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Oct 23, 2008 02:45 PM

Just moved to Tampa-- recommend some restaurants

Hi there!
My husband and I just moved to the Tampa Bay area (South Tampa to be exact). I love to explore and I'm eager to try some of the great food around here! (Within a 20-30 minute radius). I would appreciate any and all recommendations, but am especially interested in less expensive options for dinner (e.g., $20 or less per entre) and cheap places for lunch as well. And anything that is specially local to Tampa would be great too!
I look forward to seeing what you have to recommend!

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  1. I`m an expatriate, but lived there many years and get back fairly often, so have a few ideas for you. I advise you to search for posts from Andy Huse-he`s the Tampa food writer guy and up to date on all of it.

    Meanwhile, if you`re talking local trads, foodwise, you must have Cuban Sandwich and Devilled Crab. A nice convenient lunch place for both is Havana at Kennedy and Dale Mabry. They`ve been there forever, and do a decent job. Another Tampa institution, restaurant wise, is the Columbia in Ybor. Oldest restaurant probably in the state, but they aren`t nearly as good as the once were. Great for lunch though. Have the 190 something Salad and Spanish Bean soup. You won`t be disappointed. Not exactly south Tampa, but not too far.
    You`ll have to cruise Boliche Blvd for cuban also. All these places are inexpensive, and mostly very good for lunch or dinner, and are the absolute essence of old-time Tampa.
    Info here: You must read!

    And, as I said, search Andy Huse...

    1. Welcome to Tampa. I'm in South Tampa too. It's easy to find mediocre, overpriced restaurants here. More difficult to find good, neighborhood ones. Some good new restaurants on the scene: Abul Bunna Ethiopian @ 3644 W Kennedy 813-964-6889; Bamboozle Vietnamese, downtown @ 516 N. Tampa St. 813-223-7320 (lunch only); Smoke on Platt (also near downtown--go on Friday or Saturday for live music and good food. Tried and true Papas Greek on Bay to Bay (and other locations); Cappy's on Bay to Bay for great pizza. Galley Pizza on Westshore is also good. Acropolis in Ybor right on 7th Ave rocks, and you can find gift certificates for it at I like Estelas on Davis Island (or on S. DaleMabry) for Mexican, but other people will tell you it is awful; if you hate it, try Chipotle on Westshore, which although a chain is fresh, cheap, and good. Try Fly bar downtown for fabulous tapas, but wait for happy hour/late night because it is expensive otherwise ( Happy eating!

      1 Reply
      1. re: margarettampa

        Welcome! This board was pretty dead when I first started posting in 2000. These days, we have many great contributors and a lively exchange.

        finding reasonablly priced food in South Tampa is especially tough. Money changes everything. Moneyed places become too hip for their own good, and there isn't enough stability for greatness. Hounds from Miami Beach and Sarasota have complained loudly about this. The same appears to be true in downtown St. Pete. All this said, there is some decent food all over Tampa. I post and blog with regularity, in addition to my 9 to 5 and professional writing, so I'm usually too lazy to post every time someone has a general question. The powers that be don't like us to refer newcomers to the search feature, but I think it is only considerate to do a little research--- many of your answers are out there.

        I'll list a few faves or the big hounds will probably zap my message.

        Go to Bern's for the steak sandwich and a salad. Have the macadamia nut madness thing for dsessert if that sounds good to you. If You split the salad and dessert, the cost shoujld be about $40. A great deal. I like the rest of the food at Bern's, but I like the simple pleasures of eating at the bar.

        Antojitos for Colombian.
        Pho Quyen and Trang's for Vietnamese.
        Bombay Masala for Indian.
        Brocato's for deviled crabs, stuffed potatoes, and sandwiches as big as your head.
        The Columbia is good for lunch and dinner, tho the two experiences are much different. The dinner entrees are always cooked to order, whereas lunch can be mass produced. But I recommend both. Be sure to have the bread pudding, but be prepared to share. Their signature cocktails and premium sangria are pricey, but worth it in moderation.
        Ceviche, Spain, or Vizcaya for Tapas.
        China Yuan is my current favorite in the Chinese realm, but Yummy House and Chopstix are contenders (i plan on a 3-way review soon. Menage a Chinese, anyone?)

        For simple, casual and cheap Cuban food, go to Arco Iris or La teresita. AI is my current fave.

        There's a few faves to get you started. Be kind and post about your experiences when you can.

        For more in depth reviews, visit my blog at

        good luck and good eating. andy

      2. Thailand Restaurant
        5252 S Dale Mabry Hwy

        Do not go to the Thai restaurant in the strip next door.

        2 Replies
        1. re: aynrandgirl

          I could not disagree more strongly. Golden Orchid is far superior to Thailand. GO's food tastes fresh, for one thing: no canned sauces or frozen veggies, even the appetizers that are usually frozen and reheated at other places are freshly made at GO. Prices couldn't be more reasonable.

          1. re: Miss E

            I agree with you about Golden Orchid. I have been planning to post about it and haven't got around to it yet, but I have really enjoyed eating there on three or four different occasions. Not a big fan of Ayn Rand, either (not the poster here, the writer).

        2. WOW! Thanks for all the great suggestions! I can't wait to try them all out! We tried the Mediteranian restaurant-- Byblos-- the other day. It was pretty good and I loved the atmosphere, although my husband complained that they just gave us a big plate of meat and that was it. I thought the garlic paste that went with my kabobs was so wonderful-- I want to figure out how to make it myself! And the sesame/vinegar(?) dipping sauce for the flatbread was so different and good too!
          I'll post as we try out your suggestions! :)

          1. Ya gotta go to Miguels mexican on kennedy Blvd!
            th best and cheapest cuban is La Terisita on columbia blv, just east of the yankee training camp! been on the food channel as best in U.S. Beware the portions are large and VERY CHEAP! here is a review! just cut and paste it!
            There is the very best Itallian market i've seen since in NYC off dale mabry onto henderson towards gandy and about a mile and on the left. i forget the name but ya can't miss it. They have homemade sausages and hand cut meat and cheeses and deli meats and to go homemade italian dishes made fresh daily!

            3 Replies
            1. re: kidmd

              You're probably referring to Castellano & Pizzo. It is a good Italian market. I also go to the Cacciatore brothers store on Armenia, good sausage and meat case. But the best of all is in St. Pete--- Mazzaro's.

              I like the counter at La Teresita, but the food is better at Arco Iris, but I find most of the old school Cuban places are quite complacent and will never surprise you..

              1. re: andy huse

                yes! that is it castellano and pizzo! I forgot about the Cacciatore Bros. Is it still open?

                1. re: kidmd

                  Cacciatore is definitely still open. This is my go to place for Cuban sandwiches and deviled crabs. Sausage is good plus I can get chorizo stuffed eye round roasts to make Boliche with. They have many good soups made up also.