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Tampa recommendatons please (Researched!!)

indiefoodie Dec 8, 2011 04:06 PM


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!


  1. s
    sarge Dec 8, 2011 05:42 PM

    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. i
      indiefoodie Dec 8, 2011 07:21 PM

      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
        annemarie07 Dec 9, 2011 05:22 AM

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

        1. re: indiefoodie
          rhnault Dec 9, 2011 05:56 AM

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

          1. re: rhnault
            the_sneeb Dec 9, 2011 01:19 PM

            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
              askdrtodd Dec 12, 2011 07:56 AM

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

              1. re: askdrtodd
                rhnault Dec 12, 2011 01:16 PM

                We had the BEST lunch Sat at PR

          2. i
            indiefoodie Dec 9, 2011 04:32 PM

            Thanks. Is Columbia better for lunch or for dinner?

            3 Replies
            1. re: indiefoodie
              Veggo Dec 9, 2011 04:55 PM

              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_sneeb Dec 10, 2011 09:50 AM

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

                1. re: the_sneeb
                  rhnault Dec 12, 2011 03:37 AM

                  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. deet13 Dec 9, 2011 08:03 PM

              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. d
                DEVO2172 Dec 10, 2011 04:43 PM

                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
                  the_sneeb Dec 11, 2011 10:13 AM

                  +1 Kitchen Bar

                  1. re: DEVO2172
                    Manderley Dec 22, 2011 10:03 AM

                    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.

                  2. r
                    RibDog Dec 11, 2011 06:18 AM

                    Two other thoughts for Christmas day would be Pelagia Trattoria in Tampa and Marchands at the Vinoy in St. Pete. Both are hotel restaurants but very good in their own rights.

                    1. i
                      indiefoodie Dec 11, 2011 03:16 PM

                      Thanks a lot guys! Based on the recommendations, I've made a few changes. The idea is to try as many unique cuisines as possible so here goes:

                      1. Columbia
                      2. Mise En Place
                      3. Ceviches
                      3. Red Masa - No one commented on this. Is this a decent choice?
                      4. Mid Peninsula
                      5. Kitchen Bar
                      6. Taco Bus

                      I'll keep Pane Rustica and Ted Peters as backups. What do you guys think about this? Thanks!

                      28 Replies
                      1. re: indiefoodie
                        sarge Dec 12, 2011 05:42 AM

                        Mis en Place is a good choice, but there are over 100 places just like it (or better) in NYC. I would suggest you go to Oystercatchers around 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. (to catch the sundown) to have some very good seafood with a view you won't find in NYC. Sundown on the West Coast of FL can be incredible, the food is a bonus.

                        1. re: indiefoodie
                          DEVO2172 Dec 12, 2011 06:37 AM

                          Red Mesa is OK. Nothing great. About a 20-30 minute drive down to St. Pete. Its the higher end version of Red Mesa Cantina, which I find to be more fun and interesting, but at the end of the day, neither really blow me away.

                          Would check out Pane Rustica over Red Mesa.

                          You're gonna need a reservation for Kitchen Bar and probably need to do that ASAP - (813) 374-4537. Good luck and good eating.

                          1. re: DEVO2172
                            rikkikm Dec 20, 2011 12:50 PM

                            I was under the impression that Red Mesa and Red Mesa Cantina were not related.
                            @indiefoodie I don't think Ceviche should be on the list. Trendy and overrated and now ubiquitous. replace with Pane Rustica I think.

                            1. re: rikkikm
                              askdrtodd Dec 22, 2011 08:06 AM

                              x2 on ditching Meh-viche.

