I've spent a bit more time in my hometown of Tampa, Florida over the past few years, and I've started to have some favorite restaurants. Sometimes I love a place for the moment - a solo dinner at the bar, a girl's night out, a great date nook. I can fall in love with a place for their talent, their service, their view, their ambiance... but today, we're going to explore my single favorite bites in town.
There are plenty of good things to try on each of these menus... but here are my favorites. Make a scavenger hunt out of it. Use it to help you pick when you're torn. And report back to me if I'm missing something or you want to fight with me over what's best. (Hint: It's personal preference, so there's not a single right answer.)
In alphabetical order, by restaurant name:
Bern's Steakhouse - The Wine List: Yeah yeah, it's one of the best steakhouses in the world. I love the sides and the soups. But for me, Bern's is all about the wine. Ask for the somm to help direct you around (if it's Brad, tell him hi for me.) Give them a price range and tell them what you dig... and watch the magic happen.
Big Ray's Fish Camp
|The Wine Cellar at Bern's|
- Blackened grouper sandwich ONLY at the original location in Ballast Point... don't come at me if you only have tried it at Riverwalk (that's managed by the convention center.)
|The Blackened Grouper Sandwich with Onion Rings at Big Ray's|Counter Culture
- Burrata toasts with pink grapefruit marmalade, wood-fired tangerine, burnt rosemary, and smoked Maldon, ideally with a great glass of wine and a sunset view of the bay
|Burrata Toasts with Pink Grapefruit Marmalade at Counter Culture|Empamamas
- Tampa Girl: It's like a Cuban sandwich and an empanada had a warm delicious baby.
Flames Indian Cuisine
- Samosas: Pair em with whatever entree you get, but never leave them off of your order.
- Cup and Char Pizza: I don't know why, but these crispy pepperoni cups are probably the thing I order most often when I'm in Tampa. Never disappoints.
|The Cup and Char at Forbici|Interbay Meat Market
- Cuban sandwich (it killed me to have to pick it over the killer cheeseburger): You can get great Cuban sandwiches at double handful of places in the Tampa area, but this one tucked in a grocery store has become my go-to for pick up picnics and delivery at home.
Oak & Ola
- Monte Cristo at brunch... it's the Bennigan's classic, elevated, by one of my favorite chefs in town
|Monte Cristo Sandwich at Oak & Ola for brunc|Psomi
- Pan Spanakopita (everything I've ever ordered at Psomi has been great, but this is next level.)
|Pan Spanakopita at Psomi|
Publix - Key Lime Pie: If it ain't broke, don't fix it... and this is perfect.
|Mini Key Lime Pie from Publix|Restaurant BT
- Peking Duck Burritos: They're almost too gorgeous to eat, but do it anyway.
|Peking Duck Burritos at Restaurant BT|Rocca
- The Mozzarella Cart: Here's another spot where everything on the menu is delicious, but the experience that ya gotta try at least once is the mozza cart.
Rooster & Till
- Short Rib Gnocchi: I'll try anything and everything on Chef Ferrell Alvarez's menu (and can't wait for the bar update that's coming,) but the gnocchi is my comfort food go-to.
Runner Ups: The schnitzel at Willa's, the kale salad at On Swann, a latte and Cuban toast at DI Coffee Bar, the PB & Banana Toast at Buddy Brew, meatballs at Piccolo, lemon spaghetti at Cena (it would make the list, but it's a seasonal special, not offered right now... so I'll have to revisit to pick a new fave.)
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