What to Order at the Heights Public Market

If you have been anywhere near Tampa in the last six months, you have probably heard of or even visited Armature Works. This historic warehouse building sat unoccupied just north of Downtown for years before being rapidly and dramatically transformed into a true community center featuring gourmet restaurants, trendy food counters, event space, and co-working space.

To get there, just follow the Riverwalk north until you can go no further. At that point, you will be standing on Armature Works’ front lawn. From there, just walk through the striking glass doors underneath the “Heights Public Market” sign, and you will find yourself in the middle of one of the hippest spots in Tampa.

The Heights Public Market, the main feature of Armature works, is essentially a gourmet food hall. Or, the best food court you have ever been to. Here is how the Heights Public Market is described on the Armature Works website:

“Heights Public Market is a food-lover’s dream and a truly innovative concept in Tampa. The 22,000 sq-ft industrial market features an open floor plan with communal seating surrounded by restaurants showcasing the top chefs and restaurateurs in the Bay Area. Heights Public Market also includes a “Show + Tell” workshop that hosts an array of events such as cooking classes, wine tastings and pop-up dinners in collaboration with market tenants.” (source).

Make sure that you show up hungry because below is a list of all of the food items you should order while you’re there.


The Chicken Paitan at Ichicoro Imoto

This gourmet ramen counter offers a streamlined version Ichicoro, a ramen house in Seminole Heights. The counter itself looks like a high-end sushi bar, featuring slatted wood panels that stand out against the industrial interior of the Heights Public Market. The Chicken Paitan bowl consists of a double chicken broth, grilled chicken thigh, cloud ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pickled ginger, fried garlic, scallions, and black garlic mayu. This is chicken soup on another level. Your palette will enjoy something that is both comforting and innovative with this bowl of ramen. It is not to be missed.


El Ultimo at Hemmingways

Hemmingways is the sandwich counter of your dreams, slinging soulful Cuban classics with a contemporary twist for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sandwiches aren’t the only thing on the menu, but they are certainly what Hemmingways does best. So if you want to live vicariously through the infamous author himself and experience the brilliance of Cuban cuisine, you cannot miss El Ultimo. This sandwich is described as “The Ultimate Steak Sandwich”, and it consists of thinly sliced palomilla steak, caramelized onions, crispy shoestring potatoes, melted cheese and cilantro garlic aioli on toasted Cuban bread. This sandwich is the perfect thing to dine on in a space that is quickly turning into an iconic Tampa hotspot. After all, what says “Tampa” more than modern Cuban cuisine?


The Blackened Ahi Tuna Greens & Grains Bowl at Graze 1910

If you are looking for a dinner option that is healthy, but still delicious, then look no further than the Blacked Ahi Tuna Bowl at Graze. Graze 1910 serves “’comfort food’ reminiscent of the classics we all love in an unexpected atmosphere of casual elegance.” This delicately crafted bowl contains kale-pesto rice, pickled onion & carrot, thinly sliced watermelon radish, raw spinach, cucumber, guacamole, scallion seared tuna and a thai peanut sauce. Each ingredient is light, fresh, and will leave you feeling nourished and strong. The Graze counter enjoys river-front space, you can enjoy your meal while gazing at the peaceful flow of the Hillsborough River.


The Mushroom White Pizza at Ava

This authentic wood fired pizza stall has been recognized as one of the best pizza vendors in Tampa Bay. Chef Joshua Hernandez allows his dough to rise over three days, and the oven he cooks it in came straight from Naples, Italy. This pizza is both comforting and gourmet, offering a dish you are familiar with in a delicious an unexpected way. The white mushroom pizza consists of mixed mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella (sourced locally within Florida), sea salt, balsamic. This is absolutely a pizza you can share, so don’t be shy.


The Cosmic Camper at Astro Ice Cream

Once you have finished your meal and are jonesing for something sweet, head over to Astro Ice Cream to blow your caloric limit for the day. This dessert stand redefines “locally made” by making your ice cream right in front of your eyes using liquid nitrogen and kitchen mixers. Their flavors are inventive, their topping choices limitless, and their concoctions, delicious. The menu itself can seem overwhelming, so you should definitely start with something the ice cream engineers at Astro have already put together. The Cosmic Camper is made with chocolate hazelnut ice cream, is dusted with cocoa powder, and then finished with torched marshmallows, Hershey Chocolate Squares, graham crackers, and a chocolate syrup shot. That is, chocolate syrup served in a syringe. Revisit childhood with this masterfully concocted dessert.


Literally Any Cocktail at BAR at Armature

This magnificent bar sits just inside the front entrance of the Heights Public Market, and you really cannot go wrong with anything on their menu. The mixologists come from Ciro’s, a speakeasy in South Tampa that was mentioned in “The 9 Best Craft Cocktails in Tampa.” You can bet that pretty much anything they mix up will be the best damn drink you’ve had all year. So grab a stool, take a leap, and try something new and inventive.


The Heights Public Market is a fantastic place to explore alone, or with loved ones. The food is plentiful and unique, and the environment is somehow both classic and new. Throughout the course of a day or evening, you can order a snack, a three course meal, or gather with friends and make it family style. Pretty much anything you choose will be great, so get out there and discover one of the best new places that Tampa has to offer.

The 9 Best Craft Cocktails in Tampa

Craft cocktails are truly a thing of beauty. Indulgent, overpriced, and delicious, a good cocktail can turn your whole day around. Beer, wine, and two ingredient drinks are all great staples, but occasionally it is fantastic to indulge in a well-constructed beverage. It can be an appetizer, dessert, or an entrée all to itself. In the right bar, at the right moment, and with the right ingredients and muddler, a craft cocktail can flush the cheeks, boost the mood, give you a whole new appreciation for the sometimes pretentious art of mixology.

The craft cocktail scene in Tampa is booming. There are trendy bars and restaurants all over the city offering classic cocktails, interesting takes on familiar recipes, or brand new concoctions. There are fantastic bartenders in every neighborhood, just waiting for your order. Below are the nine best craft cocktails in Tampa. If you plan to try them all over one weekend, just promise to take an Uber!


Sangria at the Mermaid Tavern

The Mermaid Tavern is an incredible dark bar that sits just off the corner of Nebraska and Sligh in Seminole Heights. It is casual and friendly, and definitely funky. Walking through the front door feels like walking into the hangout of the coolest person you know, so long as you enjoy a hipster vibe. Here is how they describe themselves on their website:

“A restaurant is a place to eat, but taverns have been social spaces for over 1,000 years. Our service is basic, because your uninterrupted thought or punchline is more important than us pushing another round of drinks. We strive to select top-quality local, sustainable and family-owned suppliers, and virtually everything down to the ketchup, is made in-house. We think ethical means doing the right thing when no one can see, even when it’s not always profitable. People should locally control their food, water and beer, because when facing a Corporatocracy, our daily choices matter. Thanks for choosing us and welcome aboard!” (source).

They have a spectacular beer menu, a fantastic food menu, and the cocktail that secured their spot on this list…the sangria. This luscious red drink doesn’t quite taste like traditional sangria, but that is ok because it is fantastic in its own right. Rounded out with full fruit and red wine flavors, and topped with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, this drink will sneak up on you, so try to limit yourself to just a couple…if you can.


