Seafood fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, a climate perfect for produce and a multicultural environment helps to make Tampa a welcoming spot for foodies. If you want to learn about the Big Guava’s food culture or uncover some well-known places to eat in Tampa, then sample a few of these culinary offerings recommended by professional AAA inspectors and editors.
Locals know that this landmark establishment, opened in 1956, is one of the best restaurants in Tampa and still run by Bern and Gert Laxer’s family. The aged steaks are legendary; imagine a special 14-ounce Châteaubriand or tender strip sirloin paired with homegrown vegetables from Bern’s farm. After the meal, consider touring the kitchen and 500,000-bottle wine cellar, and if you can handle it, eating a final course upstairs in the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. To ensure the perfect evening, call ahead for reservations, and dress to impress at this AAA Three Diamond restaurant.
Choosing what to do in Tampa is easy during the month of April, especially if you’re seeking something food related. Every year this AAA Editor Pick—billed as “Tampa’s Best Party!”—highlights the area’s most celebrated purveyors of food and drink. Included in the price are unlimited samples; live music; and tastings of fine wine, liquor and craft beer at the riverfront performing arts center. Open bars also are available. And you’ll be contributing to a good cause, since proceeds from the event go toward arts education.
Spring ushers in an incredible opportunity to try specially curated selections of food, wine, beer and spirits during weekends in March and April at one of the most thrilling attractions in Tampa. You’ll also be able to check out numerous rides (including roller coasters) and visit some 2,000 animals at the 335-acre theme park. With celebrity chefs and live concerts, this annual event is one to savor.
One of the most fun things to do in Tampa involves visiting the Columbia Restaurant, a AAA Inspector Pick in the Ybor (Ee-bor) City Historic District. Opened as a café in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, the restaurant is purportedly the oldest in the state and the Florida chain’s original location. Dishes, including ropa vieja (shredded and sautéed beef), paella a la Valenciana (rice with various meats) and Columbia’s Original 1905 Salad, are classic picks at the AAA Three Diamond restaurant, but you can’t go wrong with tapas (appetizers) and a glass of sangria. Then, over an intimate meal, watch the flamenco dancers, who perform every night except Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s Ybor City Historic District has a claim to being the birthplace of the Cuban sandwich—crisp Cuban bread filled with Swiss cheese, mustard, roasted pork, ham and salami. (Miami claims its own kind sans the salami.) The tasty creation filled up the Spanish, Italian and Cuban immigrants who worked in neighborhood factories and were on the hunt for a quick bite. To celebrate that era’s cuisine, visitors can enjoy the original as well as nontraditional versions from restaurants around the state during the themed weekend, which also features live music, dancing and prizes for the best sandwiches.
This AAA Inspector Pick, across the street from Bern’s Steak House in the tony Hyde Park area, has been designed to create a home away from home for foodies (if the property’s name didn’t already provide a hint). In fact, the gastronomically inclined theme promises you’ll be able to find plenty of culinary inspiration during your visit. Within the AAA Four Diamond hotel, you’ll discover a confectionary with sweet treats; a shop for wine and spirits; and the 40-seat Epicurean Theatre, which presents tastings and classes. In the modern guest rooms, culinary artwork even makes an appearance. It’s enough to drum up an appetite!