In recent years, the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida has become the ‘it’ spot in Tampa with its burgeoning restaurant and bar scene. After Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe found success, the neighborhood began to attract numerous ambitious culinary businesses. Check out our picks for this trendy neighborhood’s top 10 restaurants.
On June 27, 2015, Steve Sera and his wife Olivia debuted Chop Chop Shop in Seminole Heights, after having built a following with their Korean-fusion build-a-bowl truck called Kind Grinds. In the tiny restaurant, a hand-lettered menu on one wall tells you how it works. First, you pick a base (white rice or buckwheat soba noodles), then you choose a sauce or style, then a protein (beef, karage, pork belly), and finally, a side of veggies. They also have some Korean and Brazilian-style third pound burgers and appetizers. All of the food is quickly made to order, and customers fall in love with pretty much everything on the menu, though some particularly popular choices include the Miso Love Love sauce, the karage, and the purple slaw side. If you’re in the mood for a burger, the Seoul burger is also a favorite.
Built by local craftsmen using reclaimed materials whenever possible, Rooster & the Till is a quaint 70 seat restaurant that serves up Modern American cuisine cooked with love and sourced from nearby farms and gardens. If you are looking for an elevated and sophisticated meal that’s a step above the rest, Rooster & the Till is the place to go. The servers take time to explain how everything works and make sure that your experience is the best. Amazing appetizers like raw oysters and clams, a well thought out cheese platter, and a charcuterie plate start off the unique experience, and entrées like the Ribeye-scallion-cauliflower-potato-oyster soubise, gnocchi with short ribs, and pork jowl are loved by all. Pistachio cake, cinnamon toast crunch ice cream, chocolate cake fumble, and bananas brûlée are just some of the incredible desserts that you can choose to finish off your meal. The menu changes frequently based on what’s available, everything is meant to be shared, and you’ll definitely want to make a reservation ahead of time for this popular place.
About 20 years ago, The Refinery got its starts when a young cook named Greg Baker was working in the line at an upscale French restaurant, and he suddenly had the realization that good food was being wasted on the people who could afford it. He set about on a mission to make good food available to everyone, and in 2010, his vision finally became a reality when he opened The Refinery with his wife. Ever since, they have been serving elevated food only grown in Florida or produced using ethically sound methods, with the highest quality ingredients and at prices that don’t break the bank. The excellent craft beer selection, intimate and cool ambiance, and ever-evolving delicious foods made from scratch keep patrons coming back again and again. Favorites include the pork belly, Hanger Steak, squash, and roasted chicken. The restaurant is small and cozy in a converted house, and has an outdoor patio upstairs.
Known for having the best bar food in Tampa, Mermaid Tavern may have a small menu, but it is chock full of great vegan and vegetarian options as well as house-made specialties and local menu items. Definitely not your typical bar food, Mermaid Tavern serves up such dishes as a full charcuterie plate, goat tacos, goat cheese-filled grilled cheese sandwiches, truffle fries, duck poutine, pork belly mac, and many juicy burgers on pretzel buns. You order everything at the bar, are given a number to place on your table, and then your food will be brought to you. The tavern has a laid back ambiance with funky nautical-themed decor, indoor and outdoor seating, and people always milling about, laughing, drinking, eating, or playing one of the many board games available. Of course, they also have a great selection of drinks, including craft beers, IPAs, sake, and mead, the sangria is a crowd favorite. They also have local bands and acts playing from time to time.
Located in the heart of Seminole Heights, Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe offers eclectic cuisine, intriguing art, Live Music Fridays, and Soul Food Sundays featuring Chef Ernie’s unique menu that reflects his creative personality and love for food. The building’s architecture allows for a wide range of seating outside on the deck, upstairs overlooking the place, or at the bar, and everywhere you look there is whimsical folk art. Car parts repurposed to put a smile on everyone’s faces, a flying toaster, and a wall dedicated to Elvis are just some of the delights you’ll find. During the week, popular menu items include the beef tenderloin with goat cheese, meatloaf wrapped in bacon with mash, ahi tuna tartar, rasta-far-fries, and crab stuffed butternut squash. On Soul Food Sundays, they have a brunch consisting of amazing chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, BBQ, bacon mac and cheese, and fried green tomatoes, just to name a few of the classic Southern items. It gets super crowded on Sundays for brunch, so if you’re planning to go then, you’ll want to get there early.