French 75 at Ciro’s

Ciro’s is an incredibly stylish bar occupying prime real estate on the corner of Howard and Bayshore, but you may not see it from the sidewalk since it’s a speakeasy! Located on the first floor of a beautiful condo building, you have to call ahead to get the day’s password before you can enter. The cloak and dagger routine adds to the charm of this meticulously decorated space – all of the elements combining to make you feel like you are back in the prohibition era. You can enjoy some incredible cocktails at the bar, or stay for dinner in one of their intimate dining booths. Here is how they describe themselves on their website:

“Ciro’s is South Tampa’s finest cocktail bar serving an elite list of hand crafted cocktails true to the prohibition era. Our talented bartenders & mixologists create tantalizing hand crafted cocktails that will intrigue both your palate and your senses. Located inside the historic Bayshore Royal Building on the corner of Howard Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard, Ciro’s is a hidden gem in Tampa Bay.” (source).

Every single one of the cocktails on their menu is a work of art, but if you really want to embrace the prohibition vibe, you absolutely must try the French 75. This classic cocktail consists of sugar, lemon juice, gin, and sparkling wine. That’s right – the mixer is also alcoholic. Prohibition drinkers were not messing around. The beverage is served in a champagne flute and the delicate color is bound to make you feel like the lady or gentleman you are!


Sazerac at Roux

For your next drink, you will have to head deep into South Tampa, all the way into the heart of Palma Ceia. Roux is a New Orleans inspired restaurant seated in an unpretentious strip mall. They are serious about authenticity. Local legend has it that the owner spent a weekend in New Orleans, and when he found the best grilled clams in town he promptly invited the man making them to spend a weekend in Tampa, teaching his team how to replicate the recipe. Here is how they describe themselves:

“Roux’s signature Southern-inspired cuisine has become the darling of regional food aficionados. The highly approachable menu blends comfortable Southern classics with the iconic fresh Creole and Cajun dishes of Louisiana.” (source).

So if you are looking for a drink to go with those oysters (pro tip, hit this spot for Happy Hour since the Chargrilled Oysters are only $1 a piece), definitely go with the Sazerac. Another classic cocktail, the bartenders at Roux skillfully combine the Redemption Rye , Pernod Absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, and lemon peel into a distinct and delicious beverage. The next time you’re in a NOLA kind of mood, skip the flight and head down to Roux instead.


La Madrileña at Bulla

Bulla is a relatively new fixture on South Howard Avenue. A Spanish-inspired Gastrobar with several locations across the American South, this restaurant capitalizes on the indoor/outdoor concept. Their space features giant doors that roll open when the weather is nice and a rooftop bar that is truly a place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. Here is how they describe themselves:

“Why all the buzz? The bar and open kitchen design set the mood with an energetic vibe. The emphasis is on quality gastronomic creations made with the finest and freshest flavors. With tantalizing tapas, seasonal menus, hand-crafted cocktails, and an impressive wine list, bulla is where you go to indulge in a celebration of good taste.” (source).

Bulla has been mentioned on Just Guava before, in our list of the Three Best Happy Hours in Tampa, the reason being that their cocktails are absolutely incredible. If you are going to spend an evening enjoying some tapas, definitely do it alongside a La Madrileña. This glorious little cocktail is comprised of Old Forester 100 Bourbon, La Gitana Manzanilla sherry, apple cinnamon infused syrup, grated cinnamon, and a filthy black cherry. The result is basically an alcoholic apple pie. Considering that the cooler temperatures we are enjoying now won’t last too much longer in Tampa, you had better head there for your drink now.


2001: A Space Odyssey at Haven

Haven is a painfully stylish restaurant and bar on the corner of Howard and Morrison. South Howard Ave has quite a few noteworthy craft bars, in case you had failed to notice the pattern. Haven’s tagline is “Crafted. Cultured. Cellared.” and it is a great place to grab dinner, or even just an appetizer before heading down the block to Bern’s for an incredible steak. Here is how they describe themselves:

“Haven is a place that you go to enjoy food, wine and spirits with your friends in a relaxing and comfortable space. Retreat from life’s challenges to celebrate life’s victories.” (source).

If you are looking to enjoy a drink at their oversized and well-appointed bar, definitely try out the 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie reference may be about 18 years too late, but the drink itself is definitely out of this world. The crisp combination of Hendricks gin, Singani 63, Giffard cacao, and lime juice makes for a very stiff and very enjoyable cocktail. You will be tempted to enjoy more than one, but take care not to overdo it. Remember, you’ve still got a few more cocktails to try.


Hotel Nacional at Hotel Bar

Hotel Bar in downtown Tampa isn’t actually associated with a hotel. Rather, the name describes that stylish, somewhat transient feeling that comes with drinking in a hotel bar, all without the associated price of a room. Plus, all of their cocktails are named for famous hotels from around the world. Depending on what you order, you can convince yourself that you are sipping a cocktail in London, Paris, Trinidad or Japan, all from the same dimly lit interior of this clever little Tampa bar. Here is how they describe themselves:

 “True to our name, the space reflects a swanky hotel – embossed metal ceiling tiles, stylish wallpaper, local artwork, oversized brown leather stools, a custom marble bar top, and an antique chandelier hanging overhead.” (source).

So the question of the hour at Hotel Bar is always, where should you pretend to be? Our vote is Havana. The Hotel National cocktail, named for an incredibly impressive hotel from glory days past, this cocktail consists of cana brava, giffard peche pineapple and lime. It will taste tropical, refreshing, and like the perfect thing to enjoy underneath a palm tree on the once secluded Caribbean island.


Kurrant Bramble at Anise

If you are looking to stay downtown, then lucky for you the last cocktail on our list comes from a restaurant just a block or two away at Anise. Anise is a Global Gastrobar overlooking Curtis Hixon Park. The restaurant has a swanky feel, incredibly tall ceilings, and a wonderful drink menu. Here is what they have to say about themselves:

“Anise Global Gastrobar centers around internationally inspired bites, masterfully crafted cocktails, and carefully selected wines. We pride ourselves on being involved in an array of community conscious initiatives and maintaining an eco-friendly atmosphere. For the best Tampa restaurant specials, cocktails, and food, Anise Global Gastrobar answers the call.” (source).

So before you venture out onto the Riverwalk for a stroll, enjoy a Kurrant Bramble. The drink is made with Damrak gin, fresh berries, crème de mure and cassis, and is both refreshing and significant in a truly indulgent way.


Beet Negroni at Ella’s Folkart Café

Ella’s Folkart Café in Seminole Heights serves elevated soul food, soul food on Sunday, and incredible barrel aged cocktails. This fabulous restaurant with its epic porch has been a fixture in Seminole Heights since 2009, and it is easy to see why. The food is heavy but delicious, and the cocktails are inventive and inspiring, the art is curated and incredible, and the live music is loud and soulful. Here’s how Ella’s describes themselves:

“Ella’s expansive bar program includes craft and barrel aged cocktails, a collection of over 100 rare and small batch bourbons, locally sourced craft and classic beers, and an extensive wine list. On Soul Food Sundays, our award-winning Bloody Ella (garnished with a smoked BBQ rib), giant mimosas, and our breakfast of champion shots are sure ways to help you praise the lard!” (source).

So if you opt to enjoy some next level comfort food that both reminds you of home and fine dining, then make sure you’ve got a Beet Negroni to go with it. This incredibly creative cocktail comes together with Ella’s infused beet gin, Campari, Dolin Rouge Vermouth and an orange twist. It will taste earthy and refreshing, equal parts homespun and hip. This drink totally encompasses everything Ella’s is.


The Blind Pig at Mandarin Heights

This brand new little cocktail lounge is the trendy and Instagram-worthy bar that Seminole Heights had been missing. Have you ever wanted to take a selfie in a claw-foot tub in front of a plant wall adorned with flamingo paintings? Mandarin Heights is here to help you scratch that itch. In addition to basically being a bar-sized photo booth, this little spot also slings absolutely fantastic drinks. Here’s what they say about themselves:

“We see ourselves as stewards of the cocktail culture. In doing so we pride ourselves on classic drink recipes but also strive at creating new cocktails for our guests to explore and find ones tailored to their preferences. At the Mandarin Hide, we create a new menu each Tuesday for our guests to experience. We will continue this tradition and use Mandarin Heights as a cocktail laboratory to focus on pushing the exceeding expectations with cocktail theatre and innovation.” (source).

