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.

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!

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!

The 6 Best Healthy Lunch Options in Tampa

Tampa is a summertime city. That means more time spent outdoors wearing less clothing. For you to look and feel your best, you need to eat healthy. Whether you are rocking a bathing suit on a stand up paddleboard, jogging down Bayshore Boulevard or just relaxing somewhere in a hammock, the energy you expend from nutritious, clean eating will leave you feeling better than anything fried of covered in cheese will. And even if looking great in a bathing suit isn’t your top priority, eating healthy in the middle of the day can propel your day forward like nothing else can. Skip the fries, and you will be amazing to find you don’t need an afternoon nap!

No matter what your goals are, knowing the best places to score something healthy for lunch is a good thing. Below are three great places to grab a healthy lunch.

 

Ciccio Water

This South Howard restaurant is owned by the Ciccio Restaurant Group, just like many of its neighbors – but unlike the fast-casual scene at Fresh Kitchen or the party scene at Green Lemon, Ciccio Water has more of a relaxed, trendy vibe. It is a sit-down restaurant with take-out options, and the menu features everything from sushi to power food bowls they call “California Bowls” to brick oven pizza. This is a great place to bring a work meeting since the menu is light, diverse, and affordable. They have dairy free, gluten free, and vegetarian options all clearly identified on the menu.

Suggested Order: Water Guacamole with vegetables instead of chips, and the Thai Bowl with Sticky Rice.

 

The Bricks

All the way down at the far end of 7th Ave in Ybor City sits The Bricks. Bar/Restaurant, but mostly restaurant, this place has a simple, but unique and elevated menu that is both tasty and healthy. The Bricks was inspired by Skatepark Tampa, and you can definitely sense some laid back skater culture when you walk in. According to their site, they “serve creative recipes, locally roasted coffee, classic cocktails and a lot of everything for all to enjoy. It’s delivered with a bit of edginess, class, love, but most of all, an experience you won’t find anywhere else.” (source). Everything on the menu will look familiar but will seem totally new on the plate. This is a fantastic place to meet with friends, co-workers, or to just unwind at alone at the bar. Everyone is welcoming and the food is fantastic.

Suggested Order: Hummus (trust, it’s great), Veggie Cuban (a healthier take on this classic, meaty sandwich).

 

Graze 1910 at Armature Works

Armature Works is a fantastic market in Tampa Heights that seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. The building it is housed in was once a maintenance facility for Tampa Electric’s (TECO) streetcars. It is enormous, and is filled with dozens of food and drink vendors. Graze 1910 is a food vendor in the Heights Public Market Hall and encourages its patrons to “Enjoy downtown Tampa skyline views on the Hillsborough River and Graze with us.” (source). You can order to-go and fight for some seating in the main hall, or just sit right at the Graze counter and enjoy waiter service. Whichever you choose to do, the gourmet/healthy vibe of Graze’s menu items will leave an impression as large as the TECO Streetcar Warehouse itself. So grab some complimentary sparkling water from one of the water vending machines located around the market, and place your order!

Suggested Order: 1910 Slaw and the Blackened Ahi Tuna Salad

 

Old Heights Bistro

This place is super unique, in that it offers pretty standard café favorites alongside a full sushi menu! Located centrally on Nebraska Ave in Seminole Heights, this menu has something for everyone. Whether you are a fan of classic salads, sandwiches, or sashimi and nigiri, there is something here for you! It is described by Google as a “small bright bistro with counter service” – making it an easy, no-nonsense place to grab a quick, healthy lunch. It maintains an incredible Google star rating, which should really be all you need to check the place out.

Suggested Order: The Heights Roll and a Beet Salad

 

Dio Modern Mediterranean (formerly known as Paninioteca)

If you find yourself downtown and in need of a healthy lunch, look no further than the unpretentious, but delicious, Dio Modern Mediterranean. This simple café is defined by its fantastic outdoor seating on the corner of Twiggs and Franklin in downtown Tampa. Grab a seat under a large and leafy tree and watch the foot traffic wander by. Downtown has never felt so charming. The menu offers Mediterranean starters, salads, and sandwiches, which are easy to build a healthy and filling lunch out of! So grab a seat, and grab a bite at this fantastically plain downtown café.