                          2. re: indiefoodie
                            askdrtodd Dec 12, 2011 08:03 AM

                            Let me fix this:

                            1. Columbia (it's a fun experience, but the food doesn't do much for me)
                            2. Pane Rustica
                            3. Terra Sur (or Vizcaya)
                            4. Oystercatchers (sunset is a great time to go)
                            5. Kitchenbar (if you go make sure to get the duck confit and burrata)
                            6. Taqueria Monterrey

                            1. re: askdrtodd
                              sarge Dec 12, 2011 10:17 AM

                              That looks about right

                              1. re: askdrtodd
                                Manderley Dec 22, 2011 10:05 AM

                                i was not impressed by vizcaya or taqueria monterrey.

                                1. re: Manderley
                                  askdrtodd Dec 24, 2011 07:20 AM

                                  Did you try the pulpo? A torta? What'd you have?

                                  1. re: askdrtodd
                                    Manderley Dec 24, 2011 12:55 PM

                                    LOL Todd I was at Vizcaya with YOU! yeah i tried the pulpo, it was just ok. the only dish i found really outstanding was their tuna tartar.

                                    as for taqueria, i can't even remember what i had. whatever it was, it was not memorable! .

                                    1. re: Manderley
                                      TampaAurora Dec 24, 2011 06:03 PM

                                      I remember that day. Todd was so disappointed in that pulpo! I enjoy the pollo deshebrada and the salsa bar at Taqueria Monterrey. I'm such a sucker for a bunch of dips, salsas or what-have-yous. I'm like a toddler - I'll eat it if there is a sauce to dip or dunk.

                                      1. re: TampaAurora
                                        Manderley Dec 25, 2011 12:41 AM

                                        i've never really been into mexican, it surprises me how much i love taco bus :) and i believe it was you, TA, who recommended my fave butternut squash tostada. (or maybe it was your hubby). but then again i also like ceviche and its little counterpart whose name i can never remember. ohhh i know, pincho y pincho. actually liked that little spot better than ceviche.

                                        1. re: Manderley
                                          TampaAurora Dec 25, 2011 12:51 PM

                                          It was definitely my recommendation, hubby puts up with squash for me. It's why I love Pane Rustica - a chicken salad that is always light on the mayo and goes big for flavor no matter what spin they put on it that day, and it's always packed in an acorn squash!

                                          1. re: TampaAurora
                                            askdrtodd Dec 29, 2011 08:59 PM

                                            ooohhhhh yes, I was pretty bummed that day. Hey if you guys dig tapas, Terra Sur is pretty damn fantastic. Went with Limetruk and our better halves the other day. Also pretty damn reasonable price-wise, we stuffed ourselves and had two bottles of wine (and some sangria) and the whole bill was about $30 a person.

                              2. re: indiefoodie
                                Martin1 Dec 12, 2011 12:09 PM

                                I have not had anything but mediocre food at the Columbia in years. I would not go on a bet. Habana Cafe is a thousand times better. If you want local/unique, Ted Peters is an absolute must. Cafe Ponte has it all over Mise En Place. Ceviche is good for tapas. Red Meas is OK - nothing more. As for Mid Peninsula, what are you looking for - grouper? It is good there. Kitchen Bar had some really bad press this week about unpaid servers and broken equipment. I would not chance it even though Pieriola is a good chef - again, Cafe Ponte is better. The Taco Bus is not bad, not great (only soft tacos).

                                I must tell you, as a local, your original list impressed me. Your research is better than some of the advice you are getting. That said, we all have our opinions. Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy your time here.

                                1. re: Martin1
                                  askdrtodd Dec 12, 2011 12:46 PM

                                  Martin- I have to disagree on Ponte (never had great service or food, been half a dozen times) and Ceviche. Have you tried Terra Sur? It puts Ceviche (which we should note is a restaurant that was once great but was then sold and franchised and dumbed down IMHO) to shame. Agree on Mesa, it's OK, hardly impressive.

                                  Not sure why allegations against KB would prevent you from eating there? I heard a serious allegation about why Ceviche is moving for the second time in three years, but I'll let the professionals handle that one. Cafe Ponte's menu is a joke compared to KitchenBar, although I will say initial impressions of KB4 aren't as good as previous versions...

