These 10 Tampa restaurants include local favorite places to eat, drink, and relax while supporting Florida Gulf Coast businesses. This list of places to eat in Tampa Florida is not comprehensive but does include our favorites and—at the end of the article—Tampa restaurants we want to try that are highly recommended by friends and other sources.
1. Bern’s Steak House
For the funkiest upscale experience along the US Gulf Coast and perhaps in the entire United States, you gotta try Bern’s Steak House. Featuring old school decor and classic cuisine, a separate level just for dessert experiences, and one of the largest wine collections in the world, Bern’s is a unique and memorable destination for any visitor or resident. Be sure to take the restaurant tour and request to see the wine room.
Perhaps no restaurant represents Tampa Florida more than Bern’s Steak House. Not just me saying that, as readers of Tampa Magazine voted Bern’s as Best Uniquely Tampa Restaurant for 2020 (and perhaps every year). McCool Travel tip: let this list of the Best of Tampa selections guide your trip planning for our next Tampa visit.
The fresh Florida Gulf Coast oysters are the showstoppers at Ulele, where the Native-inspired cuisine focuses on local ingredients from Florida’s waters and Native American lands (Ulele was a Native American princess). Ulele is a popular business lunch spot and dinner destination, located at the start of the Tampa Riverfront trail, next to the Heights Public Market (see below), and a convenient stop on the Pirate Water Taxi. Try the Native Chili (with gator, boar, duck, and venison) and anything seafood (blackened grouper is my go-to order).
3. Oxford Exchange
A perfect setting for breakfast or brunch Oxford Exchange is more than just a place to eat. Before, after, and during your breakfast/brunch/lunch, explore the bookstore and other shops, enjoy the community environs, or attend a free lecture or literary/cultural event. The attractive dining space is a giant conservatory filled with local art. Try the fresh squeezed orange juice and/or a specialty cocktail (I like the OE Margarita with key lime juice) or a champagne flight sampler. The breakfast tacos are amazing.
4. Columbia Restaurant
Earlier we visited the largest wine collection in the US (at Bern’s) and now, at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, time to savor Spanish comidas (food) at Florida’s oldest restaurant. Founded as a corner saloon in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant for cigar workers, serving Cuban coffee and Cuban sandwiches, the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City is now the world’s largest Spanish restaurant and flagship of a five-generation family-owned corporation with several locations—including along the Tampa Riverwalk.
Not only will you not leave Datz (try the original location on South MacDill) hungry but you will likely have your only meal of the day plus plenty of leftovers. While Datz fills the plates, quality is not sacrificed in the name of quality. After all, how many places have their own popular hashtag (#Datz4foodies)? For breakfast, get the monkey bread, no doubt. Dilute the sugar rush with some breakfast tacos, Cubano breakfast sandwich, or shrimp and grits.
6. Epicurean Hotel Tampa: Élevage Restaurant
Just across the street from Bern’s is Élevage at the Epicurean Hotel Tampa. Headed up by executive chef Chad Johnson, a James Beard semi-finalist (USA South), the Élevage kitchen creates memorable dishes (aka culinary experiences, fitting with the Epicurean property theme) utilizing the freshest possible local ingredients.
During our latest Élevage experience, my wife had an impeccable filet mignon while I lucked into this amazing Florida grouper.
7. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, Clearwater Beach
Especially for my Northeast US friends and snow birds, you know nothing is better than savoring fresh blackened grouper (tacos, platter, sandwich) with a view of the water. One of our favorite Florida waterfront restaurants is Frenchy’s in Clearwater Beach. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill is a quick 35 minute drive from Tampa airport so make it your first stop after your flight lands or as a fun day trip from Tampa.
8. Rooster & the Till
In spite of incredible accolades—like Tampa’s best restaurant for the past two years—Rooster & the Till in Seminole Heights remains a hidden gem, especially to visitors. So order a taxi/Lyft/Uber/shuttle and enjoy the four-mile trip from downtown Tampa to R&T. Chef Ferrell Alvarez received a James Beard semi-finalist commendation for Best Chef in the South and at Rooster & the Till he operates one of the best US Gulf Coast restaurants. Look for creative offerings like black sesame ice cream with Thai tea caramel (yes, I start with dessert!), local seafood or pork belly kicked up with Asian spices.
