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Dec 8, 2011 04:06 PM

Tampa recommendatons please (Researched!!)


3 of us are planning to visit Tampa over the Christmas weekend. I've tried to put together a list of dining options and am looking for some advice on whether this is fine or if I should change something. Since, we live in NYC, ideally we'd like to have something that is not available here but since that might be a little hard, lets just say that NO Italian, Asian or Steak. The criteria of course is a) Delicious food b) Would prefer if the place is causal/semi-casual c) 1-2 pricy meals (>$50) are fine but not all and we will have access to a car. Here goes,

1. Refinery
2. Sideburns
3. Oyestercatchers - Brunch
4. Mise en Place
5. Taco Bus
6. Ceviches
7. Red Mesa
8. Ted Peters
9. Mid Peninsula Seafood

I'd appreciate it if I could also get some advice if a place is better or lunch vs dinner or vice-versa and dish recommendations if possible!


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  1. I suggest you reconsider Columbia. It's classic, unique, attractive, and an important part of Tampa's culture. The food is usually very good, and I think you would enjoy a lunch there, but it will likely be pretty crowded that weekend. They handle a big crowd very well though. Oystercatchers is a must for you.

    1. Thanks! I just realized - Oyestercathers does brunch only on Sundays and that is Christmas :( Any other places that'll be open on the 25th?

      5 Replies
      1. re: indiefoodie

        The Beachcomber on Clearwater Beach is typically open for christmas day and is old school charm.

        1. re: indiefoodie

          I would skip the Refinery and add Pane Rustica or the Columbia.

          1. re: rhnault

            Agree with Columbia. Cuban food is under represented on your list, and that's a regional thing that only Tampa and South Florida seem to do well. I'd go to the Columbia for a comfortable sit down and a mom and pop dive in West Tampa to say you did. Refinery is spirited and funky but hit and miss. If you're a beer drinker at all, I wouldn't miss the opportunity to hit up the Cigar City tap room, although I'm not sure of their schedule around the Holidays. I'd get a Cuban sandwich from Wright's also, as that's a Tampa institution.

            1. re: rhnault

              Agree with rhnault. Pane Rustica should be near the top of the list. I like dinner there, but absolutely LOVE lunch there.

          2. Thanks. Is Columbia better for lunch or for dinner?

            3 Replies
            1. re: indiefoodie

              Either. I think it's the same menu. Unfortunately, the Ybor Columbia doesn't serve stone crabs- just the St. Armands location in Sarasota- but you should try to work stone crabs into your weekend, somewhere. In Ybor, the 1905 salad, tableside, with the garlic shrimp is their classic. I was back in the area 3 weeks ago and went directly to Mid Peninsula for conch and grouper - good as always. On my return to the airport I visited Rosie at her Clam Shack in Pinellas Park for a lobster dinner and Ipswich whole belly fried clams- hard to find in Florida.
              If you don't want steak, I'm not sure why Sideburns made your list? I have only experienced Berns, which is cattle and wine.
              You have so many options, so little time! Solving the equation for Chrismas day will be the most challenging; nail that one first. Enjoy.

              1. re: Veggo

                The majority of SideBern's menu is not steak. I'd definitely keep SB on there.

                1. re: the_sneeb

                  If you don't go to Sidebern's you are missing out. Maybe go for their happy hour from 5-7. We went last Friday and it turned into dinner. They have 6 apps for 6.00 each 5 wines, 5 cocktails for 5.00 each and 5 craft beers for 3.00 each. They don't skimp on happy hour and change from their regular ingredients and libations. It really is a good deal.

            2. If you want to see a bit of old Florida, there's the Fish House off Shell Point Road, in Ruskin.

              It's an open air, road-side stand with picnic tables, and all they serve is seafood. I suggest the smoked mullet and the fried green tomatoes...

              Here's a link to its location, on Google maps..

              1. I've found the refinery to be really hit or miss. Have been there 4 times and never been truly impressed. The menu always is interesting and inspired, but the execution has never landed for me, no matter how much I want to like it.

                As for Sideberns, the former chef, Jeannie Pieriola, is doing a run of her popup restaurant, KitchenBar, and they are open Christmas Eve. Every meal I've had there has been outstanding, and my foodie friends love it too. Am going twice next week.

                Definitely check out Pane Rustica. Menu changes regularly, interesting fare always. Best bang for your buck in South Tampa.

                If you're willing to go to Ted Peters, you can always drive an extra ten minutes to the Don Cesar for brunch on Christmas. Never been but heard it's definitely on par with Oyster Catchers.

                Mise en Place is outstanding but higher end in cost and atmosphere than Pane.

                ceviche is very good Tapas. Having lived in Spain for 6 months, pretty close to the food you get there. Only better tapas I've had is Curate in Asheville,NC. (chef worked at El Bulli)

                Never been too impressed by Red Mesa. Taco Bus is better street Mexican.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: DEVO2172

                    as i was reading down this thread, i was going to suggest KitchenBar as well. I've got a res for Christmas Eve, it's my Christmas present to myself.