Suggested Order: Prosciutto and Fruit with Smoked Turkey Panini

 

Fresh Kitchen

This insanely popular, fast-casual bowl-slinger is an obvious choice for this list, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving. This counter-service healthy restaurant opened up recently by the Ciccio Restaurant Group took South Tampa by storm, turning a quiet corner on South Howard Ave into a permanent traffic jam. The chain has since expanded to a few other locations, so you should not feel the need to limit yourself to the original location. The menu is simple. To order you simply choose a base for your bowl, some vegetables, some protein, some sauce, and a smattering of optional toppings. Food is prepared fresh every day and is made with the health-conscious in mind. In fact, this is what they say about themselves on their website: “We believe in serving fresh, high-quality ingredients that NOURISH and energize your body. WHAT WE EAT SHAPES OUR HEALTH, affects our appearance and determines our disposition. BE HAPPY, EAT FK. Our food is made from scratch and fresh-to-order. FROM OUR GRILL TO YOUR BOWL, AS FAST AS YOU CAN POINT. Our PRESSED JUICES, TEAS, JUICE FRESCAS are prepared in-house daily. Just like our taste buds, our RECIPES CHANGE WITH THE SEASONS.”

Suggested Order: A 4 bowl made of brown rice, kale salad, parmesan broccoli and almond crusted chicken with the creamy white ginger sauce.

The Best Chinese Food in Tampa, FL

Chinese food delivery, paradoxically, is an incredibly American phenomenon. There is something about those red and white paper cartoons stuffed to the brim with delicious food that, incidentally, is very difficult to replicate, that is comforting to most people. Chinese take-out has become a symbol of working late in movies, a hangover cure in many circles, and a convenient way to serve dinner to almost everyone else.

Every city needs at least one amazing Chinese take-out place. So whether you are looking for a lunch special, dinner for a group, or a late-night meal, Chinese Food delivery is there for you.

Here are the best Chinese Food places in Tampa, FL.

 

Shang Hai Take Out

Nestled deep along the bay coast in South Tampa sits the unassuming Shang Hai restaurant. The humble restaurant is nothing more than a room with three tables and a couch, connected to the bustling kitchen. It sits in an often-abandoned strip mall, yet puts out the absolute best Chinese Take-out in Tampa Bay. The menu is nothing spectacular, featuring Chinese Take-out favorites like Beef with Broccoli, Sweet and Sour Pork, and Szechuan Chicken, but the food is always fresh, seasoned well, and piping hot. There is not risk of munching on some bland, chewy meat out of a luke-warn stirfry at this place. Everything they dish out is the absolutely best version of whatever it is meant to be. This part of town doesn’t have much beyond residential properties, but it is worth the drive over from nearly any other part of the city.

Recommended Dishes: Hot & Sour Soup. Beef with Broccoli.

 

China Moon

This next restaurant is significantly farther north, sitting in a strip mall off of MLK in Riverside Heights. The restaurant is slightly difficult to get to. It is located in a miniscule strip mall on Rome Ave, but looks from the road like it is on MLK. Make sure you commit to your turn into the parking lot before you go over the bridge, or you will have added at least five minutes to your ETA. Also, there is only about one designated parking spot. Once you battle all of that, you will be rewarded with some truly fantastic Chinese Take-out. If you want to avoid all of that hassle, just plan to order for delivery! Like Shang Hai, their menu is comfortingly familiar, featuring delicious dishes like Moo Shu, Egg Foo Toung, and Chow Mein. The food is always cooked fresh to order, and their final products are genuinely spectacular. The sauces here really shine. Anyone who has ever had a mediocre Chicken with Broccoli understands how that brown sauce can make-or-break a dish, and I am happy to say that China Moon understands that too! This is a fantastic place to order from if you are hanging out anywhere north of Kennedy.

Recommended Dishes: Crab Rangoon, Chicken Lo Mein.

 

China Taste

For this next entry, we head South again! All the way to Gandy Blvd. China Taste is another no-frills take-out and delivery restaurant. Conveniently located just a few doors down from the corner of Gandy and West Shore Blvd, the parking lot is always a turnstile of customers driving in hungry, and departing with bags of delicious smelling food. The family running this joint is incredibly effusive and friendly, and they always cook their food to order. The menu items are, again familiar, but familiar items done well are a hit with any crowd.

Recommended Dishes: Pork Egg Roll, Sweet and Sour Chicken.

 

If you are looking for something slightly more elevated….

