It has been a promising trajectory. After the stutter of the 2008 housing crisis, downtown Tampa, Channelside and Hyde Park Village have started filling up with restaurants, bars, coffee shops and all the other infrastructure urban residents need. At lunchtime the options have exploded. Here are three notable newbies.
Tun-Du-Ree is hardly a new name around here. With a "curry in a hurry" location on Bay to Bay Boulevard and another on Kennedy Boulevard, it has been the go-to place for chicken tikka masala. Pat Bhava and the Tun-Du-Ree team took a risk, closing these two locations in order to open one three times their size at the beginning of January. Tucked on the block that is increasingly a "restaurant row," it's a great space formerly inhabited by Metro. With a full bar and attractive, 120-seat dining room, it's a quantum leap from the fast-casual shops or food truck Bhava started with.
Begin with an Indian-inspired cocktail (they've got a mango lassi with Grey Goose that is a savvy invention), then it's time to carbo load with garlic naan ($2.50), spicy lentil popadam ($1.99) and an order of clove basmati rice ($2.50). Around these dishes you should then crowd a chickpea chana masala ($7.99) sweet-tangy with tamarind and tomato, seriously spicy lamb vindaloo ($8.99) with tender meat and hunks of potato and maybe an order of turmeric-tinged potato cauliflower curry ($4.99). Portions aren't vast at the new location, but prices are exceedingly reasonable (there's no buffet). 511 N Franklin St., Tampa; (813) 224-0011; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.
And on Jan. 16 Bay Bistro was added to the bottom level of the Tampa Convention Center. With indoor and outdoor seating that looks out on the lovely Riverwalk, downtown workers can promenade along the wide path before zipping in for an order-at-the-counter salad or sandwich. It's in the vein of Panera, with a short menu of contemporary dishes, from housemade chips with a Maytag blue cheese drizzle and dots of balsamic glaze as a counterpoint ($5.50) to a daily flatbread pizza, ($8) which one day was roasted veggies, heavy on the roasted red bell peppers.
Sandwich prices are a little steep ($8.50-$12.50) to compete effectively with other downtown options. But for those with reason to be at the convention center, the clean, airy cafe is a welcome addition. We enjoyed a gooey "Brie L.T." ($11) with turkey and a cranberry aioli bringing sophistication, as well as a mixed green salad topped with grilled flank steak and sauteed portobellos with spicy pecans and Gorgonzola ($11) while watching conventioneers and tourists making use of Tampa's new waterside recreation area. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa; (813) 274-8511; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Just a few days later, on Jan. 19, Piquant opened in Hyde Park Village at the location previously occupied by Sophie's Bakery and Restaurant B.T. It's a big space that, although they've changed out the furniture, they've left open and airy as it was in its Sophie's incarnation. And indeed the menu, just breakfast and lunch for now, is reminiscent of Sophie's. French pastries and French-inspired salads and sandwiches dominate the chalkboard menu behind the counter.
At breakfast, this may mean egg, ham and Gruyere on a croissant ($8) or eggs, cheddar and bacon on a baguette ($7). We enjoyed a lovely slice of quiche Lorraine (sadly marred by an incongruous drizzle of balsamic glaze, $4) and a flaky, buttery chocolate croissant ($3.50), while another day the afternoon was energized by a "power salad" that corralled brown rice and avocado with spinach, feta, chickpeas, shredded chicken, tomatoes and roasted red peppers in a kicky, mustardy vinaigrette ($12). With shaded patio seating, Piquant offers a promising new option for Hyde Park Village shoppers. 1633 W Snow Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-1777; 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.