                                  Ted Peters we should note is in Egypt-Pinellas with regard to most the rest of list, the list I put up is all within 10-15 minutes or less of Central-ish Tampa (Kennedy and Dale Mabry)

                                  1. re: askdrtodd
                                    RibDog Dec 12, 2011 02:22 PM

                                    Todd, is that a derogatory comment regarding Pinellas? I hope not.

                                    1. re: RibDog
                                      askdrtodd Dec 13, 2011 08:51 AM

                                      Never! It's just a long bridge, that's all ;)

                                    2. re: askdrtodd
                                      Martin1 Dec 12, 2011 02:28 PM

                                      Not just allegations about Kitchen Bar. Long, detailed St. Pete Times article. BT Nguyen was pretty vocal in it and her restaurant was the last site for KB.

                                      I have eaten at Cafe Ponte probably 100 times. Never been disappointed.

                                      Ted Peters was on indiefoodie's original list so I assume a short drive to (Egypt) is not a problem. The smoked fish is like nothing else around here.

                                      Not sure why someone here on vacation, with a car, would want to limit themselves to an area 10 - 15 minutes away from Kennedy/Dale Mabry when all the beaches are in (Egypt).

                                    3. re: Martin1
                                      indiefoodie Dec 12, 2011 02:06 PM

                                      Thanks! The idea behind Mid Peninsula was 'stellar seafood'. Tampa seems to do that well so conch and grouper and whatever else they do well I guess :)

                                      1. re: indiefoodie
                                        Veggo Dec 12, 2011 02:20 PM

                                        Fresh, non- counterfeit grouper is available in quite a few places. I don't know of any place other than Mid Peninsula for cracked conch, and Joan's crew does it very well. For me it 's like, well, crack. Good home made sauces for it, also.

                                        1. re: indiefoodie
                                          askdrtodd Dec 13, 2011 08:53 AM

                                          Mid Peninsula rocks. If you do trek out to Pinellas, then it'd be a good spot to stop!

                                        2. re: Martin1
                                          DEVO2172 Dec 12, 2011 03:22 PM

                                          Can you link on the KB article. Tried to google it without luck.

                                          1. re: DEVO2172
                                            Martin1 Dec 12, 2011 03:51 PM


                                            1. re: Martin1
                                              DEVO2172 Dec 12, 2011 07:09 PM

                                              That's disturbing to say the least, especially the commentary section. I'm still going to eat there because the food is damn good.

                                              1. re: Martin1
                                                Miss E Dec 12, 2011 07:36 PM

                                                Bummer. She'd better be careful. Tampa's a small town, and even a culinary genius like Jeannie shouldn't burn too many bridges.

                                                We have reservations for next week. I was put off by the hagiography surrounding her, but realized that that's unfair and was finally convinced by way too many great reviews of previous KB popups to give it a go. We shall see!

                                            2. re: Martin1
                                              Manderley Dec 22, 2011 10:07 AM

                                              Why would you pass up an exquisite dining experience just because of "bad press about unpaid servers and broken equipment"? what does that have to do with the fantastic food Chef Pierola is putting out? and let's not forget the bad press could be a lot of sour grapes or jealousy because KitchenBar is such a hit.

                                              1. re: Manderley
                                                annemarie07 Dec 22, 2011 04:41 PM

                                                I'd like to know before I dine there. If it is true why reward and if not why punish

                                                1. re: Manderley
                                                  Miss E Dec 22, 2011 07:59 PM

                                                  The allegations I have heard include not paying servers and vendors, and I absolutely do not want to support a chef who treats her staff and other businesses in the community poorly. Do I know these allegations to be true? No. But I have heard enough from good enough sources to believe they cannot all be false. So it's my decision to miss out on KB. I would not try to convince anyone else to do so; it's my call.