 

Yummy House

American-style Chinese Delivery, while delicious, is not really what authentic Chinese cuisine is all about. If you are looking for something a bit more elevated in the Tampa area, you cannot go wrong with Yummy House. This incredible restaurant was started by founding partners from Toishan, China. The original location is on Waters Ave in Jackson Heights but has since expanded to an incredible seven locations in five different Florida cities. The Yummy House website describes the overall vibe perfectly:

“[John and Tommy] believe in satisfying the customer at all times, however never fear offering the authentic cuisine of Chinese cooking and educating the consumer.

This quality has set them apart from every other Chinese restaurant in the Tampa Bay area. They have set the bar high where others have been loathe to tread.

 John and Tommy can be seen in the kitchen or dining room at Yummy House Tampa or Yummy House China Bistro (on Hillsborough) creating the magic that evolves from their woks! Additionally, watch their staff members and see their faces to know the kindness of their owners who instill respect and happiness amongst their clients and peers alike. This culture is pervasive within the Yummy House Family and leaves an indelible mark on your heart when you leave. Come in and ask to meet them at anytime, but don’t be surprised if they speak with their hands on a wok and their eyes darting around the room to keep the mastery of their product to perfection! Would you want it any other way?”

This Chinese Food is so good that the Yummy House was actually named one of the top 50 restaurants in Tampa Bay in 2018 by a Times Food Critic!

Here is an excerpt from her write-up: “The first Yummy House on Waters Street, opened in 2008, was no reservations, no booze, no frills, an instant hit on the strength of its authentic Hong Kong-style food. Owner John Zhao realized he was on to something. He followed that with the Hillsborough Avenue location in 2011, a Sarasota outpost in 2012, Gainesville in 2013, Ocala in 2014, then Orlando and, finally, South Tampa at the end of 2017.” (source)

 

This is an incredible place to go for Dim Sum or Dinner, so decide what you want your experience to be and show up with an empty belly – you are bound to have a fantastic experience.

 

Recommended Dishes: Salt & Pepper Calamari, Seafood Fried Rice with Spicy XO Sauce.

What to Order: Acropolis

Acropolis, Greek Taverna is a Greek restaurant group with locations in Ybor City, New Tampa, St. Petersburg, Riverview, South Tampa, and Sarasota. The founder, Sam Waez, actually grew up in Greece as the youngest of eight children. Growing up he worked at his older brother’s restaurant, before heading to the United States with “a bag and a dream”. He opened the doors of the first Acropolis Greek Tavera in 2001. (Read more on their website).

Since then, Acropolis has expanded to the six locations listed above and has become a fixture of the Tampa restaurant scene. The locations are lively, often featuring live belly dancers, the occasional plate-throwing, and periodic napkin throwing that leaves the floor littered with what appears to be over-sized confetti. So whether you are enjoying dinner in the Ybor City dining room, taking in a drink on the fire-pit ladened patio in South Tampa, or grabbing something to go in Sarasota, this will be a restaurant experience like no other.

The menu is large and somewhat intimidating, but follow this guide to have a traditional Greek dining experience…with a twist!

 

Drinks:

Imbibing is certainly not required, but if you plan on hanging out at Acropolis for a lengthy dinner (which is highly suggested), then you probably want to start with an adult beverage. There is a daily happy hour from 3 pm to 7 pm, but if you want to enjoy a later meal consider visiting on Martini Mondays for $5 martinis, or Wine Wednesdays for half off all wines, bottles, and glasses. If none of that particularly appeals to you, definitely go for the Sangria. For a Greek restaurant, Acropolis does this Spanish cocktail right! So grab a pitcher of Sangria for your table and start out the meal with this sweet, fruity drink.

 

Appetizers:

Unlike the drinks, appetizers here are definitely required. Namely, because they are so damn good. The Ouzo Mussels are always a great choice; sautéed mussels with garlic, onions, basil, fresh tomato, Ouzo, and Santorini wine. Served with deliciously charred garlic bread, you cannot go wrong. But the real star here is the Tirosalata. A delectable blend of feta cheese and garlic, topped with oregano and extra virgin olive oil, it is so good that no one would judge you if you wind up licking the bowl. They are simple flavors but combined the right way to make something magical. Make sure to order extra pita triangles right from the start – you are going to need them.

