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Photograph: Jeremy Scott | Gigglewaters Social Club and Screening Room
Photograph: Jeremy Scott | Gigglewaters Social Club and Screening Room

The 11 best restaurants in Tampa

From Native American fusion to iconic Cuban sandwiches and Southern BBQ, the best restaurants in Tampa are heating up

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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Sure, this city is well-known for its nearby beaches and championship winning sports teams. But when you need to refuel, some of the best restaurants in Tampa are right around the corner (believe it or not, some are even tucked inside the city’s top hotels).

Some of Tampa’s most ambitious new restaurants have popped up around the city’s revitalized areas, meaning you can check off some Tampa’s top attractions while eating top-notch food—you’ll find restaurants along the buzzing 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk or even tucked inside the Heights Public Market (a reimagined 1901 streetcar warehouse), just for starters. Ranging in style from authentic Cuban food in Tampa’s historic Ybor City (this is the birthplace of the iconic Cuban sandwich, after all) to sweet and smoky BBQ, there’s no shortage of flavor here. Have a few days to explore? These are the 11 best restaurants in Tampa.

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Best restaurants in Tampa

Ulele, an award-winning restaurant along the Tampa Riverwalk, is known for its Native American and Florida fusion. The centerpiece of the restaurant is a barbacoa grill that cooks everything from burgers to charred oysters. For a real taste of Florida get the alligator hush puppies—the dish combines fresh alligator meat, country ham, corn, and jalapeño into one sweet, spicy, and savory bite.

The Deviled Pig serves up sweet and smoky BBQ in a range of surprising ways—even as a pizza topping—but there’s one sandwich that locals can't seem to get enough of. Called the Pitmaster Queban, it’s a BBQ twist on Tampa’s iconic Cuban sandwich topped with brisket, pulled pork, and house-made bologna served with mustard sauce, Swiss cheese, and Deviled Pig pickles.

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The Columbia Restaurant, located in Ybor City, has been around since 1905 (in fact, it’s Florida’s oldest restaurant). Once a local cafe that mainly served cigar workers back in Ybor City’s industrious heyday, it’s now one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world. Its sangria pitchers are legendary, and don’t leave without ordering the restaurant’s signature 1905 salad—it’s been made the same way for over a century by tossing iceberg lettuce, ham, Swiss cheese, olives, tomato, Romano cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and a house made garlic dressing all together table-side.

Rome + Fig, located in the North Hyde Park neighborhood, serves a variety of globally inspired dishes. A perfect example, and certainly one of their most popular appetizers, is a Southern twist on the classic Italian caprese salad that swaps red tomatoes for fried green tomatoes (if you end up ordering it twice, we won’t judge). Expect similar riffs throughout the menu with entree staples like scallops and filet mignon that change based on seasonal ingredients.

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At St. Pete Beach, just a short drive from downtown Tampa, make your way to Spinners Rooftop Grille. Here, everyone gets a window seat: the 12th floor restaurant is a bit of a showstopper with 360-degree ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the space. Looking for a standout dish? Order the fresh catch ceviche, which features the best fish the chef can get their hands on that day plus fresh local lemons, shaved jalapeños, leche de Tigre, and crispy plantains.

Goody Goody Burgers, in Hyde Park Village, is a beloved local diner that serves just about everything you can imagine. Known for its scrumptious breakfasts with all the classics, it's also a popular burger joint (as its name suggests). Keen to order the burger that put this place on the map? Order the “Pox,” a burger with pickles, onions, and secret sauce—yep, it's as simple as that.

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Oxford Exchange is part shop, part bookstore, part restaurant, and totally magical. For an experience that’ll feel quintessentially English, book the Sunday brunch—the experience includes tea, sandwiches, scones, and desserts served in a traditional British manor. And if you’re a breakfast fanatic, you’re in luck: breakfast is served all day each and every weekday, which means you can indulge in one of their massive cinnamon rolls (served warm, and loaded with cream cheese glaze and fresh strawberries) even at 4:30 p.m.

Hands down, this casual spot serves some of the best sushi in the Tampa area. The sushi counter is located inside the Heights Public Market at Armature Works, a former streetcar warehouse built in 1910 that was reimagined as a hip mixed-use venue (you’ll find plenty of restaurants alongside Zukku if you want to make your visit a food crawl). Order the lobster volcano roll, a spicy combo of tuna, asparagus, crab mix, and avocado with a whole tempura fried lobster tail—it’s indulgent, but worth every bite. If you’re feeling creative you can also make your own poke bowl or sushi burrito with your choice of toppings and fillings.

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Located within the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa, treat yourself to dinner at Council Oak Steaks and Seafood. The luxe restaurant’s steaks are dry-aged on-site in rooms outfitted with pink Himalayan salt walls—sounds like a spa for precious steaks, if you ask us—and if that’s not enough ritz, the restaurant will take your meal over the top with table-side caviar service. You’ll end up spending the big bucks here, so reserve this place for a big night out.

Noble Crust, which has three locations in Tampa and the St. Pete area, gives traditional Italian dining a southern twist. The seasonal menu reflects the simplicity of Italian cuisine while highlighting local ingredients, serving anything from fried green tomatoes topped with pimento cheese to traditional ricotta gnocchi. The wood-fired pizzas are also a crowd pleaser—order their Margherita 2.0 and you’ll get a next-level pie with toppings like Calabrian chili, fresh mozzarella, whipped ricotta, avocado, and more.

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The Safety Harbor neighborhood is home to a unique prohibition-themed restaurant called Gigglewaters Social Club and Screening Room. The casual eatery serves everything from burgers to loaded macaroni and cheese, but the real star of the show is the hidden movie theater in the back of the restaurant. Here you can sit and watch a classic or recently released film while you munch on your meal and sip a cocktail. Be sure to make friends with the bartenders who can whip you up a perfect bourbon cocktail.

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