                                            3. j
                                              justalex Dec 12, 2011 07:50 PM

                                              For very casual, we enjoyed Walt's Fish Market Restaurant in Sarasota. It's kind of old school and kitschy but the seafood was wonderful! The market is open to the restaurant so you can see all of their fresh offerings. Here's their menu which I'm drooling over now from frozen Minneapolis. :)


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: justalex
                                                askdrtodd Dec 13, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                Alex, not sure if you knew, Walt suffered an aneurism and almost didn't make it, he's in recovery and there is an event to benefit him tonight at Walt'z

                                                (From the St Pete Times)

                                                Fundraiser for sick restaurateur

                                                Walter Gerbase, longtime owner of Waltz Fish Shak at John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach had a massive brain aneurism on Oct. 25 and was in an induced coma for 35 days after that. Despite long odds, he is starting to recover. It will be a slow process, but as his partner Sue Zirnewskie told doctors, "Walt grew up in the Keys — he goes about doing things in his own time." Friends and family are throwing a fundraiser at the restaurant to raise money for his convalescence on Dec. 13 from 4 to 9 p.m. with live music, a silent auction and drawings. All money for food and drink that night will go toward Gerbase's recovery. Waltz Fish Shack, which remains open, is at 224 Boardwalk Place; for more information, call (813) 205-8080.

                                                1. re: justalex
                                                  askdrtodd Dec 13, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                  whoops just realized you meant walt's in Sarasota. Oh well Walt'z in Pinellas is also a great spot and anyone that can make it to the event tonight should have good food and for a good cause.

                                                2. i
                                                  indiefoodie Dec 27, 2011 06:35 PM

                                                  Thanks a lot everyone! I and my friends had a great time in Tampa! I ended up eating at the following places:

                                                  1. Taco Bus: This was the best Mexican food that I've had out on the street outside of San Francisco. The fact that it's open 24X7 is an added advantage. Tried a couple of the burritos (steak and fish), a couple of the tacos (fish and pork) and the pineapple water. For me, the fish burrito was the best of the lot. It seemed like the fish in the fish taco just got lost in the tortilla and other stuff. The water too was very refreshing.

                                                  2. Mid Peninsula: This place was awesome. Very homely, very comforting and great food. We tried the cracked conch, grouper (friend and blackened), snapper (blackened) and stone crabs. Almost everything was excellent. The only place that I've probably had better sea food is New Orleans. My favorite of all the places that I went too in Tampa!

                                                  3. Columbia: Tried the Cava Sangria, Gazpacho, Spanish Bean Soup, and another soup that I've completely forgotten. For me, the Spanish Bean Soup stood out. Very flavorful. The Sangria was pretty decent too. I usually don't care for white wine sangrias but this was good. We then proceeded to have the Pincho Mixta, Gambas Al Ajillo, Croquetas De Langosta. The last was the best. The others were good too. For the main course, we split a pork special that they had and Pollo Manchego. Both of these were rather underwhelming. The pork was overcooked and the chicken really only tasted of the cheese (granted that Manchego is pretty dominating but still the amount that they had was probably a little too much). All in all I felt that this place is a classic, has a lot of character and history behind it and does food that is above average.

                                                  4. Pane Rustica: I have mixed feeling about this place. Some of the dishes were excellent and others not so much. Because of the couple of amazing dishes, I'd put this at number 2 behind Mid Peninsula. We had 2 of the "Shut Up" dishes - a gnocchi and a roasted chicken with sweet potato, a veggie sandwich, a mozzarella sandwich, a chicken pesto pizza, focaccia and lemonade. The positives - both the shut up dishes were amazing and something that I'd like to have again. The sandwiches were rather blah but given an option, I wouldn't have ordered them in the first place so I'll let that pass. The misses - the focaccia. When you order bread, you do not expect it to come with melted cheese on top. A definite miss. The pizza - terribly over salted and the lemonade - too sweet. So I guess the lesson is order the "Shut Up" and let the chef dazzle you!

