It may be known as “Cigar City,” but Tampa isn’t all smoke and sunshine. This lively city is quickly becoming a foodie destination with its emerging culinary scene filled with independent and farm-to-table restaurants that reflect the city’s multicultural legacy. Next time you’re in town, make sure you satisfy your appetite with some of Tampa’s best local flavors.
Wat Thai Temple
When you think “Tampa,” you probably don’t think about Thai food — but you should. Savvy locals craving Thai food flock to the Sunday Market at the Thai temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram, located on the Palm River. From the sweet custard filled with coconut and green onions to zesty noodle dishes and fried bananas, the vendors serve up a varied menu of dishes that are perfect for brunch overlooking the water.
What do you get when you combine a chef nominated four times by the James Beard Foundation with a solid local farm connection? The Refinery is a hot spot located in the trendy Seminole Heights neighborhood. Travel + Leisure declares this restaurant sets the standard for Tampa’s farm-to-table fare. The menu changes multiple times a week and everything is made in-house.
Fodder & Shine
Another gem in the Seminole Heights neighborhood is Fodder & Shine, which pays homage to the state’s cracker culture. Florida’s early settlers were cowmen and were referred to as crackers because of the sound their whips made during cattle roundups. Accordingly, the menu contains some dishes you might expect cowboys to enjoy. From frog legs and rabbit to fried chicken and biscuits, the options include delicious and innovative Southern comfort food built around locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Edison Food+Drink Lab
Chef Jeannie Pierola of Edison: Food+Drink Lab is a four-time James Beard semifinalist. This Tampa powerhouse serves upscale American fare such as bone marrow with quail eggs, onion marmalade, a parsley-shallot salad, fresh burrata salad, and a delicious variety of small plates perfect for sharing. The dishes somehow manage to be simultaneously trendy and classic, with a layered, nuanced approach that’s incredibly satisfying.
Zagat rates Datz an “eclectic Tampa foodie experience,” and locals love the marquee signs — and the bacon. Seriously, bacon is a staple in this fresh twist on a classic deli, especially during brunch. Specialties range from bacon-infused potatoes to a breakfast BLT. If you visit for dinner instead, treat yourself to fresh dishes like poke tacos, stuffed meatloaf, or a spicy bowl of shrimp n’ grits.
Mise en Place
You know anywhere the Association of Food Journalists holds its conference is a contender in the food scene. Mise en Place has been a staple in Tampa’s restaurant scene for 30 years, launching the careers of dozens of local chefs. The flavors and style of this innovative eatery always remain fresh. Splurge on the “Get Blitzed” tasting menu, choose from a three or four-course menu, or order a la carte. Either way, the meal is sure to delight.
Before food trucks were trendy, Taco Bus — installed in an actual converted school bus — took to the streets of Tampa to serve up crave-worthy Mexican fare. With a philosophy like “Keepin’ It Chido,” the eatery on wheels uses the freshest ingredients for its daily menu items. The menu is simple, but the options are grande. Choose your preferred style, your protein (including vegetarian options), and your add-ons like guacamole and pico de gallo.
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