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6 places to eat near the Gasparilla parade route in Tampa

The annual pirate invasion starts Jan. 20 with the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, and the main parade is Jan. 27.
 
Patrons enjoy the festivities along the Sparkman Wharf on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021.
Patrons enjoy the festivities along the Sparkman Wharf on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jan. 18|Updated Jan. 18

Tampa’s annual pirate invasion is upon us, and with an abundance of restaurants and bars near the festivities, Gasparilla-goers looking for a drink or snack won’t have to walk far. Depending on where you are on the route, here are six spots at which to fuel up before or after the parade.

The main parade Jan. 27 begins at Bay to Bay and Bayshore Boulevard and continues along downtown to Brorein Street, then turns on Ashley Drive.

Counter Culture

The interior dining area looks out to retractable bar windows at Counter Culture on West Bay to Bay Boulevard in Tampa in October 2020.
The interior dining area looks out to retractable bar windows at Counter Culture on West Bay to Bay Boulevard in Tampa in October 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

You can’t get much closer to the route than chef Jeannie Pierola’s contemporary counter-themed restaurant, which sits right near the start, on Bay to Bay Boulevard off Bayshore Boulevard. Serving brunch and dinner (reservations are a must), the restaurant’s open, airy layout provides a prime spot for people-watching while laying a foundation with a plate of cream cheese-filled French toast and a glass or two of something bubbly.

2909 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Suite 100, Tampa. 813-570-8660. cc-tampa.com.

BT To Go

If you’re looking for something quick to grab on your way to the parade, rather than a full sit-down experience, this fast-casual Vietnamese spot has you covered. It’s also a good pick for healthier options, with dishes like spring rolls, salmon soba bowls and chef BT Nguyen’s crowd-pleasing chili chicken cabbage salad. Hit the road with a crusty banh mi sandwich if you’re looking for something a little sturdier. Pro tip: Grab a Vietnamese iced coffee to-go for an instant pick-me-up.

3215 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa. 813-559-1094. bt-togo.com.

Forbici Modern Italian

Cup & Char pizza is pictured at Forbici in Tampa in 2019.
Cup & Char pizza is pictured at Forbici in Tampa in 2019. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

What soaks up excess alcohol and refuels like a few slices of pizza? The pies at Forbici, particularly the excellent pepperoni-topped Cup & Char version, really do the trick. If pizza isn’t your thing, the Hyde Park Village restaurant’s menu features plenty of other dishes, including hearty grain bowls, pastas and meatballs. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are abundant, and the restaurant sports a great cocktail list, too, if you’re looking to keep the party going.

1633 W. Snow Ave., Tampa. 813-251-8001. eatforbici.com.

Lucky Tigre

Char siu lechon, coconut-ginger braised greens and chicken adobo bao buns are served at Lucky Tigre in South Tampa.
Char siu lechon, coconut-ginger braised greens and chicken adobo bao buns are served at Lucky Tigre in South Tampa. [ HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times ]
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A couple of blocks north of Bayshore Boulevard on South Howard Avenue is this grab-and-go gem loosely modeled on a Filipino “sari-sari” concept, with food and little prepackaged snacks and a fun lineup of beverages and rotating specialties. You can order ahead, or walk up to the counter and order, opting to take your food to-go or sit at one of a couple of picnic tables. From a handful of dumplings to bao buns to beef lumpia, these dishes will hit the spot after a day of revelry. And do not skip the Calamansi-Ade, a refreshing thirst quencher made from calamansi, a citrus fruit popular in Filipino cuisine.

1101 S. Howard Ave., Suite B, Tampa. 813-761-2088.

Haiku

If you’re catching the parade near the end of the route, walk a few blocks over to this downtown Tampa restaurant, which has a large outdoor bar and patio right on North Franklin Street. The Asian fusion spot features a selection of izakaya-style small and shared plates (wagyu bao buns, anyone?), plus a solid list of creative sushi rolls. (The torch hamachi roll is a must.) The long list of craft cocktails, many of which pull from the restaurant’s sake menu, is the other draw and includes creative quaffs like the Dragon’s Breath Gimlet, which combines Nolet’s gin, sake, cucumber and ginger.

808 N. Franklin St., Tampa. 813-644-5787. haikutampa.com.

Everything at Tampa’s Water Street development

A burger is topped with Cambozola cheese at The Pearl in Tampa.
A burger is topped with Cambozola cheese at The Pearl in Tampa. [ HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times ]

Tampa’s flashy new Water Street development is sure to be jam-packed on Gasparilla weekend, as folks flock to the waterfront Channel District. For paradegoers who get hungry or thirsty, it’s a pretty convenient option, with plenty of places to grab a bite. A 1-mile stroll takes you past a handful of hotels, trendy restaurants and Sparkman Wharf, the outdoor food court that kick-started the area’s revitalization when it opened in 2018 right along the waterfront. The quick-service takeout spots on Water Street may be your best bet during Gasparilla festivities, places like Cava, Crisp and Green, Naked Farmer and Wagamama. But there are also lots of table-service restaurants, from the newly opened Yard House to gastropub The Pearl to fine-dining options like Predalina and Boulon.

waterstreettampa.com.