The 10 Best Restaurants In Tampa Heights, Florida

Catrina Pang

One of the oldest neighborhoods in the central part of Tampa, Florida, Tampa Heights is known for its diversity and historic status, but not really for its food. In recent years, people have been trying to restore the area, leading to the opening of some great restaurants. From local hidden gems to fancy new dining establishments, we’ve uncovered the best places to eat that are worth the trip through Tampa Heights.

1. Lee’s Grocery

Bar, Restaurant, Grocery Store, Pizzeria, American

Lee’s Grocery, Tampa
© Matthew Paulson/Flickr
Though you might not know it from its name, Lee’s Grocery is definitely not a grocery store. It is in fact a full-fledged stone baked pizza joint with an enormous selection of beer. Back in the late 1800s, it was an old general store, but it has since evolved into a quaint bar and pizza place. Their popular pies have a crust that is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the perfect amount of sauce, and fresh ingredients. Popular choices are the Minor Threat (pesto, mushrooms, spinach, jalapeños, and feta) and the Don’t Stand So Close to Me (olive oil, garlic, onions, black olives, artichokes, mushrooms, ricotta, and mozzarella), and they also have delicious hot wings. They have seven tap handles, with great microbrews and eurobrews to choose from that are always balanced, as well as an entire back wall and half of another wall lined with beer in bottles and cans. If you aren’t a beer person, they also have great craft sodas and juices. There is seating for about 30 people inside and a courtyard outside. In addition, they have games to play, a flatscreen television, and a community bulletin board.

2. Ulele

Restaurant, American

Ulele, Tampa
© Nicole Kibert/Flickr
Pronounced You-lay-lee, Ulele is a restaurant and brewery that celebrates the vibrant fusion of ingredients from Florida waters and land, once home to many Native Americans like the young princess Ulele. It overlooks the Hillsborough River next to Water Works Park and the Ulele Spring, which flows to the river. Every day, this family-owned restaurant serves up unique foods and spirits by combining elements from a rich variety of Native American and multicultural influences, including those of European explorers, featuring items indigenous to the area’s waters and farms. They use fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other proteins from Florida when they are available, as well as food harvested and raised in the United States from family-owned and independent companies. Especially popular menu items include the okra fries, alligator hush puppy, white cheddar popcorn mashed potatoes, crab mac and cheese, and deconstructed seafood pot pie, as well as the candied duck bacon maple fried ice cream for dessert. Art from the owners’ private collection adorns the walls, and the architecture and design of the building are beautiful and unique.

3. Cafe Hey

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Coffee, American, Vegan

Cafe Hey, Tampa
© bionicgrrrl/Flickr
In an artsy little shop, Cafe Hey serves up some of the best healthy and vegan-friendly food in the area. Locals love to stop by for breakfast or lunch and order the VLT (vegan BLT) or one of the sandwiches pressed hot on delicious Cuban bread with an iced cafe con leche, buddy brew coffee, or cherry rose green tea. The walls are covered with creative and unique local art, music posters, murals, and signs celebrating regional foods that supply the business. The art is usually for sale, so if you see something you like, you can take it home with you. They also have free WiFi, and that, coupled with the hipster vibe of the place, make it a local favorite for studying or hanging out. Every Friday, there is live music performed by local singers and songwriters, and every Thursday is open mic night, with poetry, live music, and performances welcome. They also host art shows every month that anyone in town can submit their work to.

4. Ming Gardens Restaurant

Restaurant, Chinese, Vegan

A community staple for nearly 20 years, Ming Gardens Restaurant serves up excellent and satisfying Chinese food that won’t break the bank. Though they do have a couple tables in the restaurant, most choose to order to go. It’s in a very urban area, so people don’t often like to stick around for long, but the food is definitely worth it. Customers herald the Chinese take out as the best in Tampa, with favorites like the spring rolls, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, broccoli, and shrimp. Vegans love the vegetable fried rice and General Tso’s tofu. They also have great wings and crab rangoon. The friendly and fast service, fresh flavorful food, and great prices make this New York-style Chinese restaurant extremely popular among locals. © tomcensani/Flickr

