The Top 10 Restaurants In Tampa, Florida

Tampa skyline | © Sonny Sideup/Flickr
Tampa skyline | © Sonny Sideup/Flickr
Photo of Audra Clemons
9 February 2017

Located on the western coastline of Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay offers a rich history involving Cuban immigrants, pirates, ‘Florida Crackers’ and Spanish conquistadors. Continual inclusion on many ‘best of’ lists has catapulted Tampa to a top vacation destination within the United States. Having a myriad of cultural influences, Tampa also offers a variety of cuisines. From seafood to cigars, here are 10 restaurants that signify Tampa’s sense of culture and style.

The Columbian

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Image Courtesy of Colombia Restaurant
Image Courtesy of Colombia Restaurant
The Columbian is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the world’s largest Spanish restaurant. Century-old Spanish recipes like Valencia paella, Alicante snapper and filet mignon, accompanied by a nightly flamenco dance performance, make this a favoured restaurant among locals and tourists. In The Columbian’s gift store guests can purchase hand-rolled Cuban cigars, coffee and sangria mix.

Café Gala

Cafe, Spanish, $$$
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Cafe Gala, St. Petersburg
Cafe Gala, St. Petersburg | © The Dali Museum/Facbook
Inside the Salvador Dali museum, an architectural wonder by Yann Weymouth of HOK, Café Gala offers a menu of light fare with a Spanish theme. Tapas and small plates are a specialty here, along with pastries, gazpacho and caldo gallego soup, salads and sandwiches. Visitors do not need to purchase tickets to the museum to enjoy a breakfast, lunch or dinner in the Café or outdoors in the Avant Garden patio. Beverages of choice are coffee, Spanish beer and the Cafe’s signature Spanish rosé champagne, Cava Rosado. Named after Dalí’s wife and muse, Café Gala succeeds in leaving the palate satisfied.

Birch & Vine

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
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Rococo Steak
Rococo Steak | Courtesy White Pages
Located inside The Birchwood Hotel, this acclaimed restaurant offers approachable yet inventive dishes. Led by Chef Jason Cline, Birch & Vine uses local, organic ingredients that change with the season to assure the freshest meal. With indoor and al fresco seating, Birch & Vine gives guests an incredible sunset view of Tampa Bay along with an excellent meal. For an additional, elevated view visit the rooftop bar, The Canopy, which offers light bites and drinks alongside an unobstructed view of the water. Order the hydroponic butter lettuce stack then crispy pork belly & gorgonzola burger. Couple the meal with an Argentinean Malbec.

Rococo Steak

This funeral home-turned-steakhouse is set within a Rococo styled 1920s building with decadent ornamentation akin to 18th century Paris. Like The Rococo style was to Baroque, Rococo Steak is a modern departure from the traditional steakhouse, offering petite corn-fed steaks with grass-fed options, plus a bone-in rib eye. The cuisine is complemented by a selection of over 4,000 bottles of wine, with vintages dating back to 1906. The interior design conveys a playful yet sophisticated style with artwork from local artisans throughout the rooms. Other Rococo menu favourites are free-range chicken, Texas venison, Pacific oysters, creamed corn, quinoa and kale chips.

Rococo Steak, 655 Second Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL, United States, +1 727-822-0999

The Refinery

Restaurant, Cafe, American, French, $$$
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The Refinery, Tampa
The Refinery, Tampa
Named as Tampa’s best restaurant by numerous sources, including three James Beard nominations, The Refinery offers a French twist on Southern traditional food. The restaurant is owned by executive chef Greg Baker, who brings over 20 years of experience from kitchens across America. Chef Baker created his venue concept with the idea that good food should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Rotating weekly menus from locally sourced food vendors, The Refinery attempts to reduce the environmental footprint inside the kitchen and out. Suggested from the menu are the clam Waldorf salad, country fried pork steak and manchego cauliflower mash.

Restaurant BT

Restaurant, French, Vietnamese, Contemporary, $$$
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B.T. Nguyen, owner of Restaurant BT, is a lovely Vietnamese-American woman with direct opinions and a clear aesthetic, drawing influence from her Vietnamese roots and fashion background. Her intimate dining room features translucent Louis ghost chairs and regal silk draperies, while her French-Vietnamese menu is sumptuous leaning lightly towards the health-conscious. Contemporary white plates accented with edible flowers and fresh herbs are enjoyed in BT’s Zen like atmosphere. Try the pumpkin soup, which consists of galangal and coconut milk; and the bo tai chanh, a spicy, herbal take on filet mignon tartare.


Restaurant, Seafood, Mexican, Contemporary, $$$
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Taco Bus
Taco Bus | Courtesy Ashley Reams Mistretta
Oystercatchers gives restaurant patrons a stunning bay view and fresh wild and line-caught fish directly sourced from The Gulf of Mexico. Located inside one of Tampa’s premier hotels, The Hyatt, this restaurant cuisine is prepared daily by Chef Michael Chong. Upscale and contemporary décor are seen throughout, with bay front sunset views only to complement the gourmet menu selection. Do not ignore the lobster macaroni and cheese and the whole stuffed snapper among the various seafood selections. After dinner take a walk down the pier to peruse a few local retail shops. On the weekends sunset festival activities take place.

The Taco Bus

Restaurant, Mexican, Vegan, Vegetarian
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Taco Bus, East Hillsborough Avenue
Taco Bus, East Hillsborough Avenue | Courtesy of Mellow Mushroom
Dine in the restaurant or catch the 24-hour mobile Taco Bus. Both offer an authentic taste of regional Mexico made from traditional recipes. Meals are prepared daily with fresh ingredients as well as vegan and vegetarian options. Holding coveted spots on the Food Network, The Travel Channel and the Cooking Channel, Chef Renee Valenzuela has succeeded with his 30-years-in-the-making dream of serving Mexican street fare to the United States of America. Offering daily menu specials from tostados and tacos to burritos and tortas, The Taco Bus offers a selection of fish, meats, tofu and vegetables. Try the vegan steak strip burrito and butternut squash tostada.

Mellow Mushroom

Springing from a pipe dream during the 1970s hippy culture, Mellow Mushroom was created as place where folks could gather to have a delicious and creative slice of pizza. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, this Southern franchise stayed south of the Mason-Dixon line serving a simple idea, a pizza slice and a cold beer. Each franchise offers different décor but the same quality of pizza. Additionally The Bake Bus, a full pizza kitchen on wheels, tours across the USA serving pizza to happy faces along the way. Order the bayou bleu pizza with grilled shrimp, andouille sausages, and bleu cheese.

Mellow Mushroom, 11955 Sheldon Road, Tampa, Florida, United States, +1 813-926-3600

Rusty Pelican

Restaurant, Seafood, American, $$$
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Rusty Pelican Restaurant Tampa/Facebook
Rusty Pelican Restaurant Tampa/Facebook
The Rusty Pelican is Tampa Bay’s quintessential ocean front restaurant offering classic cuisine and a premiere beverage selection. Opening its doors in 1978 and serving the bay area consistently for over three decades, the Rusty Pelican maintains its elegance and nautical ambience. Four fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and aquatic marine lights make the Rusty Pelican a cosy Tampa Bay standout. For lunch, order the blue point oysters on the half shell or the ceviche trilogy. The Rusty Pelican offers a prix fix sunset menu where guests can enjoy the day’s last light with a salad, the catch of the day and signature cheesecake.

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