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One Day/Night in Tampa - give me your best suggestions!

Hey folks!

I'm going to be in Tampa for one day and night in a few weeks before sailing away on a week long cruise and am hoping to get some suggestions for your MUST VISIT foodie havens. We will be staying at the Doubletree on the water near the airport and will not have access to a car, so everything will either need to be in walking distance or worth the cab fare.

For dinner we are looking for something with a good view, good food (preferably seafood) and not more than $50-60 a person. I'm thinking that Oystercatchers is probably the best bet, given our location and the criteria but I'd love to know if there is some other place we should consider.

We will also be in town for lunch. Are there any local hotspots that we should seek out? Something near the beach? We'd be looking for something a bit more casual for lunch (probably not more than $20 person). Our biggest concern is down right good quality food ... with a preference for local, sustainable, healthy-ish cuisine.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. if you do a search on this board, you'll find what you're looking for. seems someone new pops up and asks for everyone's fave tampa spots about every 2 weeks or so.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Manderley

      From what I can tell, it seems like Oystercatchers is suggested on most of the threads ... along with Guppy's and Cafe Ponte. Just curious if anyone has any other suggestions based on our location!

      -----
      Cafe Ponte
      13505 Icot Blvd. Suite 214, Clearwater, FL 33760

      1. re: KrazyB

        Ate at guppy's last week, wasn't impressed but it wasn't bad. I'd go to Salt Rock Grille or Island Way Grille (basically same restaurant) before going to guppy's again. I'd go to Oystercatchers before either of those though, and I'd skip Cafe Ponte, I'm underwhelmed every time I go.

      2. re: Manderley

        Unfortunately, turnover in the restaurant business is so high in the Tampa/St. Pete area that you can't count on a lot of the recommended places still being open. I wouldn't put too much stock into a recommendation that is more than 1-2 months old.

      3. 'sustainable, healthy-ish cuisine.'

        I'm out...

        ;-)

        1. The restriction on long-line grouper fishing that began in January was lifted on Sept. 1, so grouper are re-appearing on menus and at more reasonable prices, FWIW.

          1. Your instincts are right about Oystercatchers, though Armani in the same hotel is also top-notch if like Italian. A little father away is Roy's, which is lively and very good (sure,it's a chain but who cares?). Or there are a a lot of places to choose from at International Plaza or Wetstshore mall. You'll need cabs for most of these. Guppy's is too far and Cafe Ponte is across the bay and would be a costly cab ride (cab fares are pretty steep around Tampa).

            -----
            Cafe Ponte
            13505 Icot Blvd. Suite 214, Clearwater, FL 33760

            1. Oystercatcher's is probably a good bet for dinner. For lunch, I would head over to Crabby Bill's or Bahama Breeze and sit outside. Spend most of your budget on booze and then snack on whatever looks decent on the menu. Frankly, the food kind of sucks. But it will cost you a $50 cab ride just to get to the beach, so I would steer you toward something that is at least on the water and close to your hotel.

              Hate to burst your bubble, but Tampa's not a foodie town. In fact, the food scene here pretty much sucks and is dominated by chain restaurants. Local, sustainable food is rare and is only being done at a couple of places. I would just enjoy your time having a few drinks and taking in the scenery.

              -Kevin

              34 Replies
              1. re: UptownKevin

                There is always the default "International Mall"; with its Capital Grille, Bar Louie, Blue Martini, Ocean Prime, Suki Hana, and other shiny overpriced chains. The Mall is the nicest around if that is your thing, Nordstroms, Nieman Marcus Apple Store, lots of high end specialty shops.

                -----
                Nordstrom
                10320 W Forest Hill Blvd, Wellington, FL 33414

                Bar Louie
                2223 N West Shore Blvd Ste B202, Tampa, FL 33607

                Capital Grille
                9101 International Dr Ste 1000, Orlando, FL 32819

                1. re: UptownKevin

                  If I ate at Crabby Bills I might think the same thing.

                  1. re: UptownKevin

                    ---'not a foodie town'....

                    I've got two hundred and fifty pounds of wheezing metaphorical villagers with pitchforks wantin' a piece of you for that comment!