The low key bar and pizza place known as Hampton Station was started by two men who lost everything during the economic collapse of the 2000s and decided to open a quality pizza place that serves only the best European and American microbrews around. The service is friendly, atmosphere laid back, and the pizza, calzones, and wings are all fresh and made to order. They even have a few large TVs for watching football, and the outdoor seating area is dog friendly, with bones and dog bowls for water provided at the entrance. Residents in the neighborhood love to hang out and enjoy the New York-style thin crust pizzas and craft beers. The interior is eclectic, with odd signs, neon on the bright orange walls, and a collection of action figures behind the bar. One of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in the Tampa Bay are, The Independent has become known not only for its rare and unique beers and wines from around the world, but also the award-winning European café fare. It opens daily for breakfast and lunch, serving up gourmet coffee and tea, as well as freshly baked goods, and some of the best bar food in the area. They have great Cuban sandwiches, leberkäse sandwich with egg, roasted curried carrot soup, turkey sandwich on a freshly baked croissant with granny apple and melted brie, and spinach and feta grilled cheese. The laid back atmosphere and great friendly people mean that the place is always packed with locals who love to walk there and hang out, eat delicious food, drink good beer or coffee, and watch live bands. The ‘Indie,’ as it is called, is also a great spot to stop while walking your dog, as they are very dog-friendly. In a cute little place with old black and white photos, a collection of rare wine bottles and beers, and an awesome poster of Bruce Lee on display, The Olde Heights Bistro serves up fresh and flavorful sushi, craft sandwiches, and other New American cuisine. The staff are the friendliest around, and they are very knowledgeable about food and drinks, always happy to offer superb recommendations. The chefs also love to personally off their own specials to guests. Some of their incredible creations include a tuna and seaweed salad, perfectly cooked and seasoned thick burger, escargot bread pudding, filet mignon, shrimp scampi, sashimi plate, caprese salad, Amish bacon, and pork belly. They also have made-to-order sushi that is both delicious and different, with steak or chicken or even sautéed mushrooms and onions, and the chefs will make any kind of roll you want. The moist chocolate cake with peanut butter also makes for an excellent dessert. In Historic Old Seminole Heights, Mikey’s Café & Bakery Co. offers a wide selection of fresh made-to-order sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee drinks and old fashioned sodas, custom cakes, and many other desserts in an old-fashioned style café and bakery. The unique nostalgic ambiance is completed with an old drug store soda fountain and decor that is in keeping with the original feel of Old Seminole Heights history. They have many pieces from the 1940s through 1960s displayed throughout the café, and they also have an assortment of novelty items for sale. This family-owned-and-operated place takes pride in their sandwiches that have freshly cut premium quality meats and cheeses, as well as fresh and hearty breads. The soups are made fresh from scratch daily, as are the chicken salad, tuna salad, coleslaw and pasta salad, salad dressings, and sauces. They also have a great selection of cakes, pies, desserts, and pastries that are baked on site, as well as freshly brewed coffee and tea, and hand-mixed old-fashioned sodas. If you’re looking for a great place to go in Tampa for delicious authentic Mexican food, you have to stop by Garibaldi’s Mexican Restaurant. The rough exterior is deceiving, for the quality of the food is worth the visit to the restaurant. Their seafood dishes are especially popular, with amazing options like the shrimp loaded quesadilla and seafood variety platter with fried calami. The staff are friendly and all speak Spanish, but they are also very patient with English-speaking customers. They have great lunch specials, including a plate of tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, or taco salad for under six dollars. They also have a fantastic four dollar margarita, and you even get complimentary chips and salsa. Everyone who loves Baja-style Mexican food enjoys going to Garibaldi’s, and other favorites include the carne asada, chicken flautas, and the unique chorizo quesadillas. There is also karaoke and live music on weekends.