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Great reasons to dine outside at Tampa's Super Bowl

There's something about dining alfresco. Give us a gentle breeze, eclectic people-watching and a glass of something top-shelf, and we could linger all evening over a good outdoor meal. Even better if we don't have to cook it ourselves.

Check out our picks for the Cigar City's best eats outside of four walls.

Adobe Gila's

Centro Ybor, 1600 E Eighth Ave. • (813) 241-8588;

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily • Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; full bar • Dinner entrees: $4 to $9

The scene: With kitschy chili pepper lights around the bar and Maroon 5 blaring over the loudspeaker, this chain restaurant is more Tex than Mex. Still, you can appreciate Adobe Gila's for what it is: an unpretentious hangout with a second-story view of Centro Ybor, attentive staff and live music Thursday to Sunday. The 64-ounce margarita and a selection of 30 tequilas provide the necessary liquid courage for Wednesday karaoke nights. Don't miss: Gringo faves like chips and dip, Southwestern egg rolls and quesadillas are filling. Skip the mediocre tortilla pizzas and opt for a burger or chili cheese fries, which are among the handful of offerings that come from Fresh Mouth downstairs. There's no dessert on the menu, so cap off your meal with a sweet 'n' tangy frozen mixed drink called a Key Lime Pie.

Bernini of Ybor

1702 E Seventh Ave. • (813) 248-0099;

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday • Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; full bar • Dinner entrees: $16 to $26

The scene: People-watching is a robust pastime in Ybor City, with occasional catcalling and trash-talking adding a fillip of drama. For the best sidewalk seat in town, pull up a chair at Bernini. It's set in the historic Bank of Ybor City building and serves sophisticated Cal-Ital cuisine — salmon carpaccio, lemon-scented calamari, and filet mignon sparked with a wild mushroom risotto and topped with heady truffle butter. It attracts a more mature crowd than the bars and clubs around it, partly because of the thoughtful wine list and partly because the mixologists know their way around the bar.

• Don't miss: Given the restaurant's namesake painter, Bernini's Italian Chocolate Kiss Martini is suitably over the top, pairing Ketel One vodka, Godiva white and dark liqueurs and a hint of Frangelico, all sealed with a kiss. Certainly easier on the breath than the punchy puttanesca pizza (olives, anchovy, capers, etc.), but it all depends on your priorities.

Mema's Alaskan Tacos

1724 E Eighth Ave. • (813) 242-8226; • Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Closed Sundays and Mondays. • Details: V, MC, Discover; beer only • Dinner entrees: $3 to $8

The scene: When the clubs let out, partiers in goin'-out shirts and take-me-home-stilettos flock to Mema's. Its patio, with high-top tables and a view of the Italian Club of Tampa, is a chill spot to sober up in the fresh air. • Don't miss: $3 fish tacos are most popular at this favorite post-clubbing hangout, although partiers also come in droves for the shrimp and beef varieties. Wash it down with a Corona or bottle of Jarritos Mexican soda in flavors like tamarind and guava. There's a vegetarian option for nearly everything on the menu, plus steamed tamales, seasoned rice and refried black beans.

Acropolis Greek Taverna

1833 E Seventh Ave. • (813) 242-4545;

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday; noon to 3 a.m. Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday • Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; beer and wine • Dinner entrees: $11 to $27

The scene: Look for a frenetic bouzouki band and the stirring Greek song stylings of Babi Lavidas, plus belly dancers on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Then add in people leaping up to gyrate through a quick zeibekiko or sousta, punctuated by the occasional sound of breaking plates, and you have yourself a Hellenic hootenanny. Tables outside are nice, but you might miss out on the action in the columned dining room. Owners Sam and Costa Waez have taken a traditional Greek taverna setup and infused it with Ybor fun. • Don't miss: The menu is all that the blue-and-white color scheme promises, with gyros, spanakopita, moussaka and such. But vegetarians will be especially pleased at their range of options: tahini-lush hummus and baba ghanoush; a roasted veggie sandwich anchored with nutty eggplant; falafel offered as a wrap or app, drizzled with more tangy tahini sauce.

Gaspar's Grotto

1805 E Seventh Ave. • (813) 248-5900;

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday and Monday • Details: Amex, V, MC, Discover; full bar; reservations accepted for large parties • Dinner entrees: $6 to $15

The scene: Argh, mateys. Eric "Captain Ehab" Schiller, half of the couple that owns Gaspar's Grotto, is a retired sea captain who always dreamed of running a pirate-themed watering hole. The interior decor pays homage to mythical pirate Jose Gaspar, but there's no sign of the pirates on the patio, which was the former site of a poultry slaughterhouse. Today, the courtyard is spacious and pleasant, with several fountains, palm trees wrapped in white lights and a just-close-enough view of the Seventh Avenue party crowd. Magicians, stilt walkers and live music — from rock to blues to jazz — on the outdoor stage add to the merriment. • Don't miss: Whet your appetite with the crowd-pleasing ship's wheel sampler, an appetizer plate of fried goodies. Ask your waiter to sub in mac and cheese bites, which aren't on the menu but are worth every gooey, deep-fried calorie. Settle in at a picnic table for a generous Philly cheesesteak or a slab of the Grotto's signature ribs. Food service is spotty and our french fries came out cold, but the competent bar staff can make any drink you dream up.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Centro Ybor, 1600 E Eighth Ave. • (813) 247-1422;

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday • Details: Amex, V, MC, Discover; reservations accepted; full bar • Dinner entrees: $7-$20

The scene: Centro Ybor is like Grand Central Station for Cigar City, with tourists, club hoppers and the after-5 set stopping for sustenance. Stay downstairs and grab a table at this family-owned ale house, where the fenced-in patio allows for prime people-watching while keeping pedestrian traffic at bay. Service is on the slow side, but with a koi pond and birds twittering from the two-story palms overhead, you won't mind shooting the breeze while you wait. • Don't miss: Of course you'll want to try a beer from the on-site brewery, and the pub has nine house beers on tap. Be aware that the "real" ales are served at cellar temperature (read: chilled, but not ice cold). Teetotalers won't be left out with beer-infused entrees like the Iron Rat Stout crab cakes and jalapeno beer cheese soup, and there's an extensive list of substance-free entrees as well. Try the citrus Cuban mojo pork, perfectly seasoned and exquisitely tender — although ours, unfortunately, came lukewarm — or a mammoth calzone, which easily serves two.

More alfresco fare

Still hungry? You'll dig these outdoor Ybor eateries, too.

Fresh Mouth

Nosh on burgers and shakes while you watch comedy fans queuing up in front of the adjacent Tampa Improv. Centro Ybor (downstairs), 1600 E Eighth Ave. (813) 241-8845;

Green Iguana Bar and Grill

The party spills into the street nearly every night at this popular bar, whose offerings include pizzas, wraps and live music seven nights a week. 1708 E Seventh Ave. (813) 248-9555;

New York New York Pizza Bar and Grill

Enjoy superb pizza — and people-watching — until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays on one of Ybor's best-trafficked corners. 1512 E Seventh Ave. (813) 248-1845.

Rock-N-Sports Bar & Grille

This upscale sports bar is a popular gathering place for Pittsburgh Steelers fans and Auburn, Virginia Tech and North Carolina alumni clubs. Centro Ybor (upstairs), 1600 E Eighth Ave. (813) 242-6220;

Tea Rose Cottage

Reserve one of the two porch tables for afternoon tea, which includes sandwiches, scones and a view of Centennial Park. 1901 N 19th St. (813) 248-2040;

Great reasons to dine outside at Tampa's Super Bowl 05/14/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 21, 2008 11:10am]
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