                    And of course by 250, I really mean 265...
                    ---and by 265,

                    I'm only messing around---- I know what you meant...

                    1. re: UptownKevin

                      I don't exactly disagree, but recommending Crabby Bill's? That's just mean. The OP's probllem is that their hotel isn't near anything great besides Oystercatcher's and Armani's, and they don't have a car. I'd go to Aquaknox or Ocean Prime long before I'd sink to Crabby Bill's. I mean, really: it may not be a foodie town, but that's no reason to eat what the Gorton's fisherman hauled in.

                      1. re: Miss E

                        Yeah man, I'm with Miss E here, Crappy Bill's is one of the few places I walked into and within a couple minutes walked out of. That place stays in business because of the Sunday drink-a-thons that take place on the beach/deck behind it. I could almost hit that dump with a rock from my place (actually I probably should start trying that) and I have no intention of ever ending up there. Bahama Breeze's food is sub-par but it does have a pretty view. I would pony up the $ and eat at Oystercatchers and Armani's, you're not in town often and those are worth it. Also Aquaknox has been good a couple times, but not amazing, and it is quite pricey- but has the view & decor you desire.

                        1. re: Miss E

                          Ok, let's be fair here. If you re-read my post, I am prettty sure I didn't recommend Crabby Bill's for the culinary excellence. Perhaps when I said:

                          "Frankly, the food kind of sucks,"

                          you took that as a recommendation? Trying to be honest and open.

                          OP mentioned "something a bit more casual for lunch (probably not more than $20 person)," so that's the places that fit the bill. I just don't get a casual vibe from Ocean Prima and Aquaknox. But that's just one man's opinion.

                          1. re: UptownKevin

                            I just found it interesting that you slam the town and then tell them to go to Crabby Bills. Maybe you just really miss the New Orleans superiority lately.

                            1. re: rhnault

                              Sorry I hit a nerve, but I don't think I "slammed" anything. I just stated that we're not a foodie town. This is not SF, Portland, NYC, Charleston or New Orleans. Just setting expectations and being realistic. Doesn't mean that we don't have anything.

                              And you know what, I really like going to Crabby Bill's, sitting outside overlooking the water and watching the sun set while enjoying a few drinks. It's actually the place where my wife and I started our first date (before dinner at Ceviche). Yea, the food is mediocre, but sometimes the atmosphere can make up for it.

                              As far as the OP's question, you have to admit that staying near the airport and asking for great "foodie" suggestions without a car is a bit limiting. Doing my best to make lemonade out of lemons. Methinks some may take these posts a little too seriously. Besides, I can't help it if I superior, right? <end sarcasm>

                              1. re: UptownKevin

                                Yes you hit a nerve. As a native Floridian it is a peeve of mine when people move to this state and criticize everything and continually talk about how much better things are elsewhere.

                                1. re: UptownKevin

                                  Sorry to pile on, but if saying "the food scene here pretty much sucks " isn't slamming the place, I don't know what is. That's not "setting expectations" or "being realistic," it's slamming an entire metro area's food. Let's agree to disagree: you drink at Bill's, I'll eat elsewhere. You can like what you like, and so can I. Just please don't say the food scene here sucks, because that is an unfair generalization.

                                  1. re: Miss E

                                    I think I was a little sensitive to this as I was fortunate enough to take part in the Under Belly tour part 4 last Sat. I have been excited all week about the great food and fun company of other food lovers. My husband and I have been complimenting the diversity in Tampa and excited to do more strip mall hunting and then I come to chowhound and read "the food scene here pretty much sucks".

                                    1. re: Miss E

                                      Is it wrong to say that the food scene is bad if it is, truly in fact, bad? We all have opinions on food based off of our past experiences. I don't think it is fair to say "please don't say the food scene here sucks." I believe there just needs to be more transparency with what it is compared to.

                                      For example: The food scene here sucks compared to NYC but you may find some nice (grouper, Cuban, etc.).

                                      I'm from California, moved to Jacksonville because of the Navy, and when I went to Tampa, I enjoyed the food there very much so. To be transparent, I would say California > Tampa > Jacksonville.

