Foods Unique to Tampa Bay
I posted this (below) recently on my blog, but for the sake of posterity, I will post it here:
Grouper Sandwich. I wouldn’t consider the grouper sandwich a cutting edge creation, but it’s a Tampa Bay original nonetheless. It’s essentially a fish sandwich made with grilled, blackened or fried grouper and served on a bun with lettuce, tomato and tarter sauce. Frenchy’s in Clearwater claims to have the original grouper sandwich; created out of a necessity to use up a plethora of extra grouper caught while fishing. They put the fish on a bun and began serving it as a sandwich in their restaurant; the rest is history. The best place to enjoy a grouper sandwich is after a hot day at the beach; Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach and The Undertow on St. Pete Beach are a couple of my favorites.
Cuban Sandwich. Perhaps one of the most famous of the Tampa creations, the Cuban sandwich can now be found across the United States and at every corner lunch cafe and gas station in the Tampa Bay area. There is still debate as to whether or not the sandwich was indeed created in the area, but I enjoy the fact that there are people like Andy Huse, who take the sandwich VERY seriously. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a few lackluster Cuban sandwiches, but a well made pressed Cuban with pork, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on fresh Cuban bread can be a work of art.
Alaskan Tacos. Found only in Ybor City, an Alaskan taco is a twist on the traditional Tex-Mex crunchy shell taco. At Meme’s Alaskan Tacos, they deep-fry the shell and meat, then top with lettuce, tomato and cheese. They weren’t created in Tampa, but instead were a concept that the owner picked up from his grandmother, who created the taco while she lived in Alaska. Go ahead and try and find them outside of Tampa; you probably won’t. I’m not certain that I’d drive across town for an Alaskan taco, but they sure do make for a good street food while strolling around Ybor.
Beer. It surely wasn’t invented in the Sunshine State, but it’s nice to know that we can still enjoy a locally made brew. In Ybor city, sample home made beer at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Established in 1997, they are the only brewpub in Ybor that still brews their own beer. If you’re a little farther north, you can make a stop by the pub at the Dunedin Brewery where they produce several year round favorites as well as seasonal brews like the Oktoberfest or the Christmas Farm Ale. Or pick up a six-pack at your local liquor store and enjoy at home or have a pint at a local tavern.
Honorable Mention: Bang Bang Shrimp, the Bloomin’ Onion and Hooters Wings. Ok, so these three dishes are synonymous with chain restaurants and Anytown, USA, but they were all created and popularized right here in the Bay area. I admit that I can’t step foot in Bonefish grill without the intention of ordering Bang Bang shrimp; fried shrimp coated in a spicy mayonnaise based sauce. I can’t get enough. And there are few indulgences more satisfying than sitting at the bar in Outback Steakhouse and having a deep fried onion and a couple of cold beers. I love Hooters wings but I still keep that quiet from my good friends from Buffalo. Since they’re breaded, they are more like the distant cousin of the famous Buffalo Wing. I’ve enjoyed them since I was a kid and still patronize Hooter’s to this day. Thank you Clearwater!
You can see the full post at www.TampaBayEats.com