The Blind Pig is the only cocktail on the list that offers a spicy kick. The drink is made from Absolut Elyx, Ancho Reyes Verde Chile Poblano Liqueur, jalapeño, lime, and cucumber soda. So if you want your drink to hurt a little, then this is absolutely the drink for you.


So the next time you find yourself jonesing for something fancier than a cold beer or a glass of great wine, take yourself on a little cocktail tour of Tampa. The menus are extensive and inventive, the combinations skillful, and the bartenders ready and waiting to make you your new favorite drink.


Interview with Sarah Holt

Sarah Holt, along with her husband Phil, owns and operates Mon Petit Paper Company. Mon Petit is a small letterpress studio in Seminole Heights that prints gorgeous cards, bold business cards, and personalized stationery. Everything is designed by Sarah, who “has a never-ending love for connecting with people over the fading and intimate beauty of printmaking.” (source).

Follow Sarah on Instagram @monpetitpaperco

Sarah uses her love of crafting and artistic sensibility to create gorgeous prints both through typeset and customized polymer plate printing. Typeset design involves Sarah setting each individual letter in her printing press by hand, before passing each individual sheet across her customized template. It is a labor of love and a labor of conservation. This is the printing style of the past, and every piece of paper printed this way has a classic, historical, and delicate look and feel. Customized polymer plate printing involves custom designing a template online, and then having a printing template created. This is great for printing images, and logos, and can be used in conjunction with typeset printing.

Sarah is a wonderful artist, even using her body as a canvas. Her husband Phil owns and operates Red Letter 1, Tampa’s premier tattoo studio. Needless to say this incredible couple is contributing to the beauty of Tampa, and soaking up some of that beauty yourself is as easy as ordering something from her charming shop. You can find everything Mon Petit Paper Company has to offer on their website, www.monpetitpaperco.com.


How did you discover boutique printing?

Creating custom business cards, invitations and stationery is something I’ve been passionate about since my first letterpress class. I graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, my focus in Printmaking. While I didn’t take a letterpress until after college, I gained a huge appreciation and respect for printmaking in my early 20’s. There’s just something about the meeting of paper and ink on these artisan presses that conjures a vintage connection to craft that resonates deeply with me. All forms of antique printmaking require a lot of attention and skill in the print room. I absolutely love getting to make custom designs for clients looking to represent the skill and labor of their craft in conjunction with mine. Creating custom stationery and invitations allows me to play with high-quality letterpress techniques I absolutely love!


How would you describe your overall style?

I have managed a custom tattoo studio in South Tampa for several years. Due to my connection with the nature of the studio, I like to meet with clients to discuss what their vision for the overall design and feel is. Seeing reference imagery they may be pondering helps me get an idea of how they execute what they want. Likewise, having clients who love my portfolio of typeset designs and ask me to run with it is always welcomed! As far as “my style” in regards to that approach, I like to create classic and simple business card designs using our in-house fonts to match the client’s vibe. For stationery and invitations, there’s no limit, let’s get creative and fancy!


How did you come up with the name Mon Petit Paper Company?

Great question! My now husband had a French nickname for me during a trip we took together to Montreal. He called me “Mon Petit Chou”, which I think means “my little cabbage” haha. Kind of silly but it led me to the name Mon Petit Paper Co., which came to me randomly while driving one day. It just felt right!


What is your favorite thing to print?

Currently, custom stationery although I get the most excited to print wedding invitation suites. There are so many fun options out there and the perfect excuse to indulge in all of them.


A lot of your art features flowers, what is it about flowers that draw you in?

Ah yes, I love flowers! Occasionally I watercolor paint as well and peonies are always my flower of choice. So as to not write a dissertation on the subject, there’s just something about them that truly resonates with me in big and small ways. My time in college as a Fine Art major made art too serious, everything had to have meaning. It drained me creatively and when I got out I just wanted to focus on painting as a meditative outlet, painting flowers allow me to do that. My draw to peonies is for sure due to being surrounded by Japanese tattoo culture. In deeper roots, my mother always gardened and my grandmother owned flower print everything, so I’m in love with floral prints and patterns largely because of them.


Can you walk us through the process of creating and printing a typeset greeting card?

Sarah’s printing press.

Creating begins with the paper. First I decide which card stock to use and then the paper is cut down from large sheets by a three-step process. If using type, I create a pencil sketch of what layout I want and look at my in-house Font Menu to pick which font(s) I want to use. Type is then set, one letter, at a time, by hand. Large wooden drawers house the individual letters respective to their font and sizes. I’ve gotten much faster at setting type by memorizing the drawer layout and where each letter sits within the drawer. After setting the type, it is locked into a metal chase, think of a 10X15″ metal rectangle. The typeset is placed in the center of this metal rectangle (chase) and surrounded by wooden blocks (called furniture). Once the typeset is secured with the chase on all sides by the furniture it is hoisted into the press. There is then a series of math equations used to find out where your paper is going to lay so that your type hits the paper where you want it to respectively. (i.e. left, center, right alignment or otherwise). The chase and the paper sit on opposite sides of the press (think of a clamshell, with the chase and type on one side and the paper on the other). When the press is put in motion the two sides come together to “kiss”. At this moment the type meets paper and voila! Once your paper is registered correctly it’s time to mix your ink and get to printing! Some cards use more than one layer in this process. For each layer and/or color change this ENTIRE process must be repeated. This time-consuming attention is why letterpress is so much more expensive than inkjet printing. It must all be done by hand skillfully.


What is your personal favorite font on your font menu?

The hardest question to answer yet! I think Old English is the most beautiful but I use Bodoni and Franklin Gothic the most.

Mon Petit Paper Company’s Font Menu

Where are your favorite places to shop for boutique crafts in Tampa?

The Paper Seahorse in South Tampa and The Paper Source in Hyde Park Village.


What have you always wanted to print, but haven’t gotten the chance to yet?

I’m dying to print more wedding invitations and custom stationery.


What is something that you have always wanted to tell people, but that you haven’t been asked?

Do you have a graphic designer? Yes! If clients need designs created digitally for printing, we have an in-house graphic designer ready to work in conjunction with the desired projects. As well, I’m always happy to work with a designer of your choice.


Where can we buy some prints?!

I sell my line of greeting cards and watercolor paintings at: www.monpetitpaperco.com as well as on Etsy at: www.etsy.com/shop/monpetitpaperco A selection of my cards are also available locally at: Blue Sage Eco Boutique, Sattva Yoga, and Disco Dolls.


Interview with Kelly Quinn

Kelly Quinn is a passionate and talented Tampa artist who focuses on wildlife education, local plants and animals, and conservation art. Her work can be seen online at her popular Instagram account Kelly of the Wild, her website by the same name, at local art shows, and at The Florida Aquarium located in Tampa. In fact, she is the artist in residence at The Florida Aquarium! You can even catch the Paint For The Wild art classes she teaches in some of our local Parks and Preserves. She regularly teaches at Weedon Island Preserve, Brooker Creek Preserve, and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

Flamingo Study 2, by Kelly Quinn

You can purchase her artwork on her website, kellyofthewild.com and learn more about the inspirations behind her mission to connect people to nature through art. She offers canvases, glassware, t-shirts, stickers, and even yoga leggings! The gorgeous prints on these leggings are sure to make you the envy of everyone in your yoga class, so if you wear them out get ready to answer a cacophony of “where did you get those!?”.

