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On vacation in the Tampa Area

Hi everyone,

My wife and I are comming to Tampa for our 15th Anniversary (leaving the 3 kids at home!!)
I'm looking for a nice place to take her for our anniverary dinner. As well as neat places to eat that are NOT chains! We want to get the local flavors.. We have a rental car, so driving isn't a problem. We are going to be there for 9 (Hopefully wonderful) days.

So breakfast... lunch... and dinner... Let me know where you guys eat!


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  1. Mise en place for one of the dinners, definitely. They have a website. I would go to Bern's Steakhouse for one of the dinners as well. It is an institution, and deservedly so. Perhaps best wine list in the US, and that is not an exageration. Ask to tour the kitchen and wine cellar. Prime dry aged beef, expertly prepared. And one Spanish place, but the locals can tell you better than I. (I don't live there but go often on business and love the restaurant scene there)

    3 Replies
    1. re: steakman55

      Thanks steakman55 I've been reading on the board the good and bad about Bern's....
      sounds like you love it or hate it :( Although everyone agrees that the dessert room is the best.. I will put Mise on our list.

      1. re: Conanoe

        Well, I do live here, and have been hearing more and more mediocre-to-bad reviews of Bern's steak--what they're famous for, after all. We prefer Sidebern's--modern decor and menu, elegant but not stuffy. The bar is a true South Tampa scene.

        1. re: Miss E

          I live in SoFla and head to Tampa several times a year, and Sideberns is always one of my dinners when in town. It's my fave Tampa restaurant. The menu is everchanging, creative and well executed. Berns is an institution; but I think there are other better restaurants around if you're in the mood for a steak that won't disappoint. I was never a big fan of Mise en Place. To me, they try hard; but never measure up to a fine dining experience; always seeming to fall just a bit short. The last few times I've been up there, Armani's was also a good choice; although a bit on the pricey side for what's delivered imho. The food was delicious and it's pretty looking out at the city at night. You should do a search on this board as there are several threads addressing your needs.

    2. I highly recommend Pelagia Trattoria at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel located at International Plaza. We were there for Valentine's Day and the food was amazing. I recommend Caesar Fondue, Stuffed olives, white chocolate cheedscake and the best duck I have ever had! We usually do Armani's for special occasions but not anymore.

      1. I would also recommend Roy's (on Boy Scout Blvd, near International Plaza), we just had an excellent meal there. The menu included sushi (traditional and decidedly not), creative appetizers, 7-8 kinds of fish, filet mignon, short ribs...they call themselves Hawaiian fusion, if that helps. Oh, and the cocktails are to die for! Service is elegant but friendly--all in all, a fine operation. (Yes, I know it's a chain, a small one--so what?)

        12 Replies
        1. re: Miss E

          Thanks everyone!

          There sure are a lot of choices in Tampa!!! I may gain 10 lbs )
          How about breakfast? And isn't there a Hotdog stand some where? I thought I remember seeing it of food network.

          1. re: Conanoe

            Dairy Joy (3813 S Manhattan Ave, Tampa) has good dogs. If they've finished rebuilding after their fire, Chicago Grill & Dog House (7733 Ulmerton Rd, Largo) is also good. Not specific to Tampa, Costco has good hot dogs.

            1. re: aynrandgirl

              Chicago grill & Dog house is currently under reconstruction not sure when they are reopening.

            2. re: Conanoe

              I think there was Mel's Red Hots near Busch Gardens...Not sure if still there (I live in Tallahassee)

              1. re: steakman55

                definitely still there....and the best hot dogs around.

                1. re: steakman55

                  O cool!! We are going to Busch one day So we will have to stop there and get a dog and some rings!! YUMM

                  1. re: Conanoe

                    just be prepared to spend for those hot dogs. Every time i go there i spend $10 for a hot dog basket.

                2. re: Conanoe

                  First Watch is good for breakfast. There is a downtown location.

                  If you're looking for a casual night, i recommend Cappys pizza. parking is painful and they don't take credit cars, but it's worth any hassle!

                  1. re: travelnfood

                    Is Cappy's the one in Seminole heights?

                    1. re: rhnault

                      I haven't been to that one yet. I've only been to the one on Bay to Bay.

                    2. re: travelnfood

                      >>First Watch is good for breakfast. There is a downtown location. <,

                      Tampa or St Petes.


                3. It is not a sit down restaurant but go to Cacciatore and Sons on n. Armenia in Tampa. They make the best deviled crabs in the whole Tampa area. This is a must if you want to try some good indigenous(sp?) food.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RibDog


                    I've added those to the list....