 

Salads:

Whether you choose to enjoy it as an entrée or a second appetizer, the Horiatiki salad should not be missed. This salad is a traditional Greek village salad, which means there actually isn’t any lettuce in it at all! Instead, it consists of roughly chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, pepperoncini, and green pepper. With capers, olives, fresh oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. The whole thing is topped with a huge slice of feta cheese and some oven toasted pita strips on the side. If you really want to turn this salad into something special, ask to have it topped with gyro meat.

 

Entrees:

This is where we really get into traditional Greek food. The menu offers everything from Mousaka to a whole grilled red snapper. Everything is good, but a few menu items are truly great. The Mixed Grill is an amazing choice, especially if you are feeding a crowd. In fact, the menu itself states that it feeds four people! It comes with a shish kabob, a chicken kabob, a vegetable kabob, pork souvlaki, and gyro. The whole thing comes with a side of tzatziki and a choice of two sides. Well, really one side, because one of those choices absolutely has to be the Greek fries.

If you don’t happen to be feeding a crowd, opt for the Gyro Platter. You will get to try their fantastic thinly sliced spiced lamb and beef along with a side of the refreshing tzatziki. The platter also comes with pita. Greek fries, and a salad.

If you are curious about staff picks, then take some advice from Sam Waez, the chef/co-founder/managing partner of Acropolis Greek Taverna. When the Sarasota Herald-Tribune asked him what his signature dishes are, here is what he said:

“The Chicken Rhodes with salted chicken, lemon, wine, artichokes, olives, fresh spinach and goat cheese; the Acropolis Seafood, the sauce is house-made served over ice with scallops, shrimp, mussels and a roasted pepper sauce; and the Makedonikos, similar to jambalaya, with seafood sausage, shrimp, chicken, and a tomato-based sauce with fresh basil, cilantro and garlic.” (source).

Dining at Acropolis can range from takeout to a full evening of entertainment. If you decide to spend some time in the dining room, be prepared for live music and periodic cocktail napkin tossing as the entire staff dances through the restaurant shouting “Opa!”. Acropolis also has a Hookah menu, if you really want to take your night to the next level.

Hookah is an elaborate looking smoking instrument that uses hot coals to heat up tobacco that then smokes and is inhaled through a valve on a hose. It can be a relaxing, shared experience before or after dinner. Hookah usually comes with flavored tobacco, and at Acropolis, you have a choice of mint, blueberry mint, orange mint, lemon mint, grape mint, double apple, strawberry, and watermelon.

The one thing you do not want to do in a place like Acropolis is going in blind. The menu is extensive and the environment is hectic in a way that only a traditional Greek restaurant can be. If you have a plan based on the recommendations listed above, you are guaranteed to have a fantastic, memorable lunch or dinner. Keep in mind that the portions are huge, so take care to not let your eyes grow larger than your stomach. Once you have got all of that down, sit back and enjoy the scents, flavors, and sounds of Greece, all without leaving Tampa Bay!

Thai Temple, Tampa FL

It’s Sunday morning in Tampa, FL. There is only one place to be. Set aside the trendy restaurants with their Sunday Brunch drink specials. Skip the gym, and forget about sleeping until mid-afternoon. You are going to Wat Mongkolratanaram. Tampa’s one and only Thai Temple.

Wat Mongkolratanaram (simply called “Thai Temple” for those in the bay who are not fluent in southeast Asian languages) is exactly what it says it is. The gorgeous temple building sits right on the Hillsborough River. The stunning gold-tiered roof, beautiful nature and monks wandering the grounds in bright orange robes are enough to make you forget that you are in Tampa, let alone in North America. Visitors are welcome to sit in the temple with the worshipers to experience the hypnotic music, tenants of Buddhism, and the peaceful nature of the Thai people. Just remember to leave your shoes outside. This slice of Asian culture, tucked away in a seldom-visited corner of Tampa Bay, is so authentic that it is an absolute must for anyone looking to try something new and exciting.

Sunday visits are encouraged because of the infamous Thai Temple Food Market.

Between 8:30 am and 1 pm, every Sunday, members of the local Thai community set up food stalls along the porch of the rec building that sits opposite the gorgeous temple. The local lore cannot be confirmed on the Wat Tampa website, but the story goes that members of the Thai community began bringing food offerings to the monks every Sunday. Pretty soon, the volunteer and food volume became too much for the monks to enjoy alone, so the Sunday meal was opened up to the Thai community. Once the market outgrew even the Thai community, the market was opened up to anyone and everyone in Tampa Bay.

