Even if you've already given up on the 0-4 Bucs, this week offers a chance for at least one segment of the football-watching population to look forward to something: Philadelphia Eagles fans.
After moving to the area from Old City seven years ago, a native to neither region, I couldn't help but notice the bizarre binary nexus Tampa Bay and Philadelphia share. Whether it's the Philadelphia Phillies holding spring training in Clearwater (not to mention that 2008 World Series) or the overabundance of Philadelphia-friendly sports bars, there's plenty to take you home if you're a Philly transplant or just visiting for Sunday's game. Either way, here's a quick guide to doing up your tailgate Iggles-style with things common across Tampa Bay.
First and foremost, procuring a case or three of Yuengling is easy here, since the brewery off Fowler Avenue (11111 N 30th St.; yuengling.com) is the only place outside Pottsville, Pa., where the treasured beverage is brewed. They offer free tours daily and are showcasing a new brewhouse, and you can even get away with simply calling it "lager," just like bars in Center City, and people will understand what brand you're talking about.
The beer tastes great washing down pies from the area's ubiquitous pizza chain, Westshore Pizza (multiple locations; westshorepizza.com). Philadelphia native Bob Vasaturo started the business in Tampa 15 years ago and now has 41 locations to show for it. His stores use their own bakery for sandwich rolls, and the pizza crust isn't too floppy like New York, too bland like New Jersey or too thick like Chicago, just the way Philly folk like it.
New to the area this year is every eastern Pennsylvanian's favorite stop 'n' shop, Wawa (multiple locations; wawa.com). The Media, Pa.-based convenience store chain invaded like a swarm of locusts this spring — savory, delicious locusts. Besides gas that seems to run on the low side, the ever-popular Wawa hoagies are still available at any one of at least five stores now open from Pinellas Park to Riverview, with more on the way. How many more? Try as many as 20 over the next three years. Tastykakes and Herr's potato chips also fill the aisles, just like stores in the mid-Atlantic states.
If you're looking for something a little more local for your snacks, there's a real Broad Street vibe to Philly Phlava (three locations; phillyphlava.com), a trio of joints offering cheesesteaks right off the griddle — complete with Cheez Whiz! — to precede those Butterscotch Krimpets and Hank's soda. Owner Benjamin Coia, also a Philadelphia native, opened the first in Town 'N Country in 2005 before moving into Carrollwood and, as of last month, Brandon. The menu even calls a cheesesteak made with chicken a chicken steak, like Pat's and Geno's and any street meat vendor between the Schuylkill and Delaware does.
Better yet, the places offer 2-inch-thick, carbtastic Philly-style pretzels, brought in from Washington Avenue's Center City Soft Pretzel Co., frozen and ready for baking. The stores advertise their support for the Tampadelphia Eagles Fan Club, which meets at the Players Sports Lounge in the DoubleTree Hotel on Cypress Street in Tampa on game days. Many also swear by transplant Jim Reeves' cheesesteaks, also made with Amoroso's bread, at Big Jim's Famous in Largo (9220 Ulmerton Road; bigjimssteaks.com).
To wash all that down, a true Fildelfyan will need something cold and sweet, so it's good thing there are three Rita's Italian Ice locations in Pinellas County among the numerous Florida franchises (multiple locations; ritasice.com). The wudder ice is not far from the Bensalem original in terms of quality, and yes, Swedish Fish are available.
So bring your goodies and your attytood to Raymond James Stadium, dear Philly folk. You may be favorites on Sunday, but just you wait and see how hockey fans react when Vinnie Lecavalier comes back to town in a Flyers sweater.