                                                  5. Ceviches: This was OK. I've really not had enough Tapas to compare this to anything else but purely on what my taste buds told me, they have a serious problem with balancing ingredients. Ceviche De La Casa - an overdose of citrus. I understand that Ceviche is a lot about the citrus but when you taste only the lemon and no seafood, there is a problem. Ceviche De Atun - this was pretty good, a slight kick because of the Jalapenos was fun. Boquerones - pretty good. I'm not sure if the bread is supposed to be that crispy but from a flavor perspective, this was nice. Paella Valenciana - again, this is a hard dish to cook and in the limited experience that I've had with it, it's impossible to cook in the tiny frying pans that they use. This was creamy, not crispy and was not worth it. Piquillos Rellenos - the best dish of the night. Very flavorful, very well balanced. Codorniz De Grilladore - balance problem, the garlic overwhelmed the shrimp. Vieiras Puerros - I didn't like the dish but that's probably because I don't pairing scallops and cheese so I'll remain neutral on this. The desserts - we had 4 of them. The Creme Brulee was good, everything else was fair. However, the desserts were a) huge and b) presented well so if you're into good looking food (for whatever reason), get the desserts!

                                                  6. Ciro's speakeasy: Wow! I admit to being a cocktail freak. I've been to a fair number of the so called "cocktail meccas" in NYC, DC, Philly, etc. but the experience here (note that this does not include the quality of the drinks) was better that anything I've ever seen. From the password, the house rules (M&H in NY has them but they don't make you read them at the gate), the peep hole (The PX in Alexandria has this), the lit menus. Very-very dramatic and entertaining. I'm almost shocked to see a place like this in Tampa. Moving on to the quality of the drinks, they were very good but not in the same league as say M&H or Death&Co. in NYC. Given an option, I'll definitely go back here.

                                                  7. Datz: We went here for lunch. Pretty decent. This was based on a friend's recommendation and I quite liked it. They could reduce the portion sizes a little though. The crispy bacon strip in the Bloody Mary was awesome. I had the chicken and waffles which were pretty good. We had 3 other sandwiches, all of which were good. Again, I wouldn't mind coming back here.

                                                  Unfortunately, the one place that I wanted to go to but wasn't able to was Kitchen Bar. Maybe next time.

                                                  My $0.02 on Tampa - it surprised the s%*t out of me. My experience of dining in smaller cities is rather limited (McLean, VA and San Jose) and I've found them to be pretty much culinary wastelands but not Tampa. This most definitely has decent food, maybe not in the same league as a NYC or a Philly but then it would be stupid to compare those. On the whole, a very relaxing and satisfying experience and I'll give it some extra points just for having some amazing weather the last few days ;) Would love to hear back about what people think of my experience at all these places. Thanks again everyone!! Cheers!!

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: indiefoodie
                                                    RibDog Dec 28, 2011 04:46 AM

                                                    Glad to hear of you overall positive experience in the Tampa Bay area. And yes, I agree that it has never made sense to compare a smaller metropolitan area such as Tampa Bay with NYC Philly, Chicago, etc.

                                                    That being said, I am curious as to which location of Ceviche you went to?

                                                    1. re: RibDog
                                                      indiefoodie Dec 28, 2011 09:12 AM

                                                      I went to the '1502 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606' location.

                                                      1. re: indiefoodie
                                                        Old E. Dec 28, 2011 10:50 AM

                                                        I'll never understand why people recommend the Columbia. Its a tourist joint. I don't even think it rises to the level of mediocre, but to each his own. They do make a good Cuban. Get it and get out.

                                                        Ceviche is just ok too.

                                                        1. re: Old E.
                                                          rhnault Dec 28, 2011 11:31 AM

                                                          I love the Columbia and we eat there several times a year. We were just there on Thanksgiving and it was terrific. I love the atmosphere and the feeling of history and we always have excellent service. It was awesome on Thanksgiving to dine on Cuban sandwiches, 1905 salad, caldo gallego, and white chocolate bread pudding washed down with cava sangria.