Kelly has one of those magnetic personalities and an unbridled enthusiasm for life that is absolutely infectious. She is open about her process, her passion, and her work in a refreshing and beautiful way. She is creating wonderful conservation art of, in, and for Tampa, and she is always excited to talk about it!

Thanks for talking to Just Guava! Can you start by telling us, what is conservation art?

Conservation art at it’s core is art inspired by nature, and created to build awareness around environmental issues. It’s the reason we have Yellowstone National Park (Our first park)! If it hadn’t been for the photographer William Henry Jackson and the painter Thomas Moran, who brought back and created the imagery that inspired a nation to protect it’s wild and beautiful places, we may not have these wonderful spaces today. Conservation art and science go hand in hand, and science without imagery to communicate to the public is left handicapped, and that is the ultimate role of conservation art, to be a tool that communicates conservation to people.


What does the Artist in Residence at the Florida Aquarium do?

Kelly live-paints at The Florida Aquarium (with some help, of course)

The program started out as an artist regularly visiting the aquarium to live paint and entertain guests, as well as creating artwork that would support the Aquariums mission to protect and educate on our blue planet. Since then, we are implementing art classes for guests to enjoy, planning to utilize their gallery space in the near future of art events, and creating a repertoire of scientific illustrations for the aquarium to use in educational material!


How did your passion for wildlife art begin?

You might get a whole book on this question! The short story is my passion for nature began when I was a little girl growing up in Central Florida, where my family lived on land surrounded by untouched forests and swamps protected by conservation. I would spend everyday outside, amercing myself in nature by animal watching, kayaking, and sketching the things I saw. I loved my home, and as grew up I began to see the affect people can have on these beautiful places first hand. Which is why I began painting the animals and landscapes I loved, to preserve them in paint. As graduated from college though, my best friend and love of my life, Blake Wheeler, pushed me to pursue my passion for nature and art, which led to my path today!


What is your favorite subject to paint?

Seriously, if you’re not following Kelly on Instagram, you really need to be. @kellyofthewild

Favorite subject? There’s too many! But if I have to narrow it down, my top three favorites are Gators, Sharks, and Sea Turtles. I have always been attracted to the predators specifically, because I find they need more love and positive light because of the misconception many people have around them. Sea Turtle are just plain adorable, and are so personable below the sea, I just fell in love with them and their plight.



“Wildlife artist” isn’t a job title you hear every day, did you have any role models? Or was this a path you blazed for yourself?

I have always looked up to artists like Thomas Moran & Robert Bateman, and photographers like Paul Nicklen and Clyde Butcher. But the one who truly inspired me to pursue my passion for art and conservation was Blake Wheeler. He showed me how you can create the life you want, and not just dream about it. He believed in me before anyone else, and I know I may not have had the courage to take that first step without him, he continues to be my partner in everything today.


Where are your favorite places in Tampa to paint?

I love painting at The Florida Aquarium, Blick Art Materials, and all of the local parks and preserves! The Florida Aquarium is always fun because I’m surrounded by people who are as passionate about nature as I am, and the guests are always such a pleasure to be around. At Blick, I’m always meeting new artists, and love to help them learn new techniques!


What is something that everyone should know about conservation?

Everyone should know that your voice matters, and even though the problems our planet and wild places face are dire, they can still be turned around if only we care and use our voice to serve nature.


What is something that everyone should know about Tampa?

Tampa has a lot of wild places if you know where to look! One of my favorite places to visit is Lettuce Lake Park, a large protected area in North Tampa! There are also lots of small businesses with amazing people running them, like Fancy Free Nursery and Island Breads!


What is something that you have always wanted to tell people, but that you haven’t been asked?

You can paint this too – just attend one of Kelly’s classes!

A question that I haven’t been asked yet is the purpose of Paint for the Wild. Blake and I co-founded PFTW to connect people to nature and support local conservation through art. At every class, we make sure the experience is memorable, with rescued animals visiting our guests, complimentary food and refreshments, and one on one instruction time between steps. Then at the end of each class, we donate funds raised from the class directly to the park or preserve for their projects and initiatives. Soon we will be bringing more artists on too!


What is wild about you?

I think everyone has a little bit of wild in them if they’re open to seeing it! I’m wild in the sense that I love to be in nature, amerced in it, and living by it. I’m happier in the middle of “who knows where” surrounded by alligators in my kayak, and covered in dirt, then I am in high heels and a dress in the middle of SOHO. Nature is my sanctuary, where I really feel at home, and I want to share that with as many people as possible, so many generations after myself a little girl will feel that exact same sentiment.


I believe people can trick themselves into thinking we are so far evolved and advanced from other beings on our planet and the wild places they live in, but the reality is we really aren’t any different. We depend on wild open spaces as much as any other living thing, we just adapt to our surroundings and mold them unlike any other being on this planet. We need to remember to stay connected to nature and let it back into our lives because it balances you mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Practicing Yoga in Tampa: Our Favorite Studios, Instructors, and Places to Practice

Yoga is a fantastic hobby. As much of a mental workout as a physical one, it is a pastime that can encompass several benefits in one. You’ve got exercise, meditation, learning, and, at the right studio, community. For many, and hour of yoga leaves them feeling physically and mentally stimulated in a way that just cannot be replicated with other workouts.

Yoga has grown in popularity over the past few decades, and the trend has certainly hit in Tampa. There are dozens of studios across the bay area to explore, all offering different styles, vibes, and times for practice.

Below are three lists:

  • The Three Best Studios in Tampa
  • The Three Best Instructors in Tampa
  • The Three Best Places to Practice in Tampa

That last one may surprise you – as a lot of yoga practice around Tampa Bay doesn’t actually occur in a studio!

If yoga is a new activity for you, there are several things you may want to know before you hit the mat:

  • Make sure to wear comfortable, stretchy clothing. Form-fitting is best since you will be moving around quite a bit and don’t want your shirt flipping up over your head!
  • Understand that there are different styles of yoga. Some are calm and gentle, and some feel like an intense cardio workout. Read class descriptions ahead of time so that you can be mentally prepared for whatever you are walking in to.
  • Reservations will likely be needed. Yoga is popular and space is limited. Check out the studio online to see if you need to reserve a spot. Required payment in advance is common.
  • If it is your first class or even your first class at a new studio, show up 15-20 minutes early. You will likely need to fill out some paperwork and sign a waiver.
  • If you don’t have a mat, don’t stress! Most studios will rent them to you for a dollar or two a pop. If you prefer to have your own, they cost less than $10 at Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
  • Bring water. You might work up a sweat, and it is always good practice to have water on hand during a workout.
  • Studio etiquette is a thing. No shoes in the studio, and make sure to respect the quiet space. Loud conversations with your friends or neighbors are disruptive to others.
  • Teachers may offer hands-on adjustments. This is normal and they are trying to help you improve your practice. If you aren’t comfortable with this, let your instructor know ahead of time and they will respect your space.
  • If you have any injuries, let your instructor know about those ahead of time as well.
  • Some teachers demonstrate some don’t. It is completely acceptable to glance around the room at what others are doing if you are unsure on what to do next.
  • Remember that yoga is for everyone! Do not feel intimidated if your poses don’t look like the person’s next to you. Remember that it is called yoga practice, because that’s all it is.

So put on some comfortable clothes, grab your mat, and get ready to listen to some Sanskrit instruction while breathing deeply! Yoga is for everyone, and somewhere on the lists below is the perfect experience for you.


The Three Best Studios in Tampa:

This is, of course, an incredibly subjective list. A space that is beautiful to one person may feel uncomfortable to another. Keep an open mind when exploring a studio, and remember that there are some absolutely fantastic studios in town that are not listed here.


