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Ybor City recs

Any place with terrific food at a good price?

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  1. There are a few places down Ybor way that have decent food at a reasonable price:
    -Tampa Bay Brewing Co. has good food to go along with killer beer brewed in-house. They serve pub-type food, most of which is made with the beer in the recipe.
    -Bernini is usually pretty reliable for Italian, and won't vacuum all the $$$ out of your wallet.
    -Some places I've heard good things about but haven't been to: Laughing Cat (Italian), El Puerto (Argentinean), Big City Tavern (American)

    1. Ditto on the above. Laughing Cat is GREAT, but there is contruction on 15th street in front of the restaurant.

      1. My wife and I were in Ybor City the Saturday before Christmas and stopped into the Green Iguana for lunch. It is an interesting, funky place that had an excellent solo singer entertaining the afternoon crowd. The real treats, however, were the burgers! They were excellent; big, juicy, cooked exactly to our order and the cooks were definately not stingy with the cheese. Then for dessert we shared the Fried Cheesecake; again, excellent. The staff was extremely friendly and we had a nice lunch. If this is the type of thing you are looking for, it may be just the place.

        1. Carmines and the Tropicana

          1. tampa bay brewing company is one of my favorite ybor spots.

            excellent beer and pubbish grub.

            (except i haven't been since they relocated to centro ybor proper. but same owners, so i wouldn't imagine it going anyplace but up, what with more room!)

            1 Reply
            1. re: hitachino

              i was going to just edit my post to add this link, but i guess you can't edit after a certain amount of time - hence replying to myself ;)

              ran across this recent review of TBBC at it's new digs for anyone interested: http://tampa.creativeloafing.com/gyro...

            2. I concur on the Tampa Bay Brewing Company recommendation. Word is, just as good or better sonce the move. One of my favorites is the goat cheese appetizer

              1. Here's a nice review that just came out in the Weekly Planet for Tampa Bay Brewing Company http://tampa.creativeloafing.com/gyro...

                1. My favorite thing to eat in Ybor at a low price: Go to the Columbia and get a bowl of soup. Their Spanish Bean is the best i've tasted. The Caldo Gallego (white bean and turnip greens) is just as good. Black Bean and gazpacho round out the selection. With a langth of warm, crusty Cuban bread, it is a great snack or meal at any hour. I usually eat at the bar. The dinners are good, too, but the soups are always so good I can't resist. I hear they are completely revamping their Cuban Sandwich as well--- I will keep you informed. (in the interest of full disclosure, I've been working with the restaurant to document their history)

                  1. I am going to rec Laughing Cat and Tampa Bay Brewing. Adobe Gila's makes some good nachos, frozen drinks and has the best(most entertaining) view in Ybor. New World makes wonderful pizza, if the kitchen is open. Samurai Blue is fun and serves good sushi. Alaskan tacos makes a great fish taco, they've recently moved(on to 7th?). Carmines is hit or miss in my opinion. The Columbia is great, try to go during the hours they have flamingo dancers. Avoid Barley Hoppers. Jacks at Gameworks is pretty traditional middle of the road(Chilis like). Enjoy!

                    1. Maybe I just order the wrong things at TBBC, but I've *never* had a great meal there - pretty average. And this includes having dined once at the new location in Centro Ybor right after they moved. The beers are indeed great and I do like the place, but for drinks and maybe appetizers.

                      The Columbia is a good choice although in my experience I've had more uneven service/food at the original location there in Ybor than some of the others- St Pete Pier, Celebration/Orlando, St. Augustine (their worst run location in my opinion) and Sarasota/St. Armand's (arguably their best run) and I like the sidewalk seating. I second the mention of La Tropicana, nothing fancy about it, just good food.

                      Good grub at Green Iguana really surprises me, I've never had the urge :) Never tried Carmine's or Laughing Cat so can't say (but have friends who are positive on Laughing Cat), I had underwhelming experiences with Blue Samurai and La Creperia down the street. One place that hasn't been mentioned is Big City Tavern above The Improv, more often than not, we're very happy, a little on the pricier side, food quality a few years ago may not have been great, but enjoyable when we've been.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tastetampabay

                        The Laughing Cat was closed at lunchtime when we were in Ybor City on a Saturday recently. Ended up at La Creperia for bland French onion soup and boring crepes with low-quality shredded chicken, artichokes, tomatoes, and a bright orange shredded processed cheese. I love crepes, and these were barely passable. The area was dead during the day, but seemed like the place to be in the evenings if you want to bar hop or smoke cigars.

