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Tampa for 3 days - What are the best places to eat? Best places to see?

Title says it all. We are willing to drive within an hour for food from Tampa and are looking for some delicious food. It doesn't have to be fine dining, but the food and chef have to be awesome! Price is not an issue.

We are also looking for sunset cruises or other different things to do for the 3 day weekend.

Thanks!

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  1. Bern's is the best steakhouse in the US. Dry aged prime beef, and the largest wine cellar in the US with great prices. If you like steak or wine, or better yet, both, you should go by all means.

    1. Agree that you shouldn't miss Bern's. Pane Rustica is the best restaurant in Tampa, IMO, great for lunch, even better for dinner.

      1. Last night I had one of the best meals I have had in years at Massimo's in Palm Harbor. It is about a 25 minute drive from my house in Tampa. Massimo was the chef at Armani's at the Grand Hyatt for years but opened up his own restaurant several years ago. I now wish it had not taken me so long to go try this restaurant!

        http://www.massimosrestaurant.com/ind...

        11 Replies
        1. re: rhnault

          nice menu. those appetizers have me salivating. i've never noticed the place, where is it in Palm Harbor? between what streets? on the east or west side of 19? (i'm from NY, i'm used to the old "on 30th St between 1st and 2nd"; lol, that's how we nail down a location)

          1. re: Manderley

            If you are headed West on Tampa Rd you turn left on 19 and it is about .3 down on the right in the same plaza as Outback. We had the pate and the Mozzarella Napoleon, and lobster bisque for apps. I had the batutta di vitello and my husband had the veal ossobucco special for entrees. For dessert he had the chocolate raspberry cake and I had a new ice cream creation that was made with zabaglione and dried fruit and nuts. Everything was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. Fantastic service as well.

            1. re: rhnault

              thanks, rhnault! will definitely check it out asap. mmmmm zabaglione, haven't had that in ages...there goes the diet, out the window!

              1. re: Manderley

                We went Friday night and I don't think I was hungry again until about 3 yesterday ;-)

              2. re: rhnault

                Our 16th wedding anniversary is coming up this weekend...
                It's gonna be Massimo's (one nite) after reading this....
                Can't wait.

                1. re: Mild Bill

                  We had a fantastic waiter. His name is Bertrand and he is French. Apparently he worked at the space prior when it was a French restaurant and stayed on when Mossimo and his wife opened their restaurant . When you make your reservation, request him.

                  1. re: rhnault

                    Thanks for all of the responses. Berns looks amazing. I am thinking maybe we will go there just for the dessert room though. I think we are definately going to go to Massimo's.
                    Anyone been to Billy's Stone Crab or Gallaghers Steak house?

                    What about some great breakfast spots?

                    1. re: taz123

                      you'll love the dessert rooom but you might have to wait. they give first seating to those who have dinner there. i don't know if you can make a reservation just for the dessert room.

                      brunch hands down is "Kelly's For Just About Everything" in Dunedin.

                      1. re: taz123

                        Gallaghers Steakhouse is mediocre at best, i would definitely refrain from there.

                        Also, what area are you staying in Tampa and I will guide you to best breakfast...

                      2. re: rhnault

                        Reservations are made for tomorrow night.... Weees Bertrand...

                        1. re: Mild Bill

                          I am excited for your review. Happy Anniversary!

              3. if you like authentic chinese, don't miss China Yuan. it's on Armenia in Tampa. Go early for the dim sum. okay now my mouth is watering.

                i'm sure there are great sunset cruises in st pete and in clearwater; i've only done the ones in tarpon springs, and my favorite is Sun Line Cruises. nice, small, relaxing, beer or wine, listening to reggae, watching the dolphins play as the sun sets, really nice.

                if you like sushi, Mike's Sushi & Sake in Palm Harbor is incredible.

                if you do go to Bern's steakhouse, don't miss the dessert room upstairs. their cappuccino is so fantastic it will make you scream out loud. seriously. coffee beans roasted in kahlua, if i remember correctly...just blew my mind totally. :)

                1. for the cruise part, i took a sightseeing cruise on starship a few years ago. I opted out of the meal and just took the cruise for $15. It is a great way to go for several reasons. First, you get to skip the meal and have something better in the city. second, we had the entire upper deck to ourselves while everyone else ate downstairs. it was really nice to have the deck to ourselves for 30 minutes or so. we toured tampa bay for a while, probably between two and three hours. very pleasant on a good weather day.