Bella Prana

Almost every yogi in the Tampa Bay Area has tried at least one class at Bella Prana, and for good reason. This incredible studio features three studio spaces, a full yoga boutique, shower facilities, and more than 90 classes per week! If you are fitness motivated, you can take a Power Hour class or a Flow Level 1 or 2. If you are in it more for the mental benefits, you can try Yin Yoga or Breathwork Meditation. They even offer heated classes and chanting classes. This studio offers the full spectrum of yoga activities, all lead by some truly wonderful instructors. If you are new to yoga, then this is a great place to start out. You can pick up a bundle of classes or even a month of unlimited in order to explore different styles and instructors.

Be forewarned, this space can feel slightly intimidating when you first walk in. The lobby is huge and cavernous, and there are always yogis running around. If you are unsure of where to place your things, which studio space is yours, of what props you need, just ask! The vibe of the place is very welcoming. So hold your head high and join the practice!


Sattva Yoga

This studio stands in stark contrast to Bella Prana. It is situated in a small bungalow home and overall feels much more intimate than the yoga warehouse that is Bella Prana. They offer much smaller classes, so you are bound to get more personal attention from instructors. In fact, after just a few visits they are going to know you by name. The class list isn’t quite as extensive as some other studios in the area, and while there is certainly a fitness focus within this studio, it is clear that their instruction is more heavily influenced by mental work. At the start of every class, you will sit on your mat and get a brief “Dharma Talk” from your instructor. This can encompass anything from personal anecdotes to discussion of astrology, to the weather outside. Once you have all experienced the talk together, it is time to practice. You will feel the principles of the talk throughout the design and movement of the class, and it all adds up to a pretty incredible experience.

The space is small, so know that you might be practicing in a hallway, against a wall, or super up close and personal with your neighbor, but the entire environment just adds to the charm!



Camp isn’t just a yoga studio. This fitness complex also offers aerobic, circuit, and spin classes. The yoga is, however, housed in a separate building, and you can purchase yoga subscriptions only, so for the sake of the list, we will consider it to be its own studio. This is not a great studio for beginners. Classes are all heated, and all decently intense. The instructor will assume you have a base knowledge of poses and yoga principles. If you are looking to take your practice to the next level, then this is a fantastic choice for you. The flow classes are physically and mentally challenging, and the flow 2 classes offer instruction for arm balances, inversions, and more difficult postures that you can’t always access in a level one class.

The space is well lit and well appointed, but it is HOT. Definitely expect to sweat in this studio. It cannot be avoided, and you are absolutely not alone. This studio is not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for a challenge, then Camp is here to challenge you.


The Three Best Instructors in Tampa:

Like studios, instructor preference is incredibly subjective. It is important, however, to connect with an instructor. Many people only begin to like and appreciate yoga when they find the right fit in a teacher. Again, keep an open mind, and try to identify what you value in an instructor. Do you prefer tough love or quiet encouragement? Are you there for fitness or for meditation? Do you like to be touched or not? These are all things to keep in mind when considering which instructors you will like, and which are a better fit for a different type of yogi.


Austin Haigler

Austin teaches at the Yoga Loft, a fantastically intimate little studio in Ybor City. He is friendly and informal and is the perfect choice of instructor for anyone who isn’t into the hippy side of yoga. Austin began practicing in 2011, which means he is relatively new to the practice as well, and his style of teaching is incredibly accessible. He is also known as the “handstand king”, so if you are working on some floating poses definitely check out one of his classes!


Kolton Durkin

Kolton teaches at Sattva Yoga, and her classes are not to be missed! Kolton is very open about how a difficult time in her life led her to practice, and how yoga helped her to face her challenges and find a sense of inner peace, and you can feel that journey in every class she leads. She is great at explaining how to get into complicated looking poses and is highly encouraging of anyone and everyone who comes to her class. Not only that, but she exudes friendliness and honesty in a way that is very appealing. If you are looking for an instructor who is on your side and is honest about her own path, then Kolton is the instructor for you.


Anne Popovich

Anne teaches at Camp, and her classes are peaceful and encouraging, so much so that the more difficult sequences will sneak up on you. Her calming voice will slowly guide you into increasingly challenging sequences until her reverent humor during the impossible ab sequence breaks your focus in a delightful way. You can tell that Anne has a deep appreciation for her practice, and occasionally breaks the flow of classes out into workshops in order to encourage her students to grow and get better. According to her Camp bio, her favorite quotes are “Come with your heart or don’t come at all,” and “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” That should tell you everything you need to know about how Anne approaches and runs her class.


The Three Best Places to Practice

Yoga can happen anywhere and everywhere, and there are several fantastic locations around Tampa for you to enjoy your practice. If the thought of joining a studio intimidates you, or in any way gives you pause, then skip the classroom altogether and go out into the world and experience yoga a different, more unique way. It is time to get out of the studio and into the world – enjoy yoga anywhere!


The Front Lawn at Armature Works

The front lawn of Armature Works is a truly magical space. Overlooking the Hillsborough River and downtown Tampa, this space is outdoors, in the sun, and has an incredible view. Community yoga classes are periodically held by teachers from different local studios, like Bella Prana and Kodawari. If you are looking for an iconic Tampa experience, this is it.


Ybor City Museum State Garden

Every Saturday morning, instructors from the Yoga Loft host a free community class in this incredibly charming outdoor space. The garden is really more of a courtyard, outfitted with a brick floor and a charming fountain. You can easily find sunshine or shade, and you will be practicing with dozens of local yogis all out to enjoy a Saturday practice. This is a fantastic, peaceful place to practice.


Curtis Hixon Park

This riverside park is the heart and soul of downtown Tampa. The incredible landscaping, innovative art, and architectural features all make this space an incredible place to practice. A free class is held every Sunday evening on a tiered part of the lawn that turns your “studio space” into an amphitheater. So come practice while watching the Florida sun slowly sink over the Hillsborough River. It is a wonderful way to end your weekend and kick off a new week.


There is so much yoga available all over the city that there is no excuse not to try it. Whether you are an experienced yogi or a tepid beginner, there is space for you in this practice. You will learn to breathe deeply, quiet your mind chatter and appreciate your body for everything it is capable of. Why not give it a shot? So find a class, find an instructor, find a space, and go out and enjoy it!

What to Order at the Bern’s Bar

Mention the words “steak”, “fine dining” or even “dinner” anywhere in the Tampa Bay area and someone is most definitely going to bring up Bern’s. Bern’s has been operating on South Howard Avenue since the 1950s. From the exterior, it hardly looks special. It is a large, windowless building covered in white stucco and bearing a vintage sign. From the inside, it is a bit excessively dark, stately, and dripping with old world charm. Some say that if you squint hard enough you can see Don Draper in the corner with a liquored-up mistress.

Here is what they have to say about themselves:

“Perfectly aged steaks. One of the largest wine collections in the world. An internationally famous dessert room. Wine cellar and kitchen tours available for all guests. These elements have combined since 1956 to provide our guests with a unique culinary experience. Our prime steaks are cut to order, vegetables are grown locally on the Bern’s farm and sourced from the finest purveyors, and our menu includes 21 choices of caviar. Each visit to Bern’s Steak House takes you on a gastronomic adventure that defines Bern’s not as a meal but as an experience. We invite you to join us and experience Bern’s.” (source).

Now, if you want to dine at Bern’s Steakhouse, you will need a reservation, some semi-formal attire, an empty stomach and several hours to kill. If you are curious about this steak but aren’t too keen on spending an entire evening and what is likely several hundred dollars, then consider grabbing a bite to eat at the bar.