                        1. re: tastetampabay

                          is there *any* good food at Tropicana? Not in my experience. I've eaten there quite a bit and I don't think any of their food is worth buying. What am I missing?

                          If I want a snack, I head to the Columbia for a bowl of soup and cuban toast for $5. Job done, and the Columbia's soup is whole lot better than Tropicana's.

                          I'm often embarrassed that people dismiss Tampa based upon one excperience at Tropicana. I'd much rather eat the food at La Teresita, and that's not sating much.

                        2. Carmines has great deviled crab, very reasonable price and nice atmosphere.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hamnhock

                            Carmine's is another Ybor restaurant that too often gets a free ride. I don't think the deviled crabs are much good, and I've never been impressed with their other food. What is worth eating? I've found their lunch portions to be skimpy and the food nothing special. It blows my mind that people pack in, let alone for the Tropicana down the street. Old timers with no taste buds left may like them fine, but I just can't do it.

                            If you want a devil crab, do yourself a big favor and go to Brocato's on 56th and Columbus just south of the nearby overpass, about 10 minutes away. There is no comparison whatsoever. Brocato's makes their crabs fresh all day long. Try a stuffed potato while you're at it. You'll laugh at the other bland, puny specimens around town. Of course, both must be drizzled egenerously with hot sauce for the full effect.

                          2. Andy, please let us know about the reworked Columbia Cuban sandwich when you learn about it - I can't imagine what they would change but I'm sure it will be for the better.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tony noriega

                              when I was interviewed about Cuban sandwiches a couple years ago, I passed over Tampa altogether and recommended the Museum Cafe in Homosassa. I stand by that choice as a great Cuban.

                              But my choice disappointed some friends at the Columbia. When i explained why the Columbia's didn't make the cut (too salty), they made some changes, getting different types of ham and salami, and began using the pork they make in house. The changes made a big difference, although Richard Gonzmart, the owner, is still searching for the exact kind of salami the Columbia used when he was a boy. The sandwich is definitely improved. I need to have

                            2. Roma Pizza in Ybor for great New York style pizza! Don't go for the service or ambiance, but for the pies. Also, dining at Columbia during lunch makes it a more affordable choice than dinner.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cheddarcheese32

                                I recently enjoyed El Puerto for lunch on a Saturday(during the monthly Art Walk)...VERY GOOD lunch, large portion, and clean and friendly service..its off the beaten path on 5th avenue...worth it!!!

                              2. I live in Ybor. I am a chef. I do not like to drive. I eat in this neighborhood a lot.
                                If you want something nice, I'd say go to Carmines on 7th or Bernini. They're both Italian, and I recommend them based more on atmosphere than anything else. Carmine's is quainter.
                                About four years ago my wife and I had one of the best meals of our lives together at The Laughing Cat and it has never come close since. There's still that glint of hope though and we still eat there regularly, don't get me wrong.
                                Samurai Blue is reliable in that urban high-ceilinged Asian-fusion cool kind of way and the ladies seem to really love it. A good place to accidentally get drunk on fancy cocktails and sake as well.
                                A good burger can be had at either Fresh Mouth or The Green Iguana. Green Iguana has the advantage of a liquor license and several other good menu items in the Floribbean vein. Both are very fairly priced.
                                The Columbia is the Columbia and it always will be. The salad with a number in its name, like 1851 or something, is a very nice salad. The food is always good and traditional and the house red sangria can be drunk in mass quantities.
                                Tropicana's Ok, but I'd just as soon hit one of several better spots on Columbus for a Latino lunch.
                                I used to love Mema's tacos. I mean I ate there like 2-3 times a week for several months. Awesome fish tacos. Not anymore. Something has changed. The protein all comes in this half-moon shaped patty. Too weird. Not OK. I was and still am seriously pissed. Jalapenos de Ybor however makes their own tortillas and well as all their fillings fresh daily and serves 2-4-1 beers. I had some potato flautas in red sauce there that were awesome. They close at 2pm though vs. Mema's 2am. So beggars can't be choosers.
                                There's so much pizza it's like a mine field. My favorites are New York New York and D'Italia.
                                You have to go to Cepha's and get the aloe drink with you jerk or curry. I'll say no more.
                                Street Car Charlie's operates a very gay-friendly space across the street from Laughing Cat. My wife and I recently walked passed a packed Sunday brunch there and while I've never been, I mean, c'mon, you know those guys are going to throw an awesome Sunday brunch.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: yeah yeah