                                      1. re: ChristDriven

                                        I'd agree. There's great food to be had in Tampa, but it's more diamonds in the rough than it is a beach filled with gems. Tampa is just in a different phase of it's epicurean culture, we are getting more and more restaurants with unique and changing menus that serve better wine and more craft beer, and people are slowly turning away from the chains that just repeatedly manufacture "food" for the masses. It won't happen overnight. I doubt west coast cities like Portland or Seattle or San Fran developed their food culture overnight either, but I think the Bay Area is and will always be one of the better food destinations in the state, along with the Metro Orlando area & Miami.

                                        Be patient, and in the meantime support the brave souls that are leading the revolution by bringing edgy or top-notch grub to our fine city.

                                        Well that's my 2 cents anyway.

                                        1. re: ChristDriven

                                          I think it is bad to say "the food scene here sucks" and then recommend a truly bad restaurant ;-)

                                      2. re: UptownKevin

                                        The food here is very good,extremely eclectic, being a NY transplant that says allot. I am also a local Executive Chef for the last 10 years,I can say if you are to thick to find it you should go back to where you came from.

                                        1. re: UptownKevin

                                          Kevin, at the risk of being flamed, I agree that the food culture in the Tampa Bay area is seriously lacking...and I don't feel a bit bad saying it. It in no way compares to many other metropolitan areas of its size. I love this area and have lived here for 20 years, but we're way behind the mark when it comes to creative cuisine. Sorry, but it's the truth....and apparently, the truth hurts. ;)

                                          I personally didn't find Oystercatchers to be "all that", but if the OP decides to try it there's a $25 gift certificate to be had for $3 if you buy by the 19th (promo code is SPORK) at www.restaurant.com.

                                      3. re: UptownKevin

                                        Kev I wasn't disagreeing with you man! I was just agreeing with Miss E on her reco. If you don't have any booze you can eat at OC for $20 a head. I'm not saying you can eat a lot, but between the tasty bread with the house smoked sea salt and great medium priced entrees, it'd be worth it to me to splurge up to say $25 and have that incredible view and great quality food. Wasn't taking your post as a recommendation, don't be upset.

                                        1. re: askdrtodd

                                          I know - I was replying to Ms E. I think the format just makes it look differently. -Kevin

                                          1. re: UptownKevin

                                            still teaching us about food one meal at a time.

                                          2. re: askdrtodd

                                            I'm invisible to the Tampa in-crowd here, but I crossed a bridge and had a plate of Ipswich fried clams at Rosie's in Palmetto Park this afternoon that was remarkable. And I have found a few others.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Where is that? In 941 or 727? Google did not help me out much on my initial search

                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                ahhh I found it. Pinellas Park. Granted it's not creative cuisine, it sure sounds good!

                                                1. re: rhnault

                                                  Sorry on the misfire with Palmetto when I meant Pinellas. To me, part of "creative" is getting fresh clams, scallops, and Maine lobsters from there to here when they are not just fresh but sweet. All the trips to the Tampa air freight terminal. And ya gotta serve 'em fresh and sweet in 3 days. And the split-top buns for the lobster rolls are from Boston because nobody here does them. Rosie, who Harley's without a car, and BF Carl, are a kick and get it done. Tonight they are hosting a charity event selling lovingly handmade ladies' handbags from Cambodia, with live music, of course.

                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                    that air freight terminal is not too far from my office!
                                                    I think I am going to have to add Rosie's to the list of places to check out.

                                            2. re: UptownKevin

                                              I guess I feel even *mentioning* Crabby Bill's is a mistake, lol. Ocean Prime for lunch is more casual than dinner, but you're right, no view and certainly no beachy atmosphere. I've never been to Bahama Breeze, maybe that's the compromise vote.

                                              -----
                                              Ocean Prime
                                              7339 W Sand Lake Rd # 400, Orlando, FL

                                              Crabby Bills
                                              7675 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34747

                                              1. re: Miss E

                                                i wouldn't eat at crabby bill's unless i was one half hour from certain death by starvation. and then it would be difficult to find the least toxic thing on the menu. come to think of it...sweet death, where is thy sting? that might be the lesser of 2 evils.