                  for dining in Tampa, the recs here have all been solid. I especially agree about Pane Rustica, China Yuan, and Bern's is a trip. you could go just for dessert and drinks if you wanted. get the tour.

                  i'm also a big fan of Brocato's for monster sandwiches (Italian sub, meatball, roast pork are faves), awesome deviled crabs, onion rings, stuffed potatoes with boliche, and the salads are good, too. don't miss the sweet tea and the sweet, very short lady who fills it. go for a big lunch that screams Tampa.

                  another great lunch option is the Columbia. my faves are the Cuban sandwich (better than ever!), 1905 salad, and spanish bean soup. the caldo gallego is also nice--- and rich. for entrees, i love the snapper adelita with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and heart of palm. wonderful. they also make dependable mojitos, and the premium sangria is excellent (not the lower priced stuff). the spanish wine list is very impressive. even the mango daiquiri is winner, and that isn't normally my thing. the restaurant itself is worth seeing. ask for a tour. the restaurant is massive, expanded over the course of century. it is undoubtedly Florida's oldest family ruin-restaurant. disclaimer: i've written about the place quite a bit. processed the family's archives, and am generally in love with Tampa's history. for dinner, I avoid the paella and go for any fish or the filet mignon chacho, flambeed in bourbon. lunch or dinner special are often quite good.

                  stop by la segunda bakery on the outskirts of Ybor if you're there in the morning or afternoon. excellent cuban bread, pastries, and sweets. the almond crescents are divine, as is anything with guava. the pecan pie is also very good. get some treats to take back to your room.

                  go to El Molino cafe/Naviera coffee mill for some good java in Ybor.

                  osteria natalina is a quaint, lovely dining spot for great italian food, a relaxed atmosphere, and an owner who is ready to please. I found it affordable and simple, with exquisite food. dinner only, all entrees underr $15 or so. reasonable and consistent.

                  besides Columbia and bern's, for sightseeing, Tampa Theatre is also very impressive.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: andy huse

                    I just went to theYbor City location of Columbia a month ago for lunch and was very pleased with my meal. Not only the quality of the food but the ambiance of the eating establishment and all. This is old-style Tampa eating. If you go for lunch there, I stronly recommend eating in the bar. Wonderful windows to watch all the goings-on, the beautiful bar, etc...

                    1. re: andy huse

                      i know it was a slip-of-the-fingers typo, but "family-ruin" restaurant tickled my funny bone. i totally agree about Columbia's sangria...it was over a year ago, but i still remember...it was white, with sparkling wine, a kind of spanish champagne. i found the recipe on their website and made up a batch myself at home. Lip-lickin' good.

                      1. re: Manderley

                        It was probably Spanish Cava as that is Spain's sparkling wine. It is produced in the champagne style and is named after the caves where it is produced.

                        1. re: RibDog

                          you're right, RibDog. It was truly divine. :)

                        2. re: Manderley

                          Their tableside mojitos are awesome as well. I am planning a trip there soon as I really want to try the re-worked classic Cuban.

                      2. I agree w Pane Rustica however I think they are the best for lunch, more of a selection of delish s/wiches, pizza, the Rustica Salad, and more deserts(Espresso cookie=heavenly).
                        Don't forget about beautiful Bayshore, you can always park right by the Pirate Ship and stroll down the sidewalk, go early or later in the evening for dolphins and if your lucky a manatee:)

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC

                          where is Bayshore, TamapNative? Is it a restaurant or an area? Living in Tampa Bay for 3 years, still don't know my way around. I do, however, know Manhattan like the back of my hand! (love your name)

                          1. re: Manderley

                            Are you coming this weekend? If so, its "Museum" weekend, meaning admission to almost all of the local museums is free. Check out the Tampa Bay History Museum and eat at the Columbia Cafe/Cafe Dufrain/Jackson's afterwards.

                            1. re: kentski

                              i recommend going to the Columbia in Ybor rather than the cafe. take the streetcar from the history center/aquarium. You can hear my voice among the exhibits at the history center. talking about food... i was shocked first time i heard it.

                              Bayshore is an upscale waterfront street in Tampa. it sometimes smells like sludge and is a pretty deadly stretch of road for pedestrians.

                                1. re: andy huse

                                  Quite honestly, I can't believe anyone recommends Columbia for food. The restaurant is beautiful but the food is not awesome--just average.

                                  1. re: JJASF

                                    Have you eaten there recently?