                                  I have to add on here. I've said so much I can't leave out a couple of favorites.
                                  You have to go to Cepha's and have the aloe drink with your jerk or curry. I love the curried goat. Make sure to let him know if you like lots-a-peppa.
                                  There's also The Creperia on 7th for a great breakfast/lunch.
                                  One correction, I did not mean to recommend Carmine's above. I do not recommend Carmine's. I'm thinking of the tiny little Italian place next to Creperia.

                                  1. re: yeah yeah

                                    I was about to bust you on the Carmine's ; )

                                    1. re: rhnault

                                      me too about Carmine's. I just don't get it.

                                      My only quibble is with La Creperia. I ordered a couple things once, and the crepe that was supposed to have fresh fruit in it had lame jam. Many of the other fillings seemed to be much cheaper versions than advertised on the menu. Why pay for a nice crepe if you're just going to be served a cheap one? That was my first and last visit. That place seems to get by on the concept alone. If they serve anything great, tho, I'd like to know.

                                      Otherwise, the Ybor assessment seemed spot on. Never tried Mema's--- It always sounded like a gimmick.

                                      1. re: andy huse

                                        I enjoy their Romeo y Julieta - bananas, strawberries and nutella!

                                        1. re: andy huse

                                          Andy - it's so funny to see you hear, I googled the topic "best Cuban sandwich in Ybor City" prior to coming to Chowhound and read the Klinkenberg article. My husband and I live in Brooklyn but will be visiting my families home in Siesta Key next Wednesday. I was planning a trip up to Ybor City to surprise my husband with a terrific Cuban sandwich... So... Which would you pick if you could only have one - the Columbia or the Museum Cafe? Also - silly question, but I don't eat meat - I've eaten at the Columbia loads of times so I know they have other selections, how about the Museum Cafe? No big deal if they don't - I won't deprive my husband - just wondering! Thanks!!

                                          1. re: kmaduro

                                            The Columbia's newly revamped sandwich won't be ready for a couple more weeks. Believe me, I can't wait. Their present sandwich is quite good, definitely an improvement over their specimen of a couple years ago. The Museum Cafe's sandwich is still top-notch as well--- thye really get the pressing right there, too. But they have no meatless options that I know of.

                                          2. re: andy huse

                                            The just opened another La Creperia in Westchase I plan on checking out very soon.

                                    2. How is Ybor dining lately?

                                      andy? rhnault?

                                      I need to get back to El Puerto soon and might also need to give The Nest a second try.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: rikkikm

                                        I haven't been down for a while. My latest restaurant passion is in St Pete. Diner 437.

                                        1. re: rikkikm

                                          I live in Ybor and eat at El Puerto atleast twice a week, its fabulous! Try the Dulce Tres Leche, its not on the menu, just ask for it, heeeeaven...

                                          Have you tried Demmi's? It's a pizza place on 7th, delish greazy yet crispy pizza, yum.

                                          1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC

                                            Is that a caramel tres leches cake? If so, I am there!

                                              1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC

                                                I am reading their menu and drooling.... what are your favorite dishes there?

                                          2. re: rikkikm

                                            nothing new to report for me. I do want to try Puerto.

                                            I love El Molino/Nariera cafe/coffee mill, a cute front with a great coffee mill operation in the back. It is a wonderful piece of Ybor's history, and perfumes the air with roasting coffee. I wrote a piece about them in Cigar City magazine a few months ago.

                                            I also love La Segunda bakery for guava pastries, almond crescents, pecan pie, and so on. The Cuban bread is probably the best in town, possibly in the entire state. another irreplaceable piece of Tampa's living history.

                                            These two places, along with the Columbia (which i've had a fascination with for some time) are extremely important heritage sites in my opinion. They should all be destinations for any culinary tourist. I should become a tour guide and have a designated driver running the tram.

                                            1. re: rikkikm

                                              I'm out of town this week, but a neighbor -- who was also a fan of The Nest -- emailed me to say they had shut down suddenly. Really disheartening, as I thought the place had great potential.