You heard it here first…the best-kept dining secret in Tampa is that you can eat at the Bern’s Steakhouse bar.

The important thing to keep in mind is that this will not be the full Bern’s experience. First of all, you cannot sit at the actual bar without putting your name on a list and waiting in the lounge area. Instead, nab a seat and a small cocktail table in the lounge and wait for a waiter to come to you. You will be able to order and enjoy a drink, and anything on the food menu that isn’t a steak or seafood. The appetizers, salads, and a few select entrees are all available to you!

Here is what you should order at the Bern’s Steakhouse Bar. Make sure you read the list all the way through…one of the items listed is a secret menu item!


To Drink:

Bern’s has one of the best wine cellars in the world. It contains more than 6,800 different selections and more than a half a million bottles. The wine menu is roughly the size of a novel, and you can grab bottles that range in price from $20 to more than $10,000. But if a bottle isn’t your jam, check out the wines by the glass menu. Red wine is really the way to go with the food recommendations listed below, so try out a the Lincourt Pinot Noir.


To Eat:

For an appetizer, definitely start with the Maine Lobster Cocktail. It consists of fresh Maine lobster tossed in citrus mayonnaise. It comes with micro greens, avocado, mango, and gaufrette potatoes. It is fresh, light, and a great way to start out your high-end yet casual bar meal!

Now, on to dinner. You may not be able to order a full steak at the bar, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a taste of it! Here’s the big Bern’s Bar menu secret. It isn’t listed, but you can order a steak sandwich that is truly to die for. Not only will you get to taste the famous steak everyone talks about, but you will get to try some of the amazing steak house onion rings that the Bern’s kitchen staff literally invented a flouring machine in order to perfect (seriously, go on the kitchen tour and ask about it, it’s amazing).

If a sandwich isn’t totally your speed, definitely go for the Cobb Salad with charcoal grilled tenderloin tips. This sumptuous combination of fresh greens, grilled asparagus, charred red onion, avocado, tomatoes, mushroom, black olives, chopped eggs, smoked bacon, gorgonzola, crispy onion rings, and cabernet sauvignon is both decadent and fresh. You will never want to order another salad ever again.


Between Dinner and Dessert:

At most restaurants, you would move right from dinner on to dessert. But Bern’s is not most restaurants. Mention to your waiter that you want to go on the kitchen tour, and he will pencil you in! The Bern’s Kitchen Tour is basically free entertainment along with your meal. A waiter in training will take you through Bern’s fantastically large and spotlessly clean kitchen. You will get a glimpse at their grill, their soup and salad station, that amazing onion rings machine, and the antique coffee roasters that they still prepare their coffee in every day. Once you are done with the kitchen tour, they will walk you through their outstanding wine cellar, including antique and ungodly expensive wines.


For Dessert:

At Bern’s, you don’t have dessert at your table. Instead, you head to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. This incredible maze of 48 private rooms and vestibules offers an incredibly unique and private desert dining experience. If you are looking for a classic Bern’s dessert, definitely order the Banana Cheese pie. This recipe hasn’t changed since they first opened the restaurant, and for good reason. A beautiful combination of banana cream cheese mousse in an almond praline crust with fresh bananas and whipped cream, this dessert is everything a good dessert should be.


So the next time you want a high-end dining or vintage experience without the price tag or time commitment, grab a seat at the Bern’s Bar. You can try the delicious food, sip on some world famous wine, and generally enjoy the atmosphere. Whether you are passing through town for a weekend or a life-long Tampa Bay Resident, Bern’s is an experience that should not be missed, and the Bern’s Bar is a great way to get it!

Is Café Con Leche on the menu?

Café con leche is one of those magical beverages that is widely underappreciated in the English speaking world, much like Caipirinhas and Vinho Verde. Simply “coffee with milk” in Spanish, this café drink is so much more than a humble drip coffee with a splash of 2%, or a pretentious yet still disappointing latte from Starbucks. This drink is bold, yet smooth, strong, yet sumptuous. Something about the pull of the espresso, the scald on the milk and the perfectly proportional one-to-one ratio of those two liquids makes this hot beverage the perfect drink to start out any morning, satisfy an afternoon craving, or finish up any hearty dinner. Basically, you can have it any time. It is always a good choice.

The great plague of this drink is its under-appreciation – it can be difficult to find it on café menus. Fortunately for those who live in Tampa, the Cuban influence is strong enough that there are several spots around the bay forgoing fancier espresso drinks and blended nonsense in favor of this classic cup.

Below are the three best café con leche spots in Tampa, in no particular order.


#3: Gio’s Cuban Café

Tampa veterans may recognize this better under its old name – Pipo’s The Original Cuban Café. Apparently, a man named Gio purchased it several years ago, but only recently got around to putting his name on the sign. This no-frills Cuban eatery has several locations across Tampa Bay – all of which are dishing up some seriously delicious café con leches.

Here’s what Gio’s has to say about themselves:

“Over three decades ago The Hernandez Family opened their first Cuban Cafe in Tampa Bay. Focused on staying true to the tradition and authentic flavors of Cuban cuisine, they committed to use only quality ingredients and proven family recipes to build their menu. That dedication continues as the Hernandez family delivers authentic Cuban taste to satisfied patrons throughout the Tampa Bay region. Whether you choose the award winning roast pork, the mouth-watering black beans and Spanish rice, or a rich Cuban espresso, you are guaranteed to experience the vibrant, diverse flavors and aromas of authentic Cuban cuisine.” (source).

Here’s what happens when you walk in: Skip the food ordering line and go right to the cashier (that is, unless you want some food. The grilled palomilla sandwich with the works is highly recommended). You have a choice of small, medium, or large in your café con leche, and you can elect with sugar or without. You will be rewarded with a steaming Styrofoam cup filled to the brim with the most delicious coffee beverage you have ever tasted.


#2 La Ideal Sandwich Shop

This is another no-frills eatery dishing up delicious Cuban food (sensing a pattern here?). In fact, they make a bold claim right on their website, the claim that they offer the best Cuban sandwich and Cuban coffee in Tampa, FL. The competition in that category may be stiff, but this humble shop located a stone’s throw from Raymond James Stadium absolutely has the goods to back up their claim. This restaurant has more than 33 years of experience and is considered an icon in its neighborhood.

Each cup of café con leche is ground fresh, the milk is steamed as needed, which mean it is always piping hot and incredibly smooth. You can choose to dine in at one of their cute little café tables or at the counter, or you can take your drink to go (para llevar, en español). Don’t be put off by the outside of the restaurant or the bars on the windows. Places like this are nearly always hidden gems, and this one is absolutely a diamond.

Locals have reported that the best way to order your café con leche is with milk and with a ceramic cup alongside your Styrofoam. That way you can enjoy your drink out of a real mug, but the Styrofoam will keep any leftovers you have warm and ready for you. Do not miss this coffee.


#1 Café Hey

This eclectic little shop is not a Cuban eatery, but rather an independent coffee shop that held down a spot in Tampa Heights years before it was new cool spot to be. This unpretentious but painfully cool café sits on the corner of Franklin Ave and Kay Street. It is only a few blocks from Foundation Coffee and the Hall on Franklin but feels like a totally different world. Their menu includes basic café creations, not-so-basic café creations (case in point, the Red Hot Latte is made with cinnamon, chili, and chocolate), and some simple lunch and breakfast fare. This is the only place on this list that offers both hot and iced café con leches.

