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Jun 2, 2010 04:28 AM

DOWNTOWN TAMPA DINING GUIDE (Includes Ybor City, Harbour Island, and Channelside)

Following YosemiteSam's outstanding post for Orlando dining, I've tried to put together a list of restaurants in the downtown Tampa area, separated by my experiences with them rather than by food type or occasion type. Like YosemiteSam, I've tried to avoid chain restaurants (though we have very few down in this area); putting together the list, I'm also surprised by the choices that we have in this area. I'd love to include the Hyde Park area restaurants (like Bern's, Sidebern's, Datz, Wine Exchange, etc.), but I feel that's a whole new list as there are so many terrific choices. I also tried to make the average grade a "C", meaning those restaurants are absolutely fine but nothing spectacular.

Here's my take:

A – I’d Eat Here No Matter What City This Restaurant Was In

Café Dufrain (Eclectic) – Harbour Island
Columbia (Spanish) – Ybor City
Mise En Place (Eclectic) – Downtown
Smoke (Barbeque) – Downtown

B – Very Good; You Can’t Go Wrong

Acropolis (Greek) – Ybor City
Algusto’s (Mexican) - Downtown
Bamboozle (Vietnamese) – Downtown
Bin 27 Bistro (Eclectic) – Downtown
Buddha Lounge (Asian) – Ybor City
Cafe Hey (Vegetarian) - Downtown
Carmine’s (Cuban/Italian) – Ybor City
Columbia Café (Spanish) - Channelside
El Puerto (Argentinian) – Ybor City
Five Guys Burgers (American) – Downtown
Fly (Eclectic) – Downtown
Grass Root (Vegetarian) - Downtown
IKEA Cafeteria (Swedish) – Ybor City
Jackson Street Bistro (American) – Downtown
Jerk Hut (Jamaican) – Downtown
La Terrazza (Italian) – Ybor City
Laughing Cat (Italian) – Ybor City
L’Eden (French) - Downtown
Malio’s (Steakhouse) – Downtown
Paninotecca (Mediterranean) – Downtown
Pizzaiolo Bavaro (Italian) - Downtown
Samurai Blue (Sushi) – Ybor City
Shrimp and Company (Seafood) - Ybor City
Spain (Spanish) - Downtown
Splitsville (Eclectic) – Channelside
The Stone Soup Company (Soup) – Ybor City
Tampa Bay Brewing Company (American) – Ybor City

C – Good Solid Food; Nothing Special

Bernini’s (Italian) – Ybor City
The Bungalow (Eclectic) – Downtown
Café DeSoto (Eclectic) - Downtown
Eddie and Sam’s NY Pizza (Pizza) - Downtown
Famous Al’s Barbeque (Barbeque) – Ybor City
Fresh Mouth (Burgers) – Ybor City
Fresh Watch (American) - Downtown
Gallagher’s (Steakhouse) – Channelside
Gilligan’s (American) – Downtown
Green Iguana (American) – Ybor City
Hattricks (Sandwiches) – Downtown
Hamburger Mary’s (American) – Ybor City
Indigo Coffee (Sandwiches) - Downtown
Jackson’s (Eclectic) – Harbour Island
Jalapeno’s de Ybor (Mexican) – Ybor City
La Creperia (French) – Ybor City
The Loading Dock (Sandwiches) - Downtown
Lonni’s (Sandwiches) – Downtown
Mema’s Alaskan Tacos (Mexican) – Ybor City
Oriental Restaurant (Asian) - Downtown
Precinct Pizza (Italian) – Channelside
Streetcar Charlie’s (Eclectic) – Ybor City
Taps (Eclectic) – Downtown
Teatro’s (Eclectic) – Ybor City
Thai Thani (Thai) - Channelside
Tinatapa’s (Spanish) – Channelside
Westshore Pizza (Pizza) – Downtown/Channelside
Zelda’s (American/Jamaican) - Channelside

D – Might Give It One More Chance

725 South (American) – Harbour Island
Bennigan’s (American) – Channelside
Champion’s (American) - Downtown
Il Terrazza (Italian) - Downtown
JAX Grill (American) – Ybor City
Karma Bar and Café (American) - Downtown
La Tropicana (Cuban) – Ybor City
Oishi Sushi (Japanese) – Channelside
Rock N’ Sports (American) – Ybor City
Samarra Café (American) – Downtown
Spaghetti Warehouse (Italian) – Ybor City
Stumps Supper Club (Southern) - Channelside
That’s Amore (Italian) – Harbour Island
Trolley’s Café (American) - Channelside
Wet Willie’s (Sandwiches) - Channelside

F – Never Again

Boss Hogs (Barbeque) – Downtown
Café Waterside (American) - Downtown
Gaspar’s Grotto (Eclectic) – Ybor City

Precinct Pizza
615 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602

La Tropicana Cafe
1822 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

Mise En Place Restaurant
442 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

Spaghetti Warehouse
1911 N 13th St, Tampa, FL 33605

Laughing Cat
1811 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605

107 S Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602

615 Channelside Dr Ste 127, Tampa, FL 33602

La Creperia Cafe
1729 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

Thai Thani Restaurant
615 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

400 North Ashley Drive, Tampa, FL 33602

2208 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, FL 33606

Five Guys Burgers
700 Pier Park Dr Ste 100, Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Wet Willies
615 Channelside Dr Ste 116, Tampa, FL 33602

Bin 27 Bistro
2702 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33609

Fresh Mouth
8 E Ave Ste D101, Tampa, FL 33605

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  1. Love it! I mostly agree with you as far as the restaurants on the list I have tried...lthough I'd personally bump Bernini up the B position, move Fly to D category, and demote Carmine's to the F slot. ;)

    3 Replies
    1. re: sweet_polly

      bad time at FLY? I agree about your moves for Bernini and Carmine's.

