Traditionally, Tampa may be best known for its fresh seafood and authentic Cuban dishes. However, the food scene in Tampa has heated up in recent years producing a wave of innovative new eateries. These new restaurants are pushing the culinary envelope using Tampa’s abundance of fresh ingredients to create dishes with a fresh Florida flavor. To help you find the perfect meal, 10 Best has put together a list of the best Tampa has to offer, drawing from both new and established restaurants.
For a traditional taste of Tampa, visitors can’t go wrong with a meal at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City. The Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant and has served up traditional Cuban and Spanish dishes since 1904. But the Columbia is more than just a good meal, the interior is large impressive with many dining areas featuring beautiful architectural details and tile work. In addition, guests are able to enjoy an authentic Flamenco show almost any day of the week.
if you’re looking to sample some of Tampa’s more innovative cuisine, consider Rooster & the Till. In a few short years, this eatery has become a favorite of local foodies. Rooster & the Till been named the best restaurant in Tampa Bay by a local publication and its chef has been nominated for a James Beard award. The menu here is constantly changing to take advantage of fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Edison Food + Drink Lab is the popular creation of Chef Jeannie Pierola, a 4X James Beard Best Chef Semifinalist. To say this place is unlike anything else in Tampa is an understatement, from dishes to decor, an industrial science theme invades all aspects of the restaurant. Patrons enjoy an ever-changing menu of “engineered” food “experiments” such as jalapeno Cracker Jacks and a fried oyster and bacon po-boy with kimchee. Expect to be surprised by the flavor combinations on this menu. The decor is fun as well, with an entrance disguised by corrugated metal fencing and the interior featuring polished concrete floors. The industrial look is cleverly broken up by colorful, graphic word art and pops of color on the tables.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Edison is owned by well-known Tampa Chef, Jeannie Pierola, who serves food that is fun and inventive, as well as delicious.
Scott’s expert tip: Don’t forget to try an artisan cocktail, it’s not just the food that’s inventive! If you’re fond of bourbon and bacon – check out the Sneaky Peat.
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.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Ulele offers diners a unique menu inspired by Tampa’s indigenous peoples and ingredients located in a beautifully restored historic landmark.
Skye’s expert tip: Enjoy beautiful views of the Hillsborough River by requesting a table on their outdoor patio!
More than just a restaurant, the Columbia is a Tampa institution. Since 1905, this living history lesson has been serving some of the most authentic Spanish/Cuban food in Tampa Bay. The menu is expansive, spanning a wide array of traditional beef, pork, and seafood dishes made in the same way for generations. Today there are several locations in Florida, but the flagship restaurant is still located in the heart of Tampa’s historic district, Ybor City. The building is a beautiful Spanish revival with Moorish influences and features hand-painted tiles, ornate antique furniture and rich fabrics throughout. The restaurant has been added on to over the years and now features 15 dining rooms that seat over 1,700 patrons and encompasses an entire city block. The Columbia even hosts Flamenco shows every evening except Sundays. No one forgets a night at the Columbia.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor city is Florida’s oldest restaurant with an extensive menu of authentic Cuban and Spanish dishes.
Scott’s expert tip: Ask for seating in the main dining room to experience their unique Flamenco show that runs twice nightly except for Sundays.
The Rooster & the Till is located in Tampa’s trendy Seminole Heights neighborhood and has quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Another example of the city’s chef-driven creativity, this exclusive eatery is putting out some big flavors specializing in farm-to-table fare, superior service, and smaller portions. Meals are prepared using only fresh and local ingredients and diners are raving over the beautifully plated and delicious, innovative cuisine that is winning multiple awards. Find a seat at the bar and enjoy the view of the chefs at work creating their masterpieces.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Located in trendy Seminole Heights, Rooster & the Till is a popular farm-to-table restaurant named best restaurant in Tampa Bay multiple times.
Skye’s expert tip: While not open for dine-in on Sundays, they offer a take home dinner called the Sunday Supper Club where Chef Alvarez gets creative with one-of-a-kind meal experiences.
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.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A study in contrasts, Cena is a sleek, modern space serving expertly prepared rustic Italian cuisine in Tampa’s Channelside district.
Skye’s expert tip: The desserts here are anything but an afterthought and no one should leave without trying their take on a classic tiramisu.
The wildly popular On Swann restaurant is located in Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Led by well-regarded Chef Chris Ponte, the restaurant’s cuisine is contemporary American with seasonal menus that incorporate locally sourced and locally grown ingredients. The focus is on small artisan businesses, heirloom varieties, organic cultivation, and sustainable farming techniques. The bar menu includes an impressively large and creative array of craft cocktails and a carefully curated wine and beer list. Although it can be a little noisy due to all the hard surfaces, the quirky combination of industrial and vintage decor creates a comfortable and casual ambiance.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: On Swann is a popular eatery in Tampa’s fashionable Hyde Park neighborhood that specialized in delivering top quality service and American cuisine.
Skye’s expert tip: Plan ahead, this is a very busy restaurant that unfortunately doesn’t take reservations for parties under 6.
Mise en Place is an intimate, well-appointed restaurant located across from the University of Tampa. As a pioneer of the chef-driven restaurant model, a signature of this bistro is the ever-rotating menu specializing in New American cuisine. You are almost guaranteed to find something you’ve never had before like sous vide venison loin or mustard pecan-crusted rack of lamb. The flavors reflect Chef Marty Blitz’s creativity and love of food and the region. Mise en Place also offers a substantial cheese and charcuterie selection, as well as a decadent dessert menu listing creations such as the molten chocolate beignet.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Mise en Place is an established favorite among Tampa locals for its consistently excellent and creative dishes.
Scott’s expert tip: The intimate ambiance makes this the perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous.
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 Best Restaurants because: Oystercatchers is popular for their expertly prepared seafood and stunning vistas of Tampa Bay.
Skye’s expert tip: Enjoy the finest Sunday brunch in town, combining the beautiful views with an expansive selection of freshly prepared delicacies. Reservations are recommended.
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 at once traditional and modern, 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 Best Restaurants because: Oak & Ola has shot to the top of Tampa’s culinary scene due to the efforts of it’s award-winning chef, Anne Kearney.
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!
Bern’s Steak House is one of Tampa’s best-known restaurants. Family-owned since opening in 1956, this venerable steak house is legendary for its impeccable service, top-quality food, and incredible attention to detail. Guests rave about the aged, charcoal-grilled steaks, which are ordered according to weight and thickness. Each comes with a salad, onion soup, baked potato, garlic toast, onion rings, and organic vegetables, so bring your appetite. Many of the restaurant’s vegetables are locally grown on the Bern’s farm. In addition to steak, chicken, and seafood, vegetarian options are available. The wine list is astounding, consisting of one of the largest wine collections in the world featuring over 7000 vintages. After dinner, head to the Harry Waugh room for decadent desserts, after-dinner drinks and dancing. Jacket, tie and reservations are required.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Bern’s Steak House in Tampa’s SoHo neighborhood is legendary for their perfectly age steaks, world-class wine list and a decadent dessert room.
Scott’s expert tip: The staff at Bern’s welcome you into their kitchen and wine cellar. Just ask your server for a tour.