Could it be that downtown Tampa is finally becoming a hip place to see and be seen? Judge for yourself. Here's a sampling of some of the best bars and restaurants in and around downtown Tampa. (Call for hours.) — Jay Cridlin firstname.lastname@example.org
Eddie & Sam's: The pizzas here are proudly made with real New York City water. Try a greasy slice of the Bianca, with fluffy ricotta, mozzerella and grated Parmesan for a real mouth-watering lunch break. 203 E Twiggs St. (813) 229-8500.
Lonni's Sandwiches: The fare at this small local chain is healthy but inventive and flavorful (try the Mango Breeze sandwich, with brie, avocado, curried mango chutney and alfalfa sprouts on wild rice bread). 513 E Jackson St. (813) 223-2333.
On the River Cafe: A hidden gem, this small riverfront cafe inside the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center offers pleasing burgers and sandwiches at a reasonable price. It's open for lunch and dinner on show nights, even to patrons without tickets. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place. (813) 222-1000.
It's easy to drop some serious coin on a meal if you know where to look:
Malio's Prime: Malio Iavarone's old joint on Dale Mabry was a favorite of politicos and sports honchos. The new Malio's Prime, in the Beer Can Building, serves no-nonsense steaks in a swinging riverfront setting. 400 N Ashley Drive. (813) 223-7746.
Gallagher's Steak House: The famed New York steak joint that claims to have invented the New York strip now has five clones around the country. One is at Channelside. Ask for a seat near the window to have a view of the water. 615 Channelside Drive. (813) 229-8000.
Cafe Dufrain: Even if you don't live on tony Harbour Island, it's worth a trip over Garrison Channel for the sleek fare at this sleek New American fusion bistro. 707 Harbour Post Drive. (813) 275-9701.
In the mood for something a little more exotic? Try the fare at one of these joints:
Bamboozle: This bustling little Vietnamese joint has become a favorite among the downtown lunch crowd. You could make a meal out of several of the delectable rice-paper rolls. 516 N Tampa St. (813) 223-7320.
L'Eden: A menu of memorable lunch and dessert crepes make this tiny French bistro worth a visit. 500 N Tampa St., (813) 221-4795.
Spain: The tapas and seafood are excellent, but the chic Euro-style minimalist decor is just as eye-popping. 513 Tampa St. (813) 223-2831.
Paninoteca Mediterranean Cafe: Flavorful fare from Italy and around the Mediterranean, from pressed paninis to hot and cold mezze to homemade baklava. 519 N Franklin St. (813) 341-2525.
TIME TO PARTY
Come here for some of the coolest joints in the area:
Splitsville: Lots of bowling alleys have cute, snazzy vibes. Channelside's Splittsville is all upscale razzle-dazzle, with great food and drinks to go with your strikes and spares. 615 Channelside Drive. (813) 514-2695.
Stump's Supper Club: Hearty southern fare in a retro-chic environs, with the added bonus of live rock band karaoke on Friday nights. 615 Channelside Drive. (813) 226-2261.
Fly Bar & Restaurant: Check out Fly for its quality live music, clientele of well-heeled young professionals, kicking rooftop bar and top-notch sliders. 1202 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 275-5000.
Taps Wine & Beer Merchants: Its sleek, automated, pay-by-the-ounce wine system and remarkably stocked beer list has made this SkyPoint tenant one of the most buzzed-about spots in downtown Tampa. 777 N Ashley Drive. (813) 463-1968.
Club Underground: One of the area's top hip-hop clubs is located in downtown Tampa. Young Jeezy, Plies, Tiesto, Ginuwine and Juvenile are among the artists who've appeared here since 2007. 802 E Whiting St. (813) 857-5872.
DIVE RIGHT IN
Indie-minded drinkers might check out one of the area's top low-key watering holes:
The Hub: As iconic as it is authentic, the Hub has been drawing dyed-in-the-wool local tastemakers for decades. It also has what many consider to be Tampa Bay's top jukebox. 719 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 229-1553
Kelly's Pub: On any given night at this modest Scottish-themed pub, you're likely to find some of Tampa Bay's top young DJs and musicians onstage. Good draft beer selection, too. 206 N Morgan St., Tampa. (813) 228-0870.
Hattrick's: This hockey bar holds its own even when the Lightning aren't in season. Tabletop shuffleboard and sweet potato fries go a long way in our books. 107 S Franklin St. (813) 225-4288.
JUST CHECKING IN
One thing downtown Tampa has going for it: waterfront hotels (and the bars and restaurants that come with them):
Champions/Il Terrazzo/Lobby Bar: The Tampa Marriott Waterside's three bars and restaurants all offer outdoor seating and views of Garrison Channel. A nice spot close to the convention center. 700 S Florida Ave. (813) 221-4900.
Jackson's Bistro: This sushi spot is attached to the Westin Harbour Island, and converts from a waterfront restaurant by day into one of Tampa Bay's coolest nightclubs after dark. 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd. (813) 277-0112.
Ashley Street Grille: Located inside the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk, this bar offers tremendous nighttime views of the University of Tampa across the Hillsborough River. 200 N Ashley Drive. (813) 226-4400.
OVER THE RIVER
Just across the Hillsborough River are three fun spots you won't want to miss:
Four Green Fields: This thatched-roof Irish pub was recently voted one of the 100 Best Places to Drink Beer in America, according to Imbibe magazine. 205 W Platt St. (813) 254-4444.
Nola Cafe: Chicory coffee, beignets and shrimp po'boys — it's a taste of New Orleans in Tampa. 301 W Platt St. No. C. (813) 258-8778.
The Retreat: It's across the street, more or less, from the University of Tampa, making it a popular hangout for young Spartans. But it's been around in one form or another since the '30s. 123 S Hyde Park Ave. (813) 254-2014.
Contributing: tbt* files