of events from live music to yoga on the lawn.

Read more about The Heights Public Market →


1
Tampa Heights
Oak & Ola
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Located in beautifully renovated, historic Armatureworks, Oak and Ola is a stand-alone restaurant featuring the culinary stylings of James Beard Award-Winning Chef Anne Kearney. The menu she has created is evocative of a European bistro, featuring a carefully curated selection of seasonal dishes. Each one is carefully prepared with attention to every detail and features a beautiful balance of flavors. Despite the impressive pedigree, the food here both delicious and accessible, from the satisfying crunch of the perfectly salted Pommes Frites (French fries) to the moist and flaky Gulf fish topped with toasted almonds and served with haricot vert (green beans). The decor is impeccable and perfectly matches the European-inspired cuisine while also fitting in with the industrial, rustic vibe of the historic building. The restaurant overlooks the Hillsborough River through a wall of floor to ceiling glass that can be opened in good weather.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Oak & Ola offers diners the opportunity to sample the award-winning cuisine of Chef Anne Kearney while enjoying gorgeous river and skyline views.

Skye's expert tip: The cocktail menu features creative combinations and artful presentations, each inspired and named after a famous woman. See if you can identify them all!

Read more about Oak & Ola →


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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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