                    I see that there is a Giordanos Pizza in Tampa! I had that in Chicago and it was the BEST deep dish I have ever had!! Has anyone eaten there? If not I would highly recomend giving it a try it you like deep dish. They have a full menu, but I have never had anything else.

                    1. re: Conanoe

                      yes, very good. i'm not a fan of deep dish at all, having tried several in chicago on my first trip there. But Giordanos is excellent.

                  2. I'm not a Bern's fan. But just up the street is 717S.

                    Eclectic mix of Italian and Pacific Rim food. We've been there many times, and we keep going back. Love the food and the atmosphere. Noisy, active, good service. You may want to go down the street to Berns for dessert though. The desert "room" is in a separate part of the restaurant. Great desserts.
                    We love Roy's, although "technically" it's part of a chain, it really isn't.


                    1. you cant miss mels hot dogs. it is the best. as for breakfast, i rec. lennys on u.s. 19 in clearwater. this place is amazing. there also is a place in largo called yannis, which boasts the best french toast in town. i have tried it and agree. if you want some no frills florida seafood, try crabby bills. there is one location in tampa, but the location on indian rocks beach is by far the best. frenchies, on clearwater beach is also great for casual seafood. if you are looking for a nicer rest., i would rec. salt rock grill or island way grill.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: kyle798

                        No offense, but I would not recommend Crabby Bill's to anyone....stay far away. Especially the Tampa one. It's just nasty. The only thing I would do there is have some drinks and look at the view.

                        1. re: rhnault

                          I must chime in--- Crabby Bill's is everything i hate about tourist traps.

                          1. re: rhnault

                            ditto on staying away from Crabby Bills in Tampa. Probably the single worst food (can hardly call it dining) experience I've ever had.

                            1. re: travelnfood

                              Looks like the Tampa Crabby Bill's is going to be history anyway when they tear down the Ramada and make way for the new Ritz ; )

                                1. re: travelnfood

                                  Thanks to everyone who posted! I'm going to like this board!
                                  Only 14 days until I'm on that Jet Plane!! Wohoo

                                  Is there free wifi there? The house we have does not have internet (

                            2. re: rhnault

                              Agree completely about Crabby Bill's.

                              1. re: debbed

                                NOTE TO SELF....... Stay away from Crappy Bill's.... O wait that's CRABBY... O nver mind one in the same I guess ;)

                          2. It would help if we knew kinda where you are staying, since a visit to "Tampa" could mean anything in a 2 county area, BUT if you are in the north Pinellas area in the a.m., the I highly recommend the East Lake Cafe for very wonderful breakfasts. You can get regulars, like eggs and omelets, plus more elegant things like homemade muffins,stuffed waffles and parfaits, etc. The service is excellent and the owners have really created a very nice dining experience which is not a diner but rather a breakfast restaurant. The quality is always excellent and the prices are very reasonable. Plus, you can eat outside or inside. .

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wishbugger

                              hey there wishbugger, thanks for that We are staying in Indian Rocks Beach. But will drive for good food :)

                            2. Well, since you are staying at Indian Rocks, be sure to try La Cachette, a terrific French provincial restaurant. It's reservations only - the menu changes and they buy according to how many people are coming - and inside is a bit formal and stuffy for my taste (since I'm usually in a casual beach mood) but the outdoor area is more casual but still elegant; it's byob, so you can save a lot of money by toting your own wine (no corkage fee!). Another hugely popular place nearby, always making the top 10 restaurant lists, is Salt Rock Grill. It's a very lively, bustling place with an open grill and terrific steaks and seafood, though there have been some complaints on this board recently that it's not as good as it used to be. Also worth checking out is Marlin Darlin' in nearby Bellair Bluffs, owned by the same guy, Frank Chivas, who owns Salt Rock Grill (and the Island Way Grill in Clearwater, another worthy place). And one place you HAVE to go to at Indian Rocks is Lighthouse Donuts; get there early or the line can snake out the door and they often run out. They have breakfast sandwiches and good coffee but the donuts are the real draw. One regular in line recently said, these aren't donuts they're pastry and she was right! One final suggestion at the beach: Guppy's. They had the best raw oysters i've had in a long time and very resonably priced ($8 a dozen, I think). That's all I tried but the rest of the menu (and the plates going to other tables) looked great (and better than most of the tourist traps you'll encounter at the beach). The original Crabby Bill's is in Indian Rocks and I have to agree, it's not worth it unless you're in the mood for casual (picnic tables and paper towles) inexpensive food; it's not worth waiting for and the line can be really long for some mysterious reason. BTW, the drive can be pretty daunting from Indian Rocks Beach to Tampa, particuarly during rush hour. Once I get to the beach I have a hard time getting back in my car! So if you want to stay along the Beach, try the Pearl on Treasure Island or the Gulf Bistro in Madeira Beach. Lots to choose from. Enjoy!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Bergerman

