1. Cooking

Tampa Bay is a perfect place to make your own food tour. Here are our suggestions.

BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times Haven, which is about a three-minute walk from the Epicurean Hotel, has creative dishes, like this cauliflower carbonara, and drinks to match.
BRONTE WITTPENN | Times Haven, which is about a three-minute walk from the Epicurean Hotel, has creative dishes, like this cauliflower carbonara, and drinks to match.
Published Jul. 18, 2018

There are many good reasons to eat at four or five places in one night.

A near overwhelming number of new restaurants in the Tampa Bay area can provoke anxiety in a certain kind of diner, the one who wants to try everything but doesn't have the funds or constitution required.

This method is preferred for the indecisive diner (me) who can't commit to one large entree, a trend that younger generations have helped foster as small plates abound on restaurant menus.

But really, when the food is as good as it is across our region, eating becomes its own activity, a way to spend hours exploring places you know and places you don't.

With the area's distinct pockets of culture, many easy to get around, Tampa Bay is the perfect place to craft your own dinearound. Here's how it works. Set aside an afternoon or an evening, settle on a spot — Gulfport, Seminole Heights, St. Petersburg's Grand Central District, etc. — and pick a couple of stops at which to nosh. We're getting you started with three areas we recently visited — Tampa Heights, South Tampa and Safety Harbor — plus suggestions for other worthy locales.

Tampa Heights

Safety Harbor

South Tampa


The line at Cuban restaurant Bodega on Central can get long, but they recently opened a juice bar in their air-conditioned space, so pop in and grab some fuel for your trip. Then head to Red Mesa Mercado, grab some chips and guac to go and bring it over to Green Bench Brewing for a beer or two. From there, stop into Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails and take advantage of the daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. (Try the Bee's Knees or, perfect for summer, an Aperol Spritz.) Dinner at either Buya Ramen or King's Street Food Counter, both perfect after a couple of cocktails. Urban Creamery's house-made ice cream is just right for dessert.

Michelle Stark, Times food editor

This quaint city right on the water is ideal for a chill afternoon. Start with apps at the new El Chapo Taco, like the shishito peppers or the Mexican street corn. From there, head to O'Maddy's Bar & Grille, a laid-back watering hole on the waterfront that the locals love. Linger long enough to see the sun start to go down, then head to your final spot: Pia's Trattoria, a rustic Italian spot with tons of old-school charm where you can end the evening with a big plate of pasta and a big glass of wine.

Michelle Stark, Times food editor

There are many options to customize a progressive menu in downtown Dunedin, from barbecue at the Dunedin Smokehouse to fish and chips at Flanagan's to tacos at Casa Tina. Here's one route: Grab a roll and edamame at Pisces Sushi & Global Bistro, then go across the walk for a shareable plate of cashew calamari or Adriatic fig flatbread and a cocktail at the Living Room. Make the main event a protein at Kelly's Craft Kitchen, prepared Delta Blue or Oaxacan Red Mole style, among other choices. Dessert is a customized doughnut from Razzle Dazzle or a scoop from Strachan's Ice Cream. In Dunedin, home to more craft breweries than you can count on one hand, you could punctuate every stop with a craft beer. Check out the Woodwright Brewing Company and its stationary food truck, Coattails Kitchen, with offerings like homemade pub chips, fancy hot dogs and charcuterie and cheese.

Stephanie Hayes, Times staff writer

PREFER A GUIDED FOOD TOUR? Check out these food tours in Tampa Bay