Eating well in Tampa is not a difficult task, but it can be a little unconventional. Outdoor bars and beachside restaurants often have some of the best fresh seafood without the price inflation, but don’t be surprised to find some patrons barefoot and bikini-clad.
Good N’ Cheap: The (in)famous Hooters chain was founded in Clearwater, FL and remains a Tampa Bay fixture for young men, couples, and even family dinners. Other restaurants that evoke a similarly kitschy and relaxed atmosphere with great food include:
Bahama Breeze: An island-inspired outdoor bar and grill complete with coconut shrimps, ribs, and piña coladas.
Tijuana Flats: A Tex-Mex cantina that brings together the weird and wild to create something wonderful. A popular place for the college kids.
Skippers: A Floridian-flavored eatery complete with live music and its own talent agency—for those of you who aspire to be singer/songwriters and entertainers.
Frenchy’s Restaurants: A famous chain of four distinct restaurants in Clearwater Beach featuring some of the freshest and tastiest fish straight from the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll also find real good gator nuggets here.
Taco Bus: Tampa’s Best Kept Secret. It was recently featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” for its to-die-for Tacos.
Casual Fine Dining: In addition to its beach bars, Tampa does offer more conventional casual fine dining, most often in the form of chain restaurants like the following:
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant: An exclusively Spanish Tapas bar, serving authentic dishes from Northern Spain and Catalonia, complete with a Spanish wine menu. At the end, you’ll find yourself exclaiming, “Delicioso!”
Columbia Restaurant: The Columbian offers a twist of Spanish and Cuban traditions packed into a delicious menu.
The Cheesecake Factory: This national chain boasts big delicious dishes followed by scrumptious cheesecakes. Who could ask for more?
Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant: An authentic Italian eatery with a menu pulling from northern, central, and southern Italian cuisine.
The Capital Grille: The Capital Grille is a steakhouse with a delicate touch, claiming to “wine, dine, and dazzle you.”
P.F. Changs: Think good Chinese food without the take-out box and the immediate regret. P.F. makes Chinese dining a decadent experience.
For more, Westshore Plaza and the International Mall have a number of delicious restaurants to choose from, which are great locations for browsing if you’re indecisive on dinner plans.
Finest Dining: For those special occasions, Tampa has some fabulous fine dining options.
Bern’s Steakhouse: A famous Tampa experience, which includes two venues-- a large dining room for dinner and a private suite for dessert complete with an accordion player.
Marchand's Bar & Grill: A prominent member of the fine dining old guard at the historic Vinoy Hotel.
Bob Heilman's Beachcomber Restaurant: A beachside haven for fresh fish and fine wines.
Island Way Grille: An Asian-Caribbean fusion that will make your mouth water.
Finding the Food: There are some great websites available for those looking to expand their palette in Tampa, but one of the best ways to explore is by checking out blogs written by Tampa natives. Remember, Tampa is home to residents of all ages—some of whom are less inclined to “yelp” about their latest restaurant experiences. So ask your professors, bosses, co-workers, friends and you’ll be sure to find some hidden gems.
Groceries: Dining out is only one way to fulfill your gastronomical desires. There are a number of grocery stores in Tampa, such as Publix Supermarkets and Whole Foods that offer organic groceries, ready-made foods, and recipes for easy meals.
Farmers’ Markets: Tampa Bay’s Farmers’ Market located in South Tampa offers locally grown fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.
Take Out & Delivery: And for those take-out kind of nights, local restaurants usually remain open until 11. If you live in the USF area a new food delivery service is available called “feed-a-bull,” but you can also use grubhub for all additional needs.