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Oct 15, 2011 05:25 PM

An afternoon in Tampa?

OK, all you Tampa hounds -- I'm hoping for a little advice.
I will be in Tampa for about 6 hours between flights in a couple of Saturdays from now. I will not have a car, but I'd like to take a taxi somewhere for lunch and then (ideally) either a walk or lounge around the neighborhood. I am wide open in terms of types of cuisine, but (coming from NYC) the food has to be really excellent -- whether it's the best banh mi or bbq or dim sum or Cuban diner or whatever.
A place right next a beach/park/marina/cool downtown neighborhood would be of special interest, as I will be on foot - but if there is a "must-try" suggestion that is a little more remote, I'll take it.

I've looked through the Tampa suggestions on this board already, but since I don't have a sense of what the neighborhoods are like, it is hard to make a choice.
Thanks in advance for any recommendations for a fun afternoon in Tampa!

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  1. I recommend cabbing to The Columbia in Ybor City, and feast on stone crabs - the season opened today - and the 1905 salad with sauteed shrimp, and get sloshed on mojitos. Pretty good cuban food, but I like the above this time of year. Buen provecho.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Agree with Veggo. Probably your best unique taste of Tampa given your limited time frame. You can detox while strolling around Ybor before you head back to the airport.

      1. re: sweet_polly

        I third that, although I've never had stone crab at the Columbia. I've never been floored by anything I've tasted there, but the stone crabs, if anything, might do it. Plus, the atmosphere inside and around Ybor on a Saturday afternoon, coming from NYC especially, would be worth it alone. Enjoy.


        1. re: Noice

          Thanks very much, Veggo and co! That sounds like a great plan. If any other thoughts occur to you, re: things not to miss in Tampa, do let me know.

          1. re: rootheee

            A bit of bad news- I called to check on stone crabs at the Ybor City location, and it turns out only the Sarasota location where I usually go serves them. They have many good alternatives, you might Google their menu.

    2. Thanks so much for checking, Veggo! Ybor City still sounds like a great choice. I'll check out the Columbia menu.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rootheee

        Columbia is a good choice, but walking around Ybor will get tiresome pretty quickly. The buildings are old and unique, but it is more trashy bars than anything, with a few decent restaurants and galleries thrown in. You'll be ready to leave after 30 minutes. Most people who are regular to Chowhound would enjoy walking the streets in Hyde Park and looking at the beautiful old renovated Arts and Crafts homes much more. Ybor and Hyde Park are really your only choices for what you want to do.
        The problem with Hyde Park is that the best places are not open for lunch.

        You could take a cab to Columbia , and then ride back to Hyde Park afterwards to just walk around, and there are decent coffee shops and the like to hang around after you walk a bit.

        A closer option for lunch near Hyde Park would be Pane Rustica, but there is not much to see around there.

        Hyde Park Cafe
        1806 W Platt St, Tampa, FL 33606

        1. re: sarge

          I think a walk around Hyde Park would be lovely, too. One could have a nice lunch at Sophie's (limited to soup/salad/quiche/sandwiches), The Wine Exchange or Timpano. None are as iconic as The Columbia, but they're good, and the restored bungalows in the neighborhood, the mature trees, and Bayshore Boulevard make for very pleasant strolling.

          Ybor is unique, so I hesitate to say anything against it; it's certainly redolent of Old Tampa. But the trashy bar quotient is high.

          1. re: Miss E

            on the Ybor front, you can get wired on fresh-roasted cafe con leche at Naviera, smoke a cigar at King Corona, get lovely pastries and sweets at La Segunda bakery, quaff microbrews at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and so on.

            Most of the bars aren't even open in the afternoon.

      2. Another option would be downtown St. Petersburg. it's only a 20-25 minute easy interstate drive from the airport. There are a plethora of good, independent restaurants (almost all of which will be open for lunch on Saturday), museums, shops, beautiful bayfront parks and an entertainment pier with a second Columbia location on the top floor offering panamoric views of Tampa Bay. You won't get the architectural authenticy of the Ybor location, but the food is the same. It's a very walkable area and one of the prettiest in the Tampa Bay area IMO.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sweet_polly

          This is a terrific idea! The waterfront parks downtown are lovely and there is so much more to do. There is a wider variety of places to eat too.

          Didn't the Dali museum recently move into downtown proper?

          Ybor has been sad for sometime. While it is worth a visit, most would be bored within an hour.

          Old Hyde Park is the best Tampa option. Hugo's is good Cuban and a nice slice of life view of Tampa - plus open for lunch. A walk to the bay is pleasant and the neighborhood is one of my favorites. It still grieves me how many beautiful buildings were lost when they built the shopping area...

          1. re: meatn3

            The Dali Museum is essentially on the property just to the south of the Mahaffey Theater.

            1. re: RibDog

              Thank you.

              That could be a bit of a hike for some. But at least more walkable than the old location.
              The building looks amazing.

              Aunt Hattie's would have been quite close to eat at back in the day.

              Edit: I see there is a cafe at the museum focusing on Spanish food.


              1. re: meatn3

                I agree with Veggo; Stone Crab season opened 15 October, and they are harvested sustainably, ( they just give up one of their claws, which grow back) right off the South West Fl Coast. If you ever had Stone Crabs in NYC they probably sucked, as they were undoubtedly not as fresh, (or even frozen) as most Northerners have never savored the taste of a truly fresh claw, at Columbia or other places in SW FL.
                I prefer them cold and with the obligatory mustard sauce.

        2. Thanks again, everyone. i expect to be in Tampa under similar circumstances a few more times this year, so I'll happily have time to try each of these options -- plus any others, if new ideas occur to anyone. As it turned out, I was able to hook up with an old high school buddy who is living in Florida about an hour from Tampa, and we drove to Jimbo's for BBQ (her choice). The food was fine (great sweet tea, decent sliced beef bbq, solid sauce) and very comfortable as a casual place to sit and catch up for a few hours. Imagine my surprise when I got back to the Tampa airport and heard that all the flights to NY were cancelled because of a freak snowstorm...