In addition to pouring some truly excellent coffee (made with Buddy Brew beans, another local company), this café can be quite the hangout. Every Thursday is Open Mic night which welcomes poetry, live music, and spoken-word performances. Additionally, the café is always seeking submissions for art to hang on their walls. They don’t even collect a commission when a piece sells! They also offer events like vegetarian brunches and an art night called “drink and draw”. If you are intimidated by the Cuban eateries, and would rather venture into a hippy-run and incredibly inclusive coffee house, then Café Hey is the spot for you.

Grab a book or a laptop (since they also offer free wifi), choose a spot to park it and enjoy your warm, delicious beverage while soaking up the off-beat side of Tampa culture.


So the next time you find yourself jonesing for a caffeine hit, close the Starbucks app and head to one of the places listed above. Enjoying a café con leche is a right of passage in Tampa – so join the coffee appreciation club, and try not to be too sad when someone offers you a boring latte or a cardboard tasting cappuccino in the future.

The Top 3 Thai Food Delivery Options in Tampa

What do you do when you want to enjoy a nice dinner at home without going through the messy ritual of cooking? Order in, of course! With services like Uber Eats and Postmates along with delivery classics like pizza and Chinese, you have a lot of different dining options to choose from. But there is one style of food that will always have a special place in the hearts of take-out enthusiasts. Thai Food.

Thai food offers fantastically fresh yet blended flavors in a variety of soups, noodle dishes, curries, and stir-fries that are absolutely perfect for take-out. The hearty dishes Thai restaurants offer hold up well under transport, which means that with just a quick phone call and a 30 to 40-minute wait, your dining room can host truly wonderful Thai food without you ever having to dirty a pan. Thai delivery is one of those magical dining options that can work just as well for a date night as it does for a pajama bound lounge day.

Below are the 3 absolute best Thai delivery options in Tampa – just make sure you have your order ready when you call!


Palm Thai:

Palm Thai is located pretty far north, so if you live in Tampa Palms or New Tampa this is the best option for you. They serve delicious, authentically prepared Thai cuisine, and maintain an astounding 4.9-star rating on Google. That alone pretty much guarantees you are going to have an incredible meal. Every reviewer insists that the food is freshly and thoughtfully made – even impressing seasoned Thai food diners. One effusive reviewer shared is love for the staff at this restaurant, stating that the restaurant is “Family owned and operated and provides beautiful service. This is the joy of local people serving their community. Cannot express how much I suggest this wonderful place.”

The menu offers standard Thai Delivery favorites like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew, but there are some more creative dishes on the menu as well. For example, the Shrimp Bikini isn’t something you will find every day. The appetizer consists of marinated shrimp wrapped in spring roll skin and served with a plum sauce. If you are looking for a unique entrée, try the Pad Ka Prao Moo Sub. According to the menu, it is a “popular street food dish Thai style of stir-fried minced pork with fresh chili & Thai basil served with a fried egg over steamed jasmine rice”. (source). This place proves that you can’t go wrong with family-run Thai delivery!


Lemongrass Thai Kitchen:

If you are looking for delivery that’s a little further south, you cannot go wrong with Lemongrass Thai Kitchen. This adorable little Thai restaurant is tucked away into a small building on Kennedy Boulevard. They have been serving Tampa Bay since 2006, and are open 7 days a week! They are clearly passionate about the food they prepare for their community. In fact, their website lists a philosophy!

“The Lemon Grass Family loves sharing the most delicious and flavorful dishes from all over Thailand. By using the freshest of vegetables, quality ingredients imported from Thailand, and fragrant Thai jasmine rice, we can offer the taste that our customers enjoy and that makes our family proud to serve. Our goal is to provide a clean, friendly, and comfortable atmosphere. We want you to feel as welcome as if you were in your own home. We offer a fast and efficient takeout service, a weekday lunch buffet and quick lunch offerings, and fine dining experience as well as affordable catering services.” (source).

When someone pours that much love into their food, it is hard to go wrong.

Just like Palm Thai, Lemongrass features Thai Delivery Favorites, but their Chef Specials list is where they really shine. Next time, skip the Green Curry and opt for a Whole Red Snapper. This fish is deep fried until crispy and is served with a choice of sauté or curry sauce. You can also opt for the more traditional Pla Rad Prik (chili sauce). If fish isn’t your thing, then consider the Crispy Duck. The roasted & crispy fried half of boneless duck is served with your choice or sauté or curry sauce, and it comes with basil sauce or Panang curry. Ordering something special from Lemongrass is a great way to impress someone special in your life, without having to act the chef yourself!


Jasmine Thai & Sushi

If you have ever wanted to enjoy some curry and some sushi in one meal without ever leaving your home, then order from Jasmine Thai & Sushi. This Westshore restaurant is charming for eating in or ordering out, with their menu offering a decadent variety of Thai favorites and sushi rolls. The focus on food presentation, often serving their dishes with beautiful and delicate edible flowers. This place is elegant, but lowkey, and is a fantastic option for anyone looking for some gourmet delivery. One reviewer beautifully described what makes this restaurant special, stating that “Thai cuisine should reach a perfect harmony in taste and aroma, and Jasmine Thai exceeds this expectation. The menu offers a wide variety of traditional Thai cuisine, cooked with only the freshest spices and herbs, many of which are imported. They strive to make all of their dishes perfect, right down to the precise details like the fresh orchids that come with every entrée, or the jasmine rice that is molded into the shape of a heart. It is this attention to detail that makes the restaurant so special.” (source).

Their menu is robust and delicious. The Volcano Shrimp dish features a bed fo steam mixed vegetables topped with grilled jumbo shrimp and lava sauce, or you could enjoy the Green Papaya Salad that is served with roasted peanuts, tomatoes, long beans, and a chili lime dressing. Their sushi menu has great options as well, particularly the Florida Roll, which is comprised of tuna, salmon, avocado, cream cheese, and smelt roe. Another great option is the Mango Tango roll, which features tempura fried snapper, cucumber, scallion, smelt roe, mayo, and a mango topping. (source).


No matter where you live in Tampa, fantastic Thai Delivery is never more than a phone call away. So throw on some PJs, check out the menus listed above, and enjoy your night in!

What to Order at Ebisu Sushi Shack

Tucked away in a small converted house in the heart of Seminole Heights, sits a bright, clean, unpretentious sushi restaurant: Ebisu Sushi Shack. The restaurant has been occupying this 1928 Bungalow since August 2016. Here’s what they say about themselves on their website:

“Don’t be fooled by its modest appearance! The Chef-Owner and her husband (long time gaijin from Japan), set out a few years ago to create a unique sushi restaurant that would combine fresh, delicious dishes in a laid-back izakaya style atmosphere that customers would love, and they haven’t been disappointed! Whether it be regular favorites like the Orange Sunrise or Volcano Rolls or something unique being offered on the Specials Board, there’s always something delicious waiting for you at Ebisu!” (source).

The entire place has may eight tables, including the two on the front porch, and there is a tiny little sushi bar for anyone lucky enough to nab a seat there. The menu is simple, but with many choices, and the specials regularly feature something the Chef misses from her home in Japan. Most recently, to-go only rice balls. You have the choice of rice or multigrain rice, and a filling of either black seaweed, baked salmon flakes, miso glazed chicken, tuna with Japanese mayo, or Japanese pickled plum.

If, however, you decide to dine-in, there are a few fantastic choices you can make to ensure you have the best dinner ever.


Drinks: You may be tempted to just order a bottle of sake, but instead try something more interesting. The Sake Sangria is made of Malbec Wine, House Sake, and Plum Wine. The result is an Asian-flavored Spanish cocktail that is unique, strong, and incredible. If you aren’t into cocktails, instead grab a Sapporo, a light beer from Japan that has been in production since 1876.


