Dear Readers,

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption to the lives of everyone in Tampa Bay and to so many businesses in our community. Here at the Tampa Bay Times, we continue to provide free, up-to-date information at as a public service. But we need your help. Please consider supporting us by subscribing or donating, and by sharing our work. Thank you.

  1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. /
  3. Food

Tampa Bay restaurant and bar openings: El Toro Loco, Uptown Snoballs

Here’s what’s new on the food and drink scene.
Tampa's El Toro Loco features more than a dozen tacos, including crispy fried fish, center. [MEAGHAN HABUDA | Times]


Uptown Snoballs

The pet-friendly shaved ice shop has taken over the former home of California Tacos to Go with a fluffy specialty: New Orleans-style snowballs. The Uptown Snoballs website promises more than 100 flavors of the signature item, which may be paired with a scoop of premium ice cream or some sweetened condensed milk. Alongside the scoops, ice cream sundaes and floats and gourmet fruit pops — even the wine-spiked variety dipped in red or white sangria for guests 21 and older — round out the shop’s frozen treats. 1003 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 800-9722.

Related: A sweet move in Ybor City: Cephas Gilbert opens new juice bar

An Ybor City juice bar

Complete with a window on the main drag of Ybor City, a Jamaican-themed juice bar has opened inside the Mexican taqueria and tequila bar Tequilas. It’s from Cephas Gilbert, who owned the now-closed Fourth Avenue restaurant Cephas’ Hot Shop. Although the Jamaican grub that Gilbert churned out there isn’t available at the new spot, his beloved (and now sweeter) aloe shakes are, plus tamarind juice and the Power House Tea featuring seven kinds of herbs. 1613 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. (813) 247-9022.

Matjoa Korean BBQ

This restaurant has brought Korean barbecue to the old Campanella’s Bar & Grill space. There are two all-you-can-eat options, and diners may also enjoy the grill a la carte or with family-style combinations. In addition, appetizers such as kimchi pancake and bulgogi bao join beef short ribs and noodle, rice and stir-fry dishes on the menu. Drink highlights include soju cocktails and craft brews. 3580 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater. (727) 220-0100.

El Toro Loco

El Toro Loco launched in vibrant digs in January, introducing its own take on Mexican cuisine next to 2001 Odyssey. Offering an indoor-outdoor bar, the modern cantina does chips and dip, salads, bowls, burgeras, house specials, burritos, fajitas and combo plates. More than a dozen tacos are showcased — among them birria short rib and chicken tinga — as is fire-roasted street corn dressed with Cool Ranch Doritos and Flaming Hot Cheetos. Wash it all down with your choice from a number of margaritas, the wide tequila list or other craft cocktails, including a daiquiri and a smoked Old Fashioned. Sangria and beer ensure the liquor-averse aren’t forgotten. 301 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 898-7397.

The dining room of El Toro Loco, which has opened in Tampa. [MEAGHAN HABUDA | Times]


Bella Italia

After nearly 40 years in business, Bella Italia served up final orders of classic Italian fare at 10801 Starkey Road earlier this month. The popular Largo restaurant, owned by John Vitiello and Joe Coizza, announced the closure in a post on its Facebook page. “Bella Italia Is now Permanently Closed!!” the Feb. 12 post reads. “We have closed due to the Rising costs of Food, Rent and the decline of the shopping center. We really appreciate all of our customers and we will miss you all!!! Thanks for all the fond memories and allowing us to be a part of your Families. ... Good bye from your Bella Italia Family!!” Opened in 1981, Bella Italia was part of the Bardmoor Promenade and known for items like pasta dinners and New York-style pizza.


McArthur’s Irish Pub

McArthur’s Irish Pub will begin churning out traditional Irish bites and pints of Guinness in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Scheduled to celebrate its grand opening on March 6 where the longtime restaurant and bar Babalu closed in January, McArthur’s owner Arthur Paula plans to carry dishes such as corned beef and cabbage, curry chips, Guinness stew and Irish soda bread, according to a news release, alongside a wide selection of Irish whiskeys and wines. Bonus: The neighborhood eatery will coat crispy chicken wings in Babalu’s famous sauce as an homage to the St. Pete landmark. “McArthur’s is St. Pete’s new cozy Irish pub, decorated with true Irish art and heritage. It’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for great food and drink options, exceptional service and live music,” Paula said in the release. On top of live music every Friday and Saturday, also expect a regular happy hour, daily lunch specials and Sunday brunch. 9246 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 914-7474.

Opening soon in St. Petersburg, McArthur's Irish Pub will serve classic dishes like fish and chips. [Courtesy of McArthur's Irish Pub]

The Cheesecake Factory

The latest location of this iconic chain is headed for a Clearwater mall. First debuted in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1978, the Cheesecake Factory plans to open at Westfield Countryside with its extensive menu peddling signature cheesecake and more than 250 other items this fall. The restaurant off Countryside Boulevard will expand the space that Charming Charlie previously occupied between JCPenney and Macy’s to 9,600 square feet. The Cheesecake Factory operates more than 200 locations around the world, including three locally in Tampa, Brandon and Sarasota.

Related: Cheesecake Factory coming to Clearwater's Westfield Countryside