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Someplace good in Tampa near Performing Arts Center or airport?

My girlfriend and I have tickets to see Wicked at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this Friday night, and we're staying the night at a hotel she booked near the Tampa Airport. As such, I come seeking early dinner recommendations near the airport (preferable) or the TBPAC, with the caveat that I don't know my way around Tampa very well at all. I already looked at the website for that Channelside mall complex, but nothing there looked too exciting.

I also know Gasparilla is this weekend, and we'd rather not get caught up in horrible traffic, crowds, or craziness. Neither of us will be drinking, so we don't care about bars. We're open to almost any kind of food except Indian (she doesn't like it) or Vietnamese (we get it all the time in Orlando), and we'd prefer local places to chains. Is there an iconic Tampa barbecue place nearby? Amazing burgers? Cuban that would impress the hell out of this Miami boy? Italian that isn't too foo-foo fancy? Nothing overly fancy or expensive, please, since we're just students right now, and the play tickets and a night in a hotel are a bit of a splurge for us.

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  1. BBQ -- Kojak's is kind of fun, it's been there for years in an old house on Gandy Blvd (the Q officianados can't make up their mind it they like it or not); it's at the southern end of Bayshore so it's easy to get to and then an easy drive down bayshore into downtown for your show;
    Italian that isn't too fancy nor pricey would be Vino Y Pasta on Gandy Blvd;
    Best Cuban in Tampa would likely be Las Margaritas, north of the airport on Hillsborough just west of Dale Mabry; on Columbus Drive (our calle ocho) is La Teresita, lots of atmosphere, food marginal; another local cuban on Columbus is Arco Iris -- but I think Las Margaritas is better than either of these.

    Gasparilla was a month ago. Rest easy.

    1. The Gasparilla Art Festival is this Saturday and Sunday afternoons downtown. Near the airport check out Selmons for great Southern Style/BBQ, or Pelagia Trattoria in International Plaza Rennaisance Hotel.

      Downtown I would suggest trying Fly on Franklin Ave downtown for small plates in a groovy atmosphere, or SPAIN on Tampa Street for great Spanish/Cuban.

      1. I agree with the recommendation for Fly. It's funky and the food is pretty good.
        Link: www.flybarandrestaurant.com

        Higher end dining near the TBPAC is Mise En Place. Pretty good food, but I haven't had much luck with the duck there. Definitely get a reservation here!
        Link: www.miseonline.com

        Near the airport is stuff like Armani's (Italian) or Oystercatchers (Seafood)-also higher end/expensive. Again, get reservations!
        Links: www.armanisrestaurant.com or www.oystercatchersrestaurant.com

        For something casual, Bahama Breeze, Crabby Bill's and Landry's are near the airport also, just before hitting the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

        Bahama Breeze Link: http://direct.where2getit.com/cwc/app...

        Crabby Bills Link: http://www.crabbybills.com/

        Landry's Link: http://www.landrysrestaurants.com/pag...

        If you reconsider the Channelside route a new place is opening there this week called Gallagher's. Apparently, it's quite popular in NYC and supposed to be a very good steak place. We're not big Channelside people, but we're "branching out" and trying it this Friday night.

        Here's the NYC link-I am not sure if they have a site for Tampa yet: http://www.gallaghersnysteakhouse.com/

        Also, Grille29 in Channelside isn't so bad.
        www.grille29.com

        Not a fan of Kojak's at all. Very let down and the food wasn't fresh BBQ. It seemed they just served up whatever they had sitting under a warmer and ready to go. Much prefer Jimbo's on Kennedy-actually closer to the TBPAC too.

        Kojak's Link: www.kojaksbbq.com

        Jimbo's Link: www.jimbospitbarbq.com

        Have fun at Wicked!

        1 Reply
        1. re: HeatherFL

          agreed about kojak's went once soon after I moved to Tampa, never again. Jimbo's is better - I know some people aren't fans- but I think the bbq and sides are solid. Firstchoice in Brandon the best local bbq place IMO.

          as for mise en place and grille 29, I think they're both students so unless you're offering to sponsor their dining experience for the evening ;)

        2. Beg to differ but I disagree with Fly. Its too expensive. He's a student, he says, and they're already springing for the theatre. At Fly, they will charge you $2 extra for the bread. That is low.

          Spain is a good call. And right downtown.

          1. Thanks to all of you so far. Spain sounds like an option, but I'm loving the sound of Las Margaritas. What about the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City? How far will we be from there, and more importantly, how affordable is it? Would we need reservations, fancy dress, a loan, etc.?