Sunny skies, palm trees and amazing food…that’s what I found in Tampa, Florida. Growing up on the west coast in Arizona, I always wanted to venture to Florida to connect with my Cuban culture. This year, I had the chance to visit Tampa for work five times. Over the course of my adventures, I got to know the city and the food culture a bit. I wanted to share some of the spots I tried (and would visit again!)
Scenes from Oxford Exchange near Downtown Tampa.
I could spend a whole day in here. This venue hosts a restaurant, coffee shop, bookstore, new Warby Parker eyeglass shop, and you can even get married here! Every angle you turn inside OE is photo-worthy and their Instagram proves it. Their food is equally as amazing. Breakfast may be my favorite thus far. These chorizo breakfast tacos pictured above, plus a cappuccino, are be a perfect combo.
Bartaco chips and guacamole, margarita and tacos.
Tacos on Tacos
From what I’ve found, Tampa is not short on good taco places. Bartaco is located in Hyde Park, an outdoor shopping park growing with new restaurants and stores. Sit on the bartaco patio with a cocktail, like the blood orange margarita pictured above. Order a large guacamole. It will vanish before your eyes because it’s delicious, especially when paired with tortilla chips you break up on the spot. Scan the menu of their upscale tacos. They are tiny, but that means you can order a tray with a variety of options for sharing. I loved the fried oysters and sesame ribeye tacos.
Left: The Ahi taco is my favorite at Green Lemon. Middle: Giant frozen margaritas with salt. Right: This bowl from Fresh Kitchen had it all!
Mark off your happy hour time slot for Green Lemon. This trendy place in SoHo, or South Howard district, has great deals on modern Mexican cuisine. Try three tacos for $8 and order one of the massive margaritas (pictured below) for a steal. The queso, guacamole and salsa trio will pair with your drinks as you catch up with friends.
Unrelated to tacos, but owned by the same restaurant group as Green Lemon is the restaurant Fresh Kitchen. Their fresh, healthy bowls (picture right, below) are completely customizable. Balance out your endless margs and queso the next day with a kale bowl topped with delicious veggies.
Brunch outdoors on the patio at Cask.
On the weekends, it’s hard for me to turn down brunch outdoors on the patio, especially if it involves bottomless mimosas and a live DJ. Cask was such a great find. They had both mimosas and a DJ, but also popcorn included for the table and dishes ranging from the chicken and waffles (pictured above) to classics like eggs, potatoes and bacon.
Top: Buddy Brew coffee mural. Bottom left: Breakfast bowl at Daily Eats. Bottom Right: Toast at Buddy Brew.
If you’re looking for good coffee and a smaller bite, try Buddy Brew. I tried two of their toasts – avocado toast with olive oil poached eggs and peanut butter toast with a creme brûlée banana – and they were amazing!
Experiment with breakfast at Daily Eats. This diner-style restaurant in SoHo has some awesome breakfast bowls like this Captain Crunch cereal French Toast in a bowl with maple syrup eggs. I’m so glad I tried it!
The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor and lunch from their location at the Tampa airport.
Tampa Classic: Columbia Restaurant
The Columbia is a famous spot in Tampa’s Ybor district. If you’re going to check out a more touristy place, this could be it. I really did enjoy the Cuban food, fused with Spanish influences. Their tapas were delicious – I even wrote a whole post about them! If you’re stopping for lunch at the airport, you can eat a half Cuban sandwich and half Columbia salad. That’s my favorite airport food in Tampa without a doubt.
There are so many places I wanted to visit in Tampa, but didn’t have time to. I would love to dine at Ulele next time and more spots in the heart of downtown. Not listed above, but other places I enjoyed, included: Datz, Mr. Penguin Gelati, and Boca (especially the garden wall of lettuce). Comment below with any other suggestions! Overall though, I really enjoyed the city of Tampa and even got to sneak in a beach trip to Siesta Key. I’ll be back in September for work again and will try to sneak in as many new places as I can.
Love food. Love self. Love life.