5. Gold Ring Cafe

Cafe, Restaurant, Spanish, Cuban

Gold Ring Cafe & Catering, Tampa
© queennepy/Flickr
A long-time Tampa Bay favorite, Gold Ring Cafe has been providing excellent Spanish dishes and outstanding customer service for 39 years. The uniquely delicious global cuisine is prepared in house with only the freshest produce, meats, and poultry. They offer a variety of menu items including grilled meats, fresh seafood, and authentic Spanish dishes and desserts. All of the Tampa standard items like Cuban sandwiches, devil crab, and black beans and rice can be found here as well, and they are all well-done and made quickly. Many locals have been coming to this place for years with their parents and grandparents for their Cuban sandwich fix. Gold Ring is also a full service gourmet food catering company, with waiters, servers, and bartenders available to help make any event more special.

6. Georges’ Family Cuisine

Cafe, Restaurant, Haitian

Family Cuisine Of Tampa LLC, Tampa
© Garrett Ziegler/Flickr
Set in a casual atmosphere, Georges’ Family Cuisine delivers a delightful menu of authentic Haitian cuisine. It is located inside the Fiesta Liquors building and marked by a faded sign, but the amazing Creole and American dishes at this place make the extra effort of finding it worthwhile. Run by native Haitian Yves Georges, this little cafe has become a favorite among the many members of the Haitian community in Tampa, as well as among lovers of Caribbean food. Georges’s commitment to associations with local growers and the use of seasonal organic products, as well as his passion for the creation of quality cuisine instead of fast food, has led to the restaurant’s reputation for serving some of the best food in the area. Georges loves to share his philosophy on food and connection to Haitian culture with the restaurant’s patrons.

7. Restaurante y Panaderia Rincon Guatemalteco

Cafe, Restaurant, Guatemalan

Rincon Guatemalteco, Tampa
© Kevin Dooley/Flickr
Whether you’re from Guatemala, love Guatemalan cuisine, or looking to try some delicious homemade food, you should definitely check out Restaurante y Panaderia Rincon Guatemalteco. Everyday, they serve up amazing tamales, chuchitos, bread, handmade tortillas, and refried black beans, as well as Guatemalan classics like pepiàn, a Mayan curry, and champurradas, Guatemalan cookies. They also have a delicious dessert called atol de elote, a sweet corn and milk drink, and they even sell the popular Guatemalan corn chips known as TorTrix. The Cafe Adobada is an especially popular menu item, consisting of uniquely seasoned pork, rice, beans, and a tasty buttery sour cream. Patrons also love the fruit drinks and coffee that are typical of Guatemala.

8. Rick’s on the River

Restaurant, Bar, Pub Grub

Rick’s on the River, Tampa
© BXGD/Flickr
Set on the Hillsborough River and featuring live music every night, Rick’s on the River is a fantastic spot to enjoy a beautiful Florida afternoon while eating delicious fresh oysters and drinking a cold beer. If you have a boat, they let you dock for free in the marina while you eat. The smoked fish spread is a popular appetizer, as well as the fresh-made chips and spinach artichoke dip. They also serve a tasty seasonal blackened grilled grouper sandwich, a Philly cheesesteak, and a shrimp po-boy. In addition, you can ask for their amazing Cajun fries as a side instead of regular fries. The majority of the restaurant’s patrons are boaters and elderly folk, but all people love to relax at this place and watch the boats floating by.

9. Cappy’s Pizzeria

Restaurant, Pizzeria, American

A Tampa-based restaurant chain, Cappy’s Pizzeria was established in 1995 and promotes itself as a neighborhood hangout with an unpretentious menu featuring pizzas, salads, breadsticks, and calzones. An electric train runs around the perimeter of the restaurant’s ceiling, and old records and board games make the place feel like home. They also have a beer fridge from which you can help yourself to drinks, using the bottle opener right next to it. Whether you prefer thinner New York-style pizzas or deep dish Chicago pizzas, Cappy’s has you covered with many delicious options. The slightly charred crust, delicious sauce and cheese, and big pepperonis make the New York pizzas a great choice. In addition, the deep dish pizzas are known for being the closest to true Chicago deep dish pizza in Florida, thanks to their use of wheat rather than corn meal flour in the crust. The salads are also excellent, with a popular choice being the Greek salad that comes with potato salad underneath in true Tampa fashion. The pizzas can take a while to cook, so the Trivial Pursuit cards at the table come in handy for the wait.

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