Fans of global-fusion cuisines will find plenty to love about Tampa restaurants. Here, it’s not unusual to find traditional Spanish and Cuban cuisines reimagined with Italian influences, or to find kitchens serving up unique mashups of Asian, Cuban, Mexican, and Vietnamese dishes. Of course, if it’s fresh Gulf seafood you’re looking for, the restaurants in Tampa are hard-to-beat, especially if you’re hoping your surf and turf comes with a prime waterfront view. Read on to learn about our favorite Tampa restaurants and find out which dishes can’t be missed.
When it comes to waterfront restaurants, Tampa certainly delivers. But don’t make the mistake of assuming your only beach-front dining options are casual seafood shacks (though those are pretty great). Whether you’re dining in Tampa itself or are branching out to nearby St. Pete and Clearwater, there are waterfront restaurants that range from budget-friendly to hyper-luxurious, and the views are equally beautiful no matter which you pick.
Here are three of our top picks, each with a different price point:
No matter where you’re seated in this sprawling 20,000-square-foot cafe, you’re bound to have a prime view of the water through the retractable glass walls. And the cuisine is nothing to sneeze at either—think elevated casual fare like calamari with herbed aioli and Caribbean steak with ancho chili, plus an array of tropical cocktails.
It doesn’t get any closer to the water than this. StarLite’s cruise ships offer unparalleled views of the Florida sunset, a becoming backdrop to fine dining (think filet mignon and bacon-wrapped jumbo sea scallops) and lounging on the upper deck.
The only thing more impressive than the fine cuisine emerging from Armani’s kitchens is the sweeping view from its perch on the 14th story of the Grand Boulevard Hyatt. If you’re looking to impress a date, request a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows, and go with the four-course tasting menu, which includes dishes like lobster soup, seared sea scallops, and rigatoni bolognese.
If you’re looking for kid-friendly Tampa restaurants, you’ll find plenty of options. But none of them are as unique as the Happy Hangar Cafe. Open for breakfast and lunch, the cozy cafe overlooks the Tampa North Flight Center, so kids can watch planes land and takeoff as they dig into unfussy grub like pancakes, omelettes, and burgers and onion rings. After the meal is through, head outside to take a photo in the cockpit of the cafe’s vintage Super Stearman plane, or go for a ride in the plane for an extra $75.
(P.S.: the cafe’s patio is dog-friendly too!)
Miami may get all the glory when it comes to Cuban food, but we think that’s unfair since there are equally excellent Cuban restaurants in Tampa. In fact, Tampa is famous for its unique spin on the Cuban sandwich. Like other Cubans, this sandwich features ham, roast pork, Swiss, pickles, and mustard, but unlike the others, it also includes Genoa salami—a hat tip to the Italian immigrants who settled alongside Tampa’s Cuban and Spanish immigrants. The sandwich is so popular with locals, it’s been designated as the official “Signature Sandwich of the City of Tampa”.
Wondering where you can try a Tampa Cuban sandwich? Here are a few of our top picks:
Brocato’s Cuban sandwich has been a local favorite since 1948. While you’re there, you can also try another Tampa specialty: the deviled crab.
Widely considered to be one of the best Cuban restaurants in Tampa, Columbia is also famous for the number of celebrities who have visited over its 113 year history.
President Obama raved about the Cuban sandwich he had here while he was still in office, but locals have known about the excellent eats for 40 years. For a slightly-sweet spin on the classic, try the Honey Cuban.
New York and Chicago both have distinct styles of pizza, there’s never been a distinct style of pizza in Tampa… until now. A shop on Safety Harbor managed to dream up a style of pizza that’s perfectly suited to long walks on the beach: the pizza cone! Inspired by similar pizza cones from Greece, the chefs at Pizza Cone form their handmade dough into a conical shape, then fill the cone with homemade marinara sauce, cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings. After a quick pop in the oven, the hand-held pizza treat can be easily eaten with one hand, without a knife and fork.
If traditional pizza is more your thing, you’re in luck. Tampa has a large Italian immigrant population and excellent pizza places aren’t hard to find. If you need recommendations, here are our picks for the best pizza in Tampa:
They say the secret to New York’s pizza is its water and the folks at Eddie & Sam’s New York Pizza obviously believe the rumors, seeing as how they import New York water for their pizzas. Gimmicky? Yes—but given that reviewers often call this the most authentic New York–style pizza in Tampa, the gimmick seems to be working.
This local Tampa chain is beloved for its New York–style pies as well as its Chicago–style deep-dish pizzas. The waits can be lengthy, but retro video games are on hand to keep kids from getting to antsy.
World travelers often remark that the pizza at Bavaro’s is just like the pizza in Italy. Which makes sense considering they’re baked in a wood-fired oven just like the ones in the kitchens of Napoli.
Many consider Grimaldi’s to serve the best pizza in Tampa, but it might also be the best pizza in New York too. The chain, which has locations nationwide, was founded by Patsy Grimaldi, the nephew of Patsy Lancieri of the famed Patsy’s Pizza in Manhattan.