Your family friendly Tampa visitor faves
We're spending a day in Tampa Jan 3 on our way to the airport from Siesta Key and we want a great visitor experience. I love Tampa and haven't been in years. We'd like to lunch/brunch somewhere in an interesting/scenic/"old Florida" neighborhood, like Ybor (but we've been there), and/or a local favorite like Cuban. We'll eat anything, from Hungarian to Japanese (but we have kids with us so no bar scene, sushi or high-end dining). Good scenery (like waterfront) and nearby attractions would be a real plus.
What do people think of Miramar, Columbia, Salt Rock Grille, Island Way Grille? Any possibilities there? Better suggestions? Thanks 'hounds -- I can't wait to see "your" Tampa.
I like the food both Salt Rock Grill and Island Way Grill (they are sister rest's). Salt Rock Grill is on one of the intercoastal's so you do see water but it's not on the beach. Salt Rock Grill is located near a marina - again you can see water if you're seated near a window but not beachfront. I have done the bruchn at Island Way and thought it was good for the price. Columbia food is okay but it is a Tampa/Ybor original and you have to go once in your life. I don't know Miramar. Towns such as Dunedin, Gulf Port and Safety Harbor will give you a quaint town like atmosphere. Gulf Port has several wonderful rest's but I don't know which one have brunch.
My favorite Cuban places are...
Las Margaritas - nothing fancy but good food; Arco Iris - both in Tampa
If you have the time, you might consider a drive up to Tarpon Springs. The Greek flavor of the sponge docks are unique to the area. Have lunch at Mykonos on Dodoconese (the main drag of the sponge docks), then walk about a block down the street for dessert and coffee at Hella's bakery (Hella's bakery is wonderful, but I don't really recommend the restaurant--it caters more to the tourist crowd, whereas I typically see a lot of locals at Mykonos).
Dunedin and Safety Harbor are also good suggestions. If the weather's nice (I think it's supposed to warm up by the weekend), the Whistle Stop Grill in Safety Harbor is a good bet. In Dunedin's downtown, Kelly's for Just About Anything has a nice patio space. Or again, if the weather's nice, get some of the best BBQ in the area at Eli's BBQ shack on Skinner close to Alt 19, right by the Pinellas Trail. The "dining room" is picnic benches underneath massive oak trees. Eli's is only open Fri and Sat from 12 - 6 or until they run out of food. If you do eat at Eli's, drive up Alt 19 homemade ice cream or carrot cake at Strachen's (it's by an RV park in Palm Harbor--look for the cow cut-outs up front). Yum!
BTW, I don't think that either Salt Rock or Island Way Grill are open for lunch, so you might want to check in advance if that's your preference. Island Way Grill's brunch is on Sundays only. If you want some seafood close to the beach, I really like Guppy's in Indian Rocks Beach, on Gulf Blvd., across the street from a public park with beach access. In fact, the lunch places we typically take out of town guests are Guppy's and the aforementioned Mykonos in Tarpon.
Finally, Gulfport is also a really neat community. I've never been there during the day, so I don't know what's open for lunch. If Backfin Blue serves lunch, I would highly recommend it.
It sounds as though your time will be limited. I think I'd recc Columbia. The place has been around forever. They have a children's menu and the food is very nice. As a child, I used to go to one on St Armand's Circle in Sarasota near Siesta, Lido and Longboat Keys. You will be well treated and if you tell them you are catching a flight, they will be sure to get you out in plenty of time. Added bonus: Rice is very 'settling' so if you choose a rice based dish, you shouldn't have any bathroom 'emergencies' on your flight
BTW...I think that that laurie's suggestion to dine in Tarpon Springs is a great one. Maybe on your next visit you can do the whole glass bottom boat/Greek food tour.
Whatever you decide to do, have a great meal and a safe flight!
Here's a link to check out Columbia's menu