                                    1. re: rhnault

                                      I'm a regular. I love the food from Spain--the country not the restaurant. The chef is really talented. He is basque (which is the northern part of Spain which is known for having the best food in the world) and he's creative with traditional dishes as well as other dishes. His food is really just like eating in Spain. I really think it should get a lot more recommendations than other places like Ceviche and Columbia that are really all show not quality food.

                                      1. re: JJASF

                                        I was asking if you had been to Columbia lately because you said you can't believe people recommend it.

                                        Whose food and which chef are you recommending in this post? Where are you a regular?

                                        1. re: rhnault

                                          I was not recommending Columbia. I was talking about Vizcaya. The chef there is unbelievable

                                          1. re: rhnault

                                            I really screwed up my post! I'm a regular at VIZCAYA.
                                            I get a little irritated when Columbia and Ceviche are recommended so often for Spanish food.
                                            Columbia is beautiful to look at but the food is like a cuban cafeteria. It is NOT Spanish.
                                            Ceviche is chain now and I would say the food is substandard at best.
                                            When I say I love Spain I mean the country not the restaurant.
                                            The most authentic Spanish food that tastes like you are in Spain is Vizcaya restaurant in Carrollwood. It's not the cool place to hang out or a tourist attraction---its a cozy little restaurant in a suburban neighborhood.

                                            As I said before the chef is Basque and they are known for having some of the best food in the world. He's very creative with traditional dishes. This place or the chef just doesn't get enough publicity!!

                                            1. re: JJASF

                                              The thing to understand about the Columbia is that it is really two restaurants. For lunch, it is based on value and volume. For dinner, it is based upon higher expectations, with everything made to order.

                                              The chef there admits that the Columbia serves its own style of food, which reflects Tampa's heritage. All the famous Tampa dishes (Spanish Bean soup, devil crab, Cuban sandwich, crab enchilado/Chilau) are adaptations of Cuban, Spanish and Italian dishes. Tampa has had its own take on fusion cuisine of a century or more.

                                              Vizcaya is undoubtedly a more authentic Spanish kitchen, and I would recommend it. The Columbia reflects an entirely different heritage, but is no less "authentic" in that regard. I think this is an important point to consider.

                                              Ceviche is okay, but i find it expensive, at least with my appetite. Years ago, I had dynamite meals at the St. Pete location, but my meals in Tampa weren't as good.

                                              Disclaimer: I wrote the Columbia's new history book, but i have been a Chowhound for a long time.

                                              1. re: JJASF

                                                I am a fan of Vizcaya and have been several times. I would quickly choose it over Ceviche any day of the week.

                                            2. re: JJASF

                                              I agree that Ceviche is mediocre, although you shouldn't underestimate the appeal of a pretty terrace, but comparing Spain to Columbia is comparing apples and oranges. OK, maybe apples and pears. I love Spain, recommend it all the time. It's a different cuisine, though. That said, I do wish Columbia showcased fresher food. Is it their size (huge) that does them in on that front?

                                    2. re: Manderley

                                      Thanks for explaining Miss E.
                                      Ask anyone to point you in the direction of Bayshore. It's near downtown and the convention center, its a 4.5 mile long sidewalk(the longest continuous sidewalk in the US) and will give you a great scenic walk on the bay and views of beautiful old homes. Soho is a short walk/drive away and you will find a lot of places to eat and nightlife.

                                      1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC

                                        thanks all, will have to check it out. honey says he knows where the convention center is. i'm clueless, can't find Publix without my GPS. (LOL i have all my fave restaurants saved in my GPS)

                                  2. Try Vizcaya restaurant in Carrollwood. It is authentic Spanish food from Spain not Cuba. Many restaurants here call themselves Spanish and are actually Cuban or Latin American food. Their seafood and tapas are really great and unique. I think it is a great buy also for the quality.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: JJASF

                                      I always forget about Vizcaya! I havnt been in years, im glad to hear its still good. They had the best champagne sangria(topped with fresh peaches!)

                                      1. re: TampaNativeThatLovesNYC

                                        Vizcaya is amazing! I always forget to recommend it more. I wish it wasn't so far away from me. It is truly the closest thing to food from Spain that you can get in Tampa. The chef Felix is a buddy of mine, and is truly a genius. His pulpo (baked octopus) with the red sauce and potatoes was the best I've had, he marinates it overnight and it becomes the most tender octopus you'll ever eat. I am now drooling by the way.

                                        1. re: askdrtodd

                                          I LOVE the octopus ---Pulpo Gallego. The cold octopus is also amazing!