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Jan 3, 2013 08:03 AM

BJ's Alabama BBQ, South Mabry, Tampa, other recs, too?

So we're staying at the HoJo's on South Mabry after a cruise. We won't have access to a vehicle but we don't have an aversion to riding the bus to get around.

We'll arrive in the morning on a Sunday, and plan on spending some time at the aquarium. We'll have a lunch and a dinner. Probably want lunch around the aquarium and then dinner I was thinking about some good BBQ or maybe Cuban food. I saw a thing about Arco-Iris and it looks like it's only a short bus ride from the hotel. I also saw that there's BJ's Alabama BBQ on the same road.

I poked around here and saw some discussion about BJ's but it's fairly old. So I wondered if anyone had been there recently. Or is the food at Arco-Iris going to be worth taking the bus (as opposed to walking a block or so from the hotel)?

We are fond of foods that we can't get in New England (where we live), and my husband is especially fond of Latin influenced foods. I'm very fond of BBQ, but I also like Latin influenced a fair whack.

Our cruise will be taking us to Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, though. So maybe there's other regional things we should try... Oh, husband hates seafood (I love it), but will go to a seafood place if I insist. Still, if I can take us somewhere he doesn't have to just get a burger, I'd prefer that.

I think I've rambled enough...

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  1. Just a heads up, bus service is limited on Sundays in Tampa...plan accordingly

    1. While I do like Arco Iris, you might also want to consider Holy Hog BBQ at it's S. Tampa location on S. Henderson.

      3 Replies
      1. re: RibDog

        Will it be open on a Sunday and is it reachable by bus?

        1. re: Morganna

          Holy Hog BBQ is about 1.7 miles from your hotel. I cannot answer your question on the buses as I don't ride the buses. And yes, Holy Hog is open from 11 to 7 on Sundays. I believe Arco's hours are 11-9 on Sundays but I would call on this one to be certain.

          1. re: RibDog

            Thanks, I've added it to our map. Do you know if there's anything decent for a lunch near the aquarium?

      2. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Spanish, and Cuban are all the same. They share some ingredients and similarities, but they're not the same creature. Tampa is known for Spanish and Cuban -- while you're at the port, you could take the trolley to Ybor City to the Columbia for some of the most traditional grub in Tampa.

        From the HoJo, I'd call a cab to take to you BJs. Tampa's bus system leaves a LOT to be desired, especially on a Sunday.

        7 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Looking at the map, BJ's is a block or two away from the HoJo's we're staying at. My impression is that there might be more than one location for this BBQ business, but I couldn't work out for sure if the one near the HoJo's was a good one, or still open, or something.

          Thanks for the tip about the buses. Do buses not show up, or it's just not as wide spread availability, or are they late?

          We're going to have to figure this out a little bit more in detail on the timing, I think.

          1. re: Morganna

            buses on weekdays are few and far between, and it's always a challenge to even find a route that goes where you want to go. Public transport is not Tampa's strong suit -- when I lived there, I lived three miles from my office...I thought Great! I can take the bus and save money! Not so fast -- that three-mile trip would have taken me 45 minutes and two transfers. Walking or riding my bike would have taken me through a fairly rough housing complex where there were no sidewalks and heavy I drove the five minutes each way.

            I just pulled the Google Streetview -- you can see the HoJo from in front of the S. Dale Mabry location -- you could just walk.

            1. re: Morganna

              The buses run predictably, and you can catch the #36 Bus on South Dale Mabry. It runs all the way down to MacDill AFB.

              However, on Sundays the bus only run once every hour. It's $2 per ride, or $4 for an all day pass.

              If you're going to Arco-Iris, take a rental car or a cab. An hour is a long time to be stuck waiting on the side of the road for the bus. Especially considering that the weather down here can be very unpredictable during the winter (we're expecting thunderstorms on Sunday).

              IMO, I say take a cab over to Mad Dogs and Englishmen for an afternoon bite, or Loves Artifacts for Sunday brunch (it's very Southern).

              Both places are only a few blocks east of HoJo's on MacDill ave.

              Oh, and the Aquarium/Channelside area is deadsville on Sundays. Also if you're planning on riding the bus there, be very prepared for a very long ride, with a lot of transfers.

              1. re: deet13

                OP said they're arriving at the cruise terminal on Sunday morning. Only pisser there is going to the Columbia with all the luggage, which I didn't think about upthread.

                Might be easier to pick up a rental car at the cruise terminal then turn it in at the airport. A lot less screwing around waiting for one form of transportation or another.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Hoookey... y'all convinced us that it was worth getting a car rental. We're hoping to grab a shuttle from the port to the airport to pick up a car for the day.

                  Suddenly the world is our oyster and we can go anywhere we want for lunch and dinner. We're not really interested in massively fine dining (we'll have just gotten off a cruise line that reportedly has good food with a formal dining night). We're more interested in just good food that we can't get in Vermont. :D

                  I'll check out the things you've suggested, but would be fine with more suggestions if there's more to make given the lifting of the location restrictions. :)

                  Thanks again!

              2. re: Morganna

                Is BJ's Alabama BBQ open on a Sunday? Some reason, I doubt it is.

                1. re: Little T.

                  Big John's on 40th is closed on Sundays

            2. Morganna:

              just sent you a msg via your blog site.


              1. As a side, I've been hearing things about "Smoke Shack" on Westshore. Anyone tried it?


                1 Reply
                1. re: Little T.

                  Not yet, but maybe one day this week.