      1. re: andy huse

        To be fair, it was several years ago when I tried it. I went for lunch and it took an hour for my (can't remember what it was, only that it was unremarkable to say the least) lunch to arrive. The service was the worst I can ever remember receiving...and the place was not very busy. I was working downtown at the time and was 45 minutes late getting back. I went in with high expectations and was really disappointed. Have never been back, but maybe I'll give it another shot sometime.

        1. re: sweet_polly

          we've gone for happy hour or late night bites a half dozen times in the past year, it's never bad but it's also never impressive...

    2. Awesome, kentski. I used to live in Miami and loved the activity of the board from there, so I'm excited to see if those of us in the "other" Florida cities can create our own great community on Chowhound. The first step is understanding that while we might not have famous Food & Wine festivals, multiple James Beard award winners and features in Esquire about our dining scene, there is still great, authentic and interesting food in the rest of Florida if you look beyond the chains. I'll make sure to bookmark this list for my next trip over to Tampa.

      On a specific note, I'm surprised to see Mise En Place still at the top of the list as I ate there years ago and loved it, but it's so rare in our parts for that type of restautant to maintain quality over that many years. I need to get back there again someday.

      So Tampa, what has he missed?

      Mise En Place Restaurant
      442 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

      1. Almost spot-on, but Mise en Place was disappointing the last 2 or 3 times I've gone (to the point I likely shan't return), Smoke is good but doesn't deserve to be any higher on that list than Bamboozle or L'Eden, and Dufrain is great when they have their game face on, but sadly sometimes they don't :(

        5 Replies
        1. re: askdrtodd

          Miss E and I and any other South Tampanians should put our heads together for the best grub south of Kennedy, should be a fun one. I'll get rockin on it.

          1. re: askdrtodd

            Definitely understand the comments. Mise en Place continues to have the most inventive and comprehensive menu downtown, with terrific food, but the last time I went at lunch, the service was terrible. I'd still put it at an "A minus" because of the food, as well as the hope that it's not slipping.

            Smoke, I still rate an "A", simply because I could feast on the side dishes there. The only food where I'm a total "Hound" is Barbeque, having grown up in one of the BBQ capitals of the US. Compared to Kojak's or Jimbo's -- the two most commonly mentioned Tampa BBQ places on this board -- Smoke kills them, and I'm addicted to the BBQ duck and the pesto macaroni and cheese (best in town), as well as 10 or more delicious side dishes. If they offered a plate of sides as an entree, I'd go there all of the time.

            Cafe Dufrain? Yeah, probably should be a "B Plus" ... but pick a beautiful spring/fall day out on the water with some still-damn-good food, and its up there. I do wish they'd mix the menu up a bit though.

            I've never understood the hate toward Carmine's. Seems either people love it or absolutely hate it. I'm not quite to the complete love side, but when I'm craving terrific yellow rice and beans and/or succulent baked chicken, I go there (as well as some pretty damn good lasagna).

            EDIT: And AskDrTodd and MissE (and others), PLEASE get a list started for Hyde Park/Westshore! I'm over there a bit but its not my neighborhood, so I know I'm missing some places.

            1. re: kentski

              To be fair, I only tried Carmine's once. Our service was horrible...but not as horrible as that "Famous" Deviled Crab. How did something so vile ever rise to fame? lol I don't remember what else my husband and I ordered there...only that most of it was left on the plate. We went on the recommendation of our friends who absolutely love the place, you aren't alone. Maybe it was an off-day, but I won't go back.

              1. re: sweet_polly

                Polly, I *absolutely* agree. That was the first "famous" deviled crab I tried in Tampa, and I swore I'd never try another one -- dry, WAY too much breading, a bit cold by the time it got to me. Have since tried other ones (haven't tried them all, but Brocato's was delicious and definitely worth a drive) and like them, though I still prefer Maryland-style crab cakes if I'm going to have crab (I know we're staying away from chains, but since its a local chain, GrillSmith has terrific crab cakes).

                But Carmine's should change up the deviled crab offering ... though viewing the lunch crowds during the week, they're definitely popular.

                1. re: sweet_polly

                  Carmine's was disgusting, and dirty to boot. Once, and done.

            2. Been awhile since I've eaten at Bernini's, but as I remember my dinner was good (can't remember what it was, though...what a drag it is getting old) and my wife's friend had excellent house-made gnocchi. It's always good, never below meh, and sometimes darn near top-shelf.

              TBBC has good food too, but after a couple of their exceptional homemade brews your tongue is somewhat compromised. Had a great burger there, but wasn't exactly a huge fan of the big puffy brioche bun. Those things overwhelm the burger's flavor IMO.

              Unless they've slipped, Eddie & Sam's can be amazing if you catch them pulling a fresh pie out or order one custom. Worthy of higher than a C if they haven't stooped to cutting corners.

              And in case it wasn't posted before, we don't have Bennigan's to kick around anymore. That one -- apparently the last one anywhere -- closed sometime within the last year.

              1. Just wanted to chime in one more time as I had the opportunity to try The Laughing Cat for the first time this past weekend. I was almost stunned by how fantastic it was...the seafood bisque was some of the best I've ever eaten ANYWHERE, and I haven't had a pasta dish I enjoyed more than the Pappardelle Piemontese (prosciutto, wild mushrooms, onions, and peas paired with large egg noodles in an Alfredo sauce topped with parmesan) since I was actually IN Italy 5 years ago. Haven't been "wowed" like that on a first dining experience at a local restaurant in a while. I think I'd have to give it an "A".

                Laughing Cat
                1811 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605

                1 Reply
                1. re: sweet_polly

                  that's great to know. I went a few times many years ago, and it was always good, but never wowed me. Perhaps its time for another try.