Soup & Salad: Almost every sushi meal will begin with a soup and salad. At Ebisu Sushi Shack, you’ can’t go wrong with the Miso Soup and House Salad with Ginger Dressing. The soup is incredibly rich with umami and is always served piping hot. The Ginger Dressing on the House Salad is tangy and delectable. Both started dishes will leave you wanting more.


Small Plates: Edamame is another Sushi-night standard, but instead of ordering normal Edamame at Ebisu, opt for the version with Peperonico (Salt & Spicy Garlic Sauce). The simple addition of spices and a bright sauce elevates this simple starter into something memorable. Sharing a bowl of edamame is a great way to bond with your fellow diners, and this version with spicy garlic sauce will leave all of you wanting more!


Sushi: Ebisu does everything on their sushi menu right, from the Nigiri and Sashimi to the Classic Rolls….but where the Sushi Shack really shines is in their Specialty Rolls. The Red Dragon Roll is a fantastic option. It contains fried shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, and pineapple, and it is topped with a sweet chili sauce. The entire roll is crunchy yet creamy, and incredibly delicious! If you are still hungry afterward, try the Godzilla Roll. The Godzilla Roll is truly something to behold. It is a spicy salmon and cucumber roll, topped with spicy tuna, tempura chips, spicy mayo, and eel sauce. The result is a protein-heavy roll with both crunchy and spicy elements.

If you aren’t feeling sushi, then there are still menu options for you! The yellowtail or octopus carpaccio is an artfully composed dish. Your chosen protein is thinly sliced and arranged on a plate with daikon radish, scallion, ponzu, and olive oil. You can also opt for a rice bowl. The Spicy Tempura Chicken Don is a great sample of Japanese food that doesn’t include seafood. It is constructed of tempura chicken, sushi rice seasoned with furikake, avocado, spicy mayo, sriracha, green onions, and seeds. Not for the faint of heart.


Desserts: There is only one correct answer here; the Mochi Ice Cream Trio. This dessert contains one scoop of each available ice cream flavor: green tea, chocolate, and vanilla. The green tea is exotic, the vanilla – classic, and the chocolate is indulgent enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

If you order everything listed above, you are guaranteed to have a great meal, but if nothing there struck a chord with you, consider visiting the popular page on Ebisu’s website. There, they list dishes that people order and enjoy more often than anything else. You can even see pictures. Their selections include the following:


Tekka Don: Tuna, sushi rice seasoned with furikake, avocado, green onions, seeds, served with wasabi soy sauce.

Orange Sunrise Roll: Spicy yellowtail & cucumber roll topped with Salmon, lemon & roe. Finished with ponzu sauce.

Volcano Roll: (A sushi favorite, but done particularly well here) Krab and cucumber roll topped with avocado, baked krab, salmon, white meat fish, roe & scallion. Finished with spicy mayo and eel sauce.


It is worth mentioning that the service team at Ebisu (while incredibly small), will also make your dining experience special. The chef and wait staff behave as if they have actually invited you into their home for dinner. They will immediately be friendly and familiar, and are likely to remember you after just a few visits.

Just remember that parking is limited and may be a challenge. But one visit to this quaint little sushi shack and you too will decide that circling the block looking for a place to leave your car is more than worth it!

What to Order: Thai Temple Sunday Market

The Thai Temple is a super unique cultural center of Tampa. An honest to goodness Thai Buddhist Temple (complete with orange-clad monks), the Sunday Market at Wat Mongkolratanaram will transport you all the way around the world to someone else. Every Sunday, the Thai community invites the public into their Temple and sets up incredible food stalls dishing out super traditional and super delicious Thai Food. But without a menu, directory, or any clear way to tell which stall serves what, actually obtaining a meal at the Thai Temple can be a daunting task.

Below you will find the three best dishes available at the Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple. Follow this guide and sample some of the most authentic Asian food in Florida.


#3 Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

When you first walk into the Thai Temple, you will be on a path between the temple itself and the community center that hosts the market. The community center deck on your right-hand side hosts a half a dozen food stands. Somewhere near the center, you can find fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce, for only $5! These things make the perfect appetizer. A delicate rice wrapper encases fresh lettuce, carrots, and thin rice noodles. Some of the rolls contain chicken strips, and some contain shrimp. Pick whichever pack of four looks the best to you and claim it as your own before someone else does. The beautifully fresh flavors of the spring roll then blend with the rich peanut dipping sauce to form a bite that it all together fresh, rich, silky and crunchy. These are a great item to share, or they can be enjoyed all on your own! All in all, it is one of the best dishes at the Thai Temple Sunday Market.


#2 Mango Sticky Rice

Along that same deck, but closer to the river than the stall with the spring rolls, is a stall of wonderful Thai women serving Mango Sticky Rice. Mango Sticky Rice is technically a Thai dessert, but it is so delicious and in such short supply at the Thai Temple Sunday Market that you should grab whenever you can! Mango Sticky Rice consists of fresh sliced Mango, next to white rice sweetened with coconut milk. At Wat Mongkolratanaram, they serve their Mango Sticky Rice with a side of sweetened coconut milk, for you to pour over your mango and rice if you so please. The dish is sweet without being overly sugary, and decadent without feeling heavy or overly indulgent. If you ever visit Thailand, you will find Mango Sticky Rice available on nearly every menu, from street vendor to 5-star restaurants. This stick rice is incredibly authentic and absolutely delicious. It sells out quickly – so definitely find this stall first, and then continue around the market putting together the rest of your meal.


#1 Noodle Soup

The noodle soup at the Thai Temple is truly something special. The stall selling it is all the way at the end of the wrap around deck, on the side facing the river. Though, you barely need directions since the line alone will clue you in into which stall you are looking for. The noodle soup consists of rice noodles (available in angel hair, medium, and thick), savory beef or pork broth, a delicious meatball, and some fresh bean sprouts and vegetables. The dish is highly customizable. You have the choice between a large and a small, a choice of three different sized noodles, and then a choice of beef, pork, or vegetable. Just make sure you have your choices made by the time you get to the front of the line. Also, the line will be long. But do not let that deter you. The crew working this station is super efficient, so you should be holding a hot bowl of soup within 15 minutes, even when the line wraps around itself five times and heads down the stairs off of the deck. Once you get your soup, head over to the condiments table to customize it even more! There, you will find jalapeños, fish sauce, sriracha, and sugar. Toss in whatever looks good to you and grab some utensils. The easiest way to attack this dish is with chopsticks for the meat, vegetables, and noodles, and then a spoon for the broth. This dish is filling and heartwarming. It is comfort food in Asia, and you will feel that comfort in every bite you eat. You cannot go wrong with the flavors you choose, and you can try a different combination every time! This dish is an absolute must for anyone looking to have an authentic experience at Wat Mongkolratanaram.


Bonus Dish! Thai Coffee

Most people visiting the Thai Temple will sing the praises of the sweet and creamy Thai Tea – available at another busy stand for only a dollar per cup (a fraction of the price of most local Thai Restaurants). But if you are looking for something with a little more kick, you cannot go wrong with the Thai Coffee. The Thai Coffee (only available iced), is a rich, black drink brewed with sugar and spices giving it an intense depth of flavor. Once it is poured over ice, the stall attendants top it off with a splash of half and half, cutting the richness and adding a creamy flavor. It is sold at the same stand as the Thai Tea, and for the same price, but gets a lot less attention. If you really want to do the Thai Temple Sunday Market the right way, you will grab a few of these bad boys to enjoy while waiting in line, and a few more to enjoy with your meal!


The Sunday Market at the Wat Mongkolratanaram is an incredible experience. So grab some cash (oh, forgot to mention, it is cash only), make sure you have got an appetite, and head to this incredibly scenic site on the edge of the Hillsborough River. Enjoy your Sunday!