                                                          1. re: rhnault
                                                            Old E. Dec 28, 2011 12:02 PM

                                                            To each his own. Last time I was there it bordered on inedible. It was a large party, so I am willing to cut them some slack there. I still think its best left to the tourists.

                                                            Flamenco show = cheese/more tourist junk. :)

                                                            1. re: Old E.
                                                              rhnault Dec 28, 2011 12:42 PM

                                                              Never seen the Flamenco show

                                                            2. re: rhnault
                                                              Manderley Dec 28, 2011 12:05 PM

                                                              i agree, i really enjoy the columbia. excellent service, absolutely, and that cava sangria is mouth-watering.

                                                      2. re: indiefoodie
                                                        Manderley Dec 28, 2011 12:07 PM

                                                        excellent reviews, indie, i enjoyed reading your take on our local fare. glad you enjoyed yourself. it's a shame you missed kitchenbar, but rumor has it chef jeannie is planning on opening a permanent restaurant as well as continuing with the pop-ups, so maybe you catch some of her creations next time you hit town.

                                                        1. re: indiefoodie
                                                          askdrtodd Dec 29, 2011 09:06 PM

                                                          indie- really appreciate you reporting back, and I couldn't be happier that you enjoyed some of the great food Tampa has to offer. I pretty much anticipated after I read the word "Ceviche" that the response wouldn't be anything worthy of note, but am happy to hear you had some great cocktails at Ciro's and some yummy grub at Pane and Mid Peninsula. If you dug taco bus, you really have to try the big brother restaurant (Taqueria Monterrey) next time you're in town. It's like Taco Bus, only good ;)

                                                          1. re: askdrtodd
                                                            Manderley Dec 30, 2011 02:38 PM

                                                            whaaaa? i LOVE the bus. and was disappointed in taqueria monterrey. guess it's all a matter of taste, but seriously, WHO doesn't like the bus????

                                                            1. re: Manderley
                                                              rhnault Dec 31, 2011 12:25 PM

                                                              I like the bus but I like TM the best. I love the tortas, the salsa bar, fresh tortillas, the seafood guacamole and table service.

                                                              1. re: rhnault
                                                                askdrtodd Jan 2, 2012 09:43 PM

                                                                Oh yeah I forgot, salsa bar alone is worth visiting. I typically fill up on those awesome pickled onions/jalapenos and chips with excellent salsas/moles/etc long before the food shows up

                                                                1. re: askdrtodd
                                                                  andy huse Jan 5, 2012 06:42 AM

                                                                  i'm with you, Todd. I can't understand why anyone would choose the bus over TM. Tm actually has a kitchen, and the food reflects that. also, fresh tortillas. The bus is like a cafeteria hot line ... in a bus. The Bus's salsas tend toward the salty side, while those at TM are more vibrant and fresh. TM has awesome housemade chorizo, pastor, and so on. and the pickled onions in the salsa bar are a must. I suspect the affection for the bus is sentimental. I just don't get it.

                                                                  as for the Columbia, i ate there twice over the holidays, lunch and dinner. both meals excellent. but i have had bad moments over the years. if there's a problem, bring it to your server's attention. they aim to please.

                                                                  1. re: andy huse
                                                                    deet13 Jan 24, 2012 04:57 PM

                                                                    Plus TM, unlike the Taco Bus, has air conditioning...

                                                                    1. re: deet13
                                                                      slpreston Jul 14, 2012 04:23 PM

                                                                      I can't understand why they closed TM and opened another Taco Bus. I like the Bus, but TM was something really special. Anyone know what happened?

                                                          2. re: indiefoodie
                                                            gfr1111 Dec 31, 2011 02:45 AM

                                                            Thanks for your opinion, Indiefoodie. It is always interesting to hear what experienced people from out of town think of our restaurants. I note that 6 out of 10 restaurants on your original list (December 8, 2011) failed to make your list of restaurants actually patronized. I thought your original list was excellent. Perhaps on another visit, you could go to the rest of the restaurants on your original list?

