Monday, December 11, 2017
Features and More

No reservations needed: Sampling unique, eclectic eats along Tampa's Howard Avenue

Howard Avenue is a foodie's paradise. No surprise there, since it's home to some of Tampa Bay's best-known restaurants — Bern's, SideBern's, Bella's, Mangroves, T.C. Choy's, Water, The Lime, The Lodge.

But why limit yourself to those known entities? Ditch Yelp and Chowhound, and you'll stumble across plenty of unique ways to drink and dine your way down Howard.

We summoned our inner Anthony Bourdain and hit the bricks in search of the most offbeat eats Howard has to offer.

Ribit's Bar-B-Que

Popular with the late-night crowd, this barbecue shack in a converted old-time gas station is surrounded on all sides by MacDinton's, the Dubliner, World of Beer and Cheap. So it ain't exactly hard to find. But if there's no line, you'll be glad you stopped in, as owner Tony "Bama" Desanto serves a heaping helping of smoky meats, from standards like ribs, chicken and brisket to nice touches like turkey legs, smoked sausage and Cajun pork boudin, which is a type of white sausage. The platters start at $10.95 and bust guts from there. Or help yourself to a pickled sausage from the counter. Either way, be sure to sample the four varieties of barbecue sauce — sweet, spicy, tangy and North Carolina vinegar — dispensed from oversized water coolers. 401 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-2271, ribitsbbq.com.

4th of July Cafe

How can you not begin your trek at a place advertising "The Best Cuban Coffee in Town" — and then, a few feet above that, the "World's Best Cuban Coffee?" Located just off Interstate 275, the 4th of July Cafe is a dark slice of old Havana, with wood-shuttered windows and ceiling fans dangling from its lofty, painted tin ceiling. There is no music here, only the sound of locals sipping cafe con leche and munching Cuban toast. 1611 N Howard Ave.; (813) 254-2278.

La Casa Sierra Meat Market

West Tampa has no shortage of spots that sell authentic Cubanos. In addition to being a source for whole pigs, La Casa Sierra sells numerous variations on the Cuban sandwich, all of them hot, hefty and amazingly cheap. Two people could eat here for less than the cost of a single cocktail in SoHo. There's also a buffet and a breakfast menu, plus a list of cool refrescos and batidos (a smoothie-like Latin American drink; the mamey, in particular, is worth a try). 1704 N Howard Ave.; (813) 384-1146.

Rainbow Food Mart

From the outside, it's a divey-looking Citgo convenience store. Inside, though, it's all SoHo, the sort of place you can get uncooked mafalda noodles, European candy bars and a Boar's Head wrap. It also contains the SoHo Cafe coffee bar and a gigantic selection of wine and craft beer, including many 750 milliliter bottles. We picked up a bottle of Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout — robust, filling and rich as the desserts at the Harry Waugh Dessert Room at nearby Bern's. 1421 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-6776.

Antojitos Latin ­Cravings

West Tampa isn't entirely Cuban. At the corner of Howard and Columbus sits Antojitos Latin Cravings, a Colombian restaurant and bakery that serves a huge array of South American specialty products. Most mouthwatering: The display case of rich, filling Colombian breads and rolls, from the cheesy pandebono and pan de queso to the sweet, chewy pan de yuca. And of course, you'll find plenty of juices and batidos to keep you hydrated. 2302 W Columbus Drive; (813) 251-9688.

Daily Eats

We're cheating here, as Daily Eats is far from a hole in the wall — it's part of South Howard's prolific Ciccio Restaurant Group (see Page 61), and a well-known brunch spot. But a diner is a diner, and you can't argue with Daily Eats' creative menu, especially its whimsical $5 milkshakes, from the Stay Puff'd (vanilla ice cream, toasted marshmallows and hot fudge) to the American Pie ("one part apple pie, one part vanilla ice cream"). This week's special is the Cap'n Krunch Berry, made from Crunch Berries cereal, vanilla ice cream and strawberries. It may be the only thing more delicious than Crunch Berries themselves. 901 S Howard Ave.; (813) 868-3335, dailyeatstampa.com.

Ciro's Speakeasy

One of the coolest joints in Tampa may also be the darkest spot on Howard, which makes it the perfect place to end your evening. The food at this Prohibition-era club is good, but the bar's really where it's at —the flavorful vintage drinks are all executed with masterful precision. Best to pick up its signature Corn Fed Peach Sour — a simple blend of white dog, honey and peaches — while you're here. You won't find one anywhere else on Howard — or in Tampa, for that matter. Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club, 2109 Bayshore Blvd.; (813) 251-0022, cirosspeakeasy.com.

 
Comments
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 12

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 12

Petula Clark: The two-time Grammy Award-winning artist is known for hits like Downtown, I Know a Place, My Love and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. $34.50-$49.50....
Updated: 6 hours ago
Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

A new documentary about comedian Gilbert Gottfried reveals someone more mild-mannered than his stage persona, married with children, verging on dull. His voice doesn’t grate, dropping half its nasal quality and all of its foul-mouthed bluster....
Updated: 6 hours ago
Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

Mario Batali on leave from ‘The Chew’ and restaurant empire after sexual harassment allegations

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, chef and television personality Mario Batali offered up his views on how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace for an Oct. 30 video for Fast Company."You need a workplace free of fear, that harbors an...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

TAMPAMaybe it’s the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

TAMPA Just a block away from CW’s Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city’s oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "...
Published: 12/11/17
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Published: 12/10/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

Top holiday events, parades, parties this weekend

ParadesApollo Beach Lighted Boat ParadeThe Tampa Sailing Squadron hosts this event and the party afterward with a chili cook off. Good viewing available from the clubhouse and docks. Free. Tampa Sailing Squadron, 1250 Apollo Beach Blvd., Ruskin. (813...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17