                                Thanks Bergerman!
                                We are going to be there for nine days! So I will have plenty of beach time. And I love to drive, so we are going to be all over the place looking at shops and stuff

                                1. re: Conanoe

                                  I don't know why so few people miss recommending one of our really great local restaurants for out of towners, but you really should try Lee Roy Selmon's. The food is always so very good; sort of all-american, country type food in a very nice atmosphere. Just an excellent restaurant all around. The original is in Tampa, by Fleming's and Roys. The newer one is in Largo, much closer to where your will be. You will love the food; guaranteed.

                                  Since you are on the beach, you might want to try Dockside Dave's. After many great rec's on this website, I finally went there for a grouper sandwich and really loved the place. Don't miss the onion rings. Very good seafood, and a consistent Chowhound favorite in this area.

                                  Don't Miss doing a meal at Ted Peters.

                                  1. re: wishbugger

                                    I love Lee Roy Selmon's. My favorites are the fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, and their caesar salad. My husband loves it because they will cook a burger rare or MR there!

                                    1. re: rhnault

                                      I like it too and think it's actually underrated. The pork nachos and quesedillas are very good. and the chocolate cake is amazing. There's a cornbread 'something' that i don't believe is on the menu...but that we had at a catered event that was very good.

                                      1. re: travelnfood

                                        MAN!! I going to gain 20 lbs with all of these great places.

                                        I looked this place up and there is one right by the airport. We may stop there for lunch when we fly in.

                                        Again thanks to everyone! You will make our trip a lot better :) Only 8 more days to go!!

                              2. A great Spanish restaurant - NOT Cuban; there is no yellow rice to be found - in Tampa is Vizcaya on N Dale Mabry. Phenomenal seafood. It's small and fills up fast, so go early or late.

                                I agree w/some of the others - you can find better steak besides Bern's. Although Fleming's is a chain, their steak IMO is better. The whole dining experience there is tops. Unlike Bern's, you can people-watch and be entertained as well. Last time I was there, one of the managers was an ex-Buccaneer, which caused a bit of a double-take.

                                The Tampa Giordano's isn't open yet; looks like they're about 4-6 weeks from that. They gutted an old Hops and just laid brick last week. The Brandon one, however, is open and thriving. Cappy's is great for Chicago-style pie too.

                                1. I read this and other threads before my wife and I visited Tampa (from Gainesville) a few weeks ago during the Olympic soccer qualifiers at Raymond James, and wanted to thank everyone for good recommendations!

                                  We enjoyed the little Korean restaurant south of RayJay, near the overpass (Sa Ri One?). Really liked the breakfast and atmosphere of La Teresita, though did have one disappointing late dinner (partially reheated bubble-gum pink chicken in partially reheated rice--but we kept going back. Loved their setup, and seeing little old blue-haired retirees next to tattooed and pierced scary guys, behind business people, young couples, groups of friends, families, black, white, hispanic. It was like Tampa in a bottle, and everyone having coffee and cuban bread for breakfast, Taconazo had good food and friendly waitresses, and great salsa verde (brought two bottles home).

                                  T.C Choy's had excellent dimsum, and we were prepared for the price, but they (check your bill!) overcharged us by one order. Eating dimsum, it's very easy to lose track of how many dishes you get. We had to persuade them to check the bill, and to their credit, they admitted fault. However, afterwards we were disappointed that we didn't get something like an further discount, and it's not because we're greedy. In Korea, where my wife is from, an accidental overcharge would automatically result in an apologetic discount. From my visits there, Korean restaurant service is generally on a level higher than American service: lightning fast, food freshly made, piping hot, super attentive staff, and restaurants frequently give you a little bonus dish to cultivate customers. When you walk in, the entire staff looks up smiling and calls out in Korean, "Welcome!" And no tipping! The idea is good service brings the customer back. From my (American?) point of view, if a restaurant overcharges, it is only just that something more than removing the overcharge be done. Otherwise, why not try and overcharge if there is no penalty? I guess that's why I'm fixating on T.C. Choy's overcharge: this bad press is their penalty. If they had exceeded my expectations on the overcharge, I'd be singing their praises.

                                  But I just wanted to thank the Tampa chowhounds for their recommendations, because it made the biggest difference to have good places to eat!