Just like the city itself, Tampa Bay’s cuisine scene serves up an inspired mix of old and new.
The Tampa Bay dining scene is as diverse as the city’s history, dating back to the late 1800s, when just over 700 people lived here. From its humble beginnings serving local cigar factory workers to today’s innovative chefs, Tampa Bay’s dining scene embraces its history and caters to the most forward-thinking foodies.
Withstanding the test of time.
When the Columbia Restaurant opened in Ybor City in 1905, the main draw was its Cuban sandwiches and café con leche. More than 100 years later, the same family still owns the restaurant — now the oldest in Florida — and it still serves its original sandwiches and coffee, along with an extensive menu of Spanish and Cuban favorites.
Goody Goody Burgers is another iconic Tampa brand specializing in all-day breakfast as well as burgers, sandwiches and pies. The original restaurant, opened in 1925, was one of the first drive-ins east of the Mississippi River. It closed in 2005. After having been purchased by Richard Gonzmart and the Columbia Restaurant Group in 2014, the restaurant re-opened in Hyde Park Village. Its crowd-pleasing menu includes the signature POX burger (served with pickles, onions and a tomato-based special sauce) and butterscotch pie. Conveniently, there is a second location at the Tampa International Airport, in Airside C.
In another historic transformation, Tampa Bay’s most popular steakhouse started as a humble luncheonette called Bern and Gert’s Little Midway. In 1956, Bern and Gert Laxer moved into Beer Haven on South Howard Avenue, and Bern’s Steak House opened its doors. Ever since, Bern’s has been known for its stellar steaks, spectacular wine list and the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, which features a menu of nearly 50 decadent desserts.
Recent and remarkable.
Chef Greg Baker and his wife, Michelle, introduced Tampa Bay to pork belly (before it was popular) when they opened The Refinery in 2010. The constantly changing, rule-bending menu exceeds expectations with dishes like Sunflowers Several Ways, made with every part of the sunflower. Critics have noticed too: The Refinery made the short list for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award in 2011 and has been listed in Zagat’s Best Restaurants since opening.
Sitting proudly on the Tampa Riverwalk, Ulele has been welcoming a non-stop stream of guests to its outdoor patio and expansive indoor space since 2014. Its popularity has as much to do with its multicultural menu as it does with ingredients indigenous to the area’s waters and farms. Be sure to try the charbroiled oysters, pompano, grouper and Fresh from Florida beef. Beer drinkers delight in the restaurant’s on-site Ulele Spring Brewery.
New in town.
Armature Works, also located on the Tampa Riverwalk, blends historic and modern with the fun food hall environment that is gaining momentum in the United States. The 1910 Armature Works building was originally a trolley barn for the city of Tampa. Today, the mixed-use space features the Heights Public Market, a community food hub: freshly prepared foods, meats and cheeses, pressed juices, beer, wine, specialty cocktails and desserts are enjoyed in a communal setting.
The Hall on Franklin is another noteworthy newcomer. Whether you are in need of a pick-me-up in the morning, a fun place to hang out late at night or even a table (all the furnishings in the Hall are available for purchase), The Hall on Franklin is an experience like no other — just like the rest of Tampa Bay’s dining scene.