If you're in town for the NCAA tournament this weekend, you'll no doubt take advantage of the Tampa Bay area's museums, Cuban sandwiches and beach weather. But by the final buzzer, you may be jonesing for a little piece of home. Here's where fans of the eight teams playing in Tampa this weekend can get their eat, drink and dance on.
If you have a hankering for a hearty, down-home meal like the ones you can get back home in Des Moines, then head to Stumps Supper Club, a kitschy, Elvis-esque nightspot in the Channelside entertainment district; it's within walking distance of the St. Pete Times Forum. Nosh on comfort foods like meatloaf and, of course, corn bread. Then dance off the calories to the live band. Stumps Supper Club, 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa, (813) 226-2261; www.stumpssupperclub.com.
Western Kentucky University
It's time for folks from the Bluegrass State to go beyond the mint julep. Try a new potent potable at Blue Martini Lounge, a chic bar at International Plaza, just 15 minutes from downtown. Work your way down the list of more than two dozen martinis, starting with the drinks that have "blue" in the name. 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa, (813) 873-2583; www.bluemartinilounge.com.
Check out Boston's, a New England-themed restaurant and sports bar with juicy specialty pizzas, burgers, wraps and — you guessed it — Boston cream pie. It's about a 20-minute drive northwest of downtown. 9316 Anderson Road, Tampa, (813) 901-9590; www.bostonsgourmet.com.
We know how you Californians love your salads. Try Wright's Gourmet House, whose salads are popular among restaurant critics and "real" people alike. Pair your veggies with a roast pork Golden Gate sandwich. The cafe is about 10 minutes south of downtown. 1200 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, (813) 253-3838; www.wrightsgourmet.com.
Y'all are fixin' to have a boot-scootin' good time at Dallas Bull, the area's biggest country bar, both in popularity and size — 34,000 square feet. Founded in 1979, this gargantuan dance club and concert venue features seven bars, pool tables, a western wear store and a mechanical bull, natch. A-listers like Big and Rich, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley have all played the Bull. From the basketball arena, hop on the eastbound Crosstown Expressway (bring toll money), and you can be there in 15 minutes. 3322 U.S. 301, Tampa, (813) 987-2855; www.dallasbull.com.
After the game, you New Yawkers can walk over to the Channelside entertainment complex for a late-night snack at New York Pizza Department. Besides thin-crust pies, the men-in-blue themed eatery offers a convict calzone, Chelsea caesar salad and Penn Station cheese steak. 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa, (813) 228-6973; www.nypdpizza.net.
Yes, you can find crab cakes, Southern fried catfish fingers and sweet tea away from home. They're at the Good Luck Cafe, a soul food joint in historic Ybor City. Don't miss the fried chicken and waffles. To get there, catch the TECO street car just outside
the St. Pete Times Forum, at
HSBC Station (Morgan Street
and Ice Palace Drive). Get off in Ybor City at Centennial Park Station (20th Street and Eighth Avenue). Fare is $2 each way; the trip takes only a few minutes. 1910 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 579-3790.
Tampadelphias meet up at Players Sports Bar to cheer on their Philly teams. Enjoy light grub, 10 TVs, a pool table, free parking and a family atmosphere. The bar is inside the DoubleTree hotel, less than a 15-drive west from downtown. 4500 W Cypress St., Tampa, (813) 879-4800; www.tampadoubletree.com.