                                          3. re: UptownKevin

                                            okay, this big-mouth attitudinal transplanted new yorker just has to open her famous big mouth. yes, there are parts of this area in which the food really sucks. personally i live in new port richey and it's MOSTLY denny's and IHOP and awful awful chinese and pizza. i was so disillusioned when i first moved down here. but traveling just a little bit south and a little bit east...and i've found many, many foodie gems. i so love my local sushi bar (shout out to Mike's Sushi & Sake in Palm Harbor) that i tell him he's the one and only reason i won't return north. i've discovered the most incredible chinese, unlike anything i experienced at "home" in NY, some really fabulous italian and pizza, and great indian, great thai, great this and great that...mostly through recommendations right here on this board. and the restaurantage blooming lately in seminole heights is like a kiss on the cheek from God. yeah, here in florida, SOME food sucks. if you want to stick with crabby bill's and the likes, yeah, i agree. but skip the chains and look for the gems. they're there. trust me, they're there.

                                            1. re: Manderley

                                              Hey Manderley...I'm a NY'er new to NPR. How 'bout listing some more of your favorites in the area? I'm still getting used to having to drive 25 minutes to find a decent this or that.

                                              In a few months there will be a new Fairway right across the street from my apartment in NYC! Not quite the same convenience here in NPR. But then again, NYC doesn't have the Gulf :)

                                              Tipsy

                                              1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                                                Only bad culture comes to find you--- fast food, pop music, etc. Good culture must be sought, explored, understood. That is as true in NYC as it is here. That was why Chowhound was created in the first place, to allow like minded hounds to swap information free of commercial interference. Complaining does nothing to forward the cause. There is plenty of good food around here. You just might have to drive to enjoy it. If that is too much effort, Chowhound certainly can't help.

                                                1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                                                  hi tipsy, welcome to tampa bay! favorites "in the area"....not so much. you're going to have to "schlep" as we long islanders say. but for breakfast i'll hit caposey's on 19 & green key (i think it's considered port richey, not sure); for a burger, head up to 5 guys on 54 & duck slough; also in that same area is grille 54, haven't been yet but i heard the sushi is wonderful. for italian, i stick to dominick's on curlew in oldsmar or umberto's of long island, on patricia in dunedin. great pizza, surprisingly, to be had at brick oven pizzaria in trinity (and a nice friendly atmosphere to boot). for authentic chinese, sorry to say you'll have to head to tampa or st pete. tampa is china yuan and yummy house, st pete is abc chinese. if you're in seminole heights, stop in at the refinery on florida. it's my new fave place to dine. :) by all means, avoid any pizza places in npr as well as chinese restaurants. :)

                                                  1. re: Manderley

                                                    Andy, I didn't realize I was complaining.

                                                    Manderley, thanks for the info! I've been to Caposey's several times (as well as Breakfast Station and Smith's Cafe on Main St.

                                                    Five Guys is fine...but I prefer to avoid chains.

                                                    I'll check out the rest of your rec's. I've actually had a pretty good slice at Slice of Life right here in NPR.

                                                    I also recommend Garden of Eden on 19 in Hudson. It's Lebanese and Italian. They have a Boar's Head deli counter for sandwiches (eat in or take-away) and most dishes are homemade, inducing the Tabouli.

                                                    Tipsy

                                                    -----
                                                    Breakfast Station
                                                    10039 US Highway 19, Port Richey, FL 34668

                                                    1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                                                      i hear ya about chains. but the night i first arrived in NPR, our question was "where can we get a good burger?" and everyone we asked said..."umm...."

                                                      burger? around here? mickey d's is probably the most popular place. i happen to love 5 guys, esp their hot dogs with grilled onions...but come to think of it, my ex was a burger fanatic and he loved the burgers at lucky dill's on alternate 19 in palm harbor. i never had one there, as i am hooked on their chopped liver and knishes. ;)

                                                      1. re: Manderley

                                                        Oooo, look at this burger...