                                                            However, I thought the places which you did visit were a representative sample of good to excellent Tampa restaurants.

                                                            1. re: gfr1111
                                                              indiefoodie Jan 4, 2012 08:10 PM

                                                              Thanks! Out of the original list, Refinery was almost unanimously vetoed. Red Masa, people felt was not special and someone mentioned that Mise en Place was nothing different from tons of NYC restaurants so I did not think about those. Since Oyestercatchers was closed on Sunday, I missed out on the brunch. Ted Peters does look interesting. Stupid question - smoked fish - does that mean smoked fish Russ and Daughters style (for whose who are familiar with the one in NYC) or is it different? Sideburns is on the list for the future :)

                                                              1. re: indiefoodie
                                                                joan Jan 5, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                Re smoked fish: probably not the same. A quick google of Russ and Daughters website shows what is commonly called "cold smoked" fish, usually salmon, which has a texture close to that of raw fish. Ted Peters sells "hot smoked" fish which has a delicious smoky flavor and the flaky texture of cooked fish. However, I just noticed that R&D also sells "kippered" fish, which is the same as the hot smoked...hope this is not too confusing!

                                                                1. re: indiefoodie
                                                                  TampaAurora Jan 5, 2012 05:36 PM

                                                                  Smoked fish here is hot smoked and then made into a salad - much like whitefish salad.

                                                                  1. re: TampaAurora
                                                                    rhnault Jan 6, 2012 03:55 AM

                                                                    I have never had smoked fish salad. I have had smoked fish dip and whole smoked Mullet.

                                                                    1. re: rhnault
                                                                      Manderley Jan 7, 2012 02:47 AM

                                                                      Whitefish salad on a toasted bagel....oooooh now i'm really homesick. (sigh).

                                                              2. re: indiefoodie
                                                                limetruk Jan 18, 2012 05:16 PM

                                                                These are great reviews and to me fairly spot on. I moved back here after being in Atlanta for 12 years and was very worried that I was going to be seriously disappointed in my eats, but nothing has been further from the truth. Tampa's dining scene while small has great choices and wonderful restaurants.

                                                              3. c
                                                                coloradosmom Jan 30, 2012 07:25 AM

                                                                I've lived in the Tampa Bay area all of my life and most of these recommendations are really good. The only one I dont agree with is Mid penisula. Its got a cool character about it but all of the fried selection seem to have way to much breading. I for sure recommend Ted Peters-actually went there yesterday. Taco bus is good and Ceviches is aweseome. I especially love the veal stuffed peppers in the sherry cream sauce when I go there. A new restauraunt I've found to love is this little place on Kennedy in South Tampa called Bin 27 Bistro. The food is spot on, most of the menu is all organic as they have co-ops with some farms and they also have a lot of gluten free choices. I didn't read the whole thread, so not sure if someone mentioned it but Mazarros is a great Italian market to grab some lunch. I almost always get their ahi tuna sandwhich with wasabi mayo....mmm yummy.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: coloradosmom
                                                                  CFishman Feb 1, 2012 06:53 PM

                                                                  Coloradosmom, I think the only thing we would agree on is Ted Peters. All my meals at Mid-Peninsula have been great. If it were in my neighborhood, I would eat there once a week. Ceviche used to be good but seems to have fallen off. Maybe the new location will revive Ceviche a bit. I had one meal at Bin 27 and was not impressed at all.

                                                                  1. re: CFishman
                                                                    Veggo Feb 1, 2012 08:29 PM

                                                                    I don't know of any place on the Florida Gulf other than Mid-Peninsula that serves cracked conch, and theirs is good. It's an automatic part of my order, every time, and sometimes reason enough to cross the Skyway Bridge from my location.

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