9. Heights Public Market at Armature Works
Armature Works is a mixed-use community hangout located just a block from Ulele. The massive renovated warehouse (formerly the TECO streetcar maintenance facility) houses Heights Public Market which features more than a dozen local culinary concepts. Create your own progressive experience with a craft cocktail or upscale wine, ramen appetizer, Cuban entree, and artisan baked good with craft deseert—all from different food stands. Visit several times to sample every amazing vendor, including Oak & Ola with Chef Anne Kearney (a James Beard best chef South WINNER!).
10. The Hall on Franklin
Another wonderful Tampa food hall is the European-inspired The Hall of Franklin. The seven onsite taste architects on the date of publication are North Star, Chef & The Baker, Wabi Sabi, Poke Rose, Fork & Hen, Fork & Gallina, and KoFe. Visitors can walk around, explore the menus and displays, and order items from one or more stands—or reserve a table (recommended!) and place one order with a server from as many places as you wish.
Other Tampa Restaurants to Eat and Drink Local in Florida
While above I list ten great Tampa Restaurants, there are dozens other amazing Tampa restaurants that are local favorites. Below are some other Tampa restaurants we have either tried or want to. Another recommended source to check is the Tampa Magazines 2020 Best Restaurants list.
Sample the five dozen cheeses, several dozen wines by the glass, and hundreds of bourbons (yes, hundreds) at Haven in SoHo Tampa. Charcuterie boards are the suggested culinary choice here.
When in downtown Tampa and hankering some tacos and margaritas, Urban Cantina is a great choice.
With two locations (Graze 1910 in Armature Works and Graze in South Tampa), Graze Tampa invites you to graze all day, every day. They serve breakfast all day and their sandwiches are divine. Order some maple and bacon brussels along with a BLT or burger.
Local favorite for Southern cuisine, brunch, and tied with Bern’s for most uniquely Tampa restaurant, Noble Crust is on my list!
On Sunset Beach Caddy’s Treasure Island looks so fun—for waterfront drinks if nothing else.
Several trusted (and random) local Tampa sources mentioned Soho Sushi as the best place for sushi.
Salt Shack on the Bay
Every time I drive on the Gandy Bridge past Salt Shack, my steering wheel tries to pull me there. Y’all tell me what I am missing.
A local Tampa favorite for seafood, brunch, and waterfront dining, Oystercatchers is in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, an excellent location and phenomenal place to stay.
Best Tampa Craft Breweries and Cocktails
For a special unique Tampa experience, make a reservation at Ciro’s Speakeasy. After you arrive and provide the password to enter, try classic cocktails like Bee’s Knees or Penicillin, or a custom elixir.
Cigar City Brewing
Tampa’s most popular craft brewery is Cigar City Brewery and certainly there are many others to try—like Coppertail and 7Venth Sun. Find your own local favorite Tampa craft beer place. While Jai Alai is the flagship product at cigar City Brewing, I like to order Maduro (brown ale) or Florida Cracker (Belgian white ale) in their tasting room.
In Ybor City, Bernini is home of the $3 vodka martini every day until 7pm. One day I will try their Italian food.
BAR at Armature
The BAR at Armature Works scores high with Tampa locals. Sample some creative blended cocktails while viewing the riverfront.
The Tampa Riverwalk location of Columbia Restaurant is called Columbia Cafe and it has a great setting and serves refreshing mojitos.
Cigar City Cider & Mead
When the excellent local craft beer and craft cocktail scene does not hit the spot, head to Cigar City Cider & Mead in Ybor City. The apple pie cider is a staple and I love any of the fresh fruit varieties (passionfruit, mango, blueberry, strawberry).
Please share your favorite Tampa restaurants and drinking spots in the comments below.