The food is delicious, the atmosphere is peaceful, and the people are painfully kind. So the next time you find yourself free on a Sunday morning, head to the Thai Temple for a little taste of culture.

Here are the things you need to know before you arrive:

 

Bring Cash:

The entire food market is cash only – making it one of the few remaining spots in Tampa Bay without credit card squares or Apple Pay. Make sure you have got some actual dollar bills in your wallet before you arrive. That being said, $10 will more than cover your meal. Prices are extremely reasonable. Just grab some extra cash if you want to shop at the stunning flower market. Best prices on orchids in the bay.

 

Arrive Early:

The earlier you can beat the brunch crowd, the better. There is a large parking lot in front of the temple, but even that can fill up quickly so arrive early to secure a spot.

 

Be Prepared to Wait:

Even with an early arrival time the market is still likely to be crowded. You will more than likely have to wait for a parking spot (also be aware, people utilize absolutely every available parking space, so it will likely be a tight squeeze). You will also probably have to wait at the food stalls, especially if you are after their most popular dish – the noodle soup.

 

Get the Noodle Soup!

This item is popular for a reason. The line wraps around itself several times, and you may need to wait up to 20 minutes to place your order. Once you arrive at the front of the line you have several decisions to make:

  • What size soup do you want? (regular or large)
  • What size noodles do you want? (large like linguini, medium like spaghetti, or small like angel hair)
  • Which soup do you want? (beef, pork, or vegetable)

Regular soup costs $6 and large cost $8. As you move from the order area to the payment area, you can watch an assembly line of volunteers place your noodles in a bowl, cover those noodles with broth, add your chosen protein, plus a meatball for good measure, and top it all off with a fresh mix of veggies. Once you pick up your soup and pay the same man that has been working the stall for years, you can head off to the condiments counter.

The condiments counter contains large containers of hot sauce, jalapeños, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Go ahead and dress up your soup however you would like, then grab some utensils and napkins and head to the picnic tables. The best way to attack the soup is to use chopsticks for the noodles, and then a spoon to slurp up your leftover broth.

When you are finished with your soup, bring your tray and bowl over to a garbage station. Drop anything left into your bowl in the bucket lined with a strainer, throw away your trash, and stack up your reusable tray and bowl for the volunteers to pick up later.

If you are curious about other food options at the Thai Temple, check out “What to Order: Thai Temple Sunday Market”.

 

Plan your attack:

Everything at the Thai Temple is delicious, and you will likely want to sample more than one dish. If that is the case, you will want to plan your attack accordingly. The line at the Thai tea/Thai coffee station is always extremely long. It makes sense…the tea and coffee are delicious and only costs $1, wherein most Thai restaurants a single tea will run you at least $4…so start there. Maybe pick up two or three, one to enjoy in line, and the others to enjoy with your meal. From there, head to the noodle soup line. This will most likely take up the bulk of your time. The soup is very hot, so wait for it to cool a bit while you pick up anything else you may want – like some fresh spring rolls or mango sticky rice (which always runs out early). If you are hitting the market in a group, consider splitting up for efficiency.

 

Bring Sunscreen and Bug Spray:

The eating area at the food market sits right on the Hillsborough River – and while the majority of the area is shaded, the strong Florida sun may still poke through. Nothing is worse than suffering a sunburn or irritating bug bites when you are trying to enjoy your meal, so come prepared to ward off the more irritating aspects of nature.

 

Check out the River Dock:

Make sure to take a stroll along the dock extending into the river. If you look over the edge you will see dozens of river catfish. Drop something small into the water (like an ice cube) and watch the fish rush to the surface!

 

Enjoy:

Sunday mornings are a time to relax, recharge, and take in the beauty around you. Do not rush your time at the Thai Temple. Instead, take in the delicious heat of the soup, the creamy sweetness of the tea, and the beauty of the people around you. ‘

 

Learn more at their website.

What to Order at the Colombia

The Colombia restaurant is the definition of a Tampa Bay institution. It claims to be the oldest restaurant in Florida, and its first location (because now there are many, including one at the Tampa International airport), takes up an entire city block on Ybor City’s infamous 7th Ave. The restaurant has been run by 5 generations of the Casimiro family starting in 1905 and continuing today in 2018.

The building itself is incredible. You enter through a somewhat nondescript doorway and are brought into an atrium that immediately transports you back to a time when people dressed for dinner. To the left of the hostess stand is a framed historical document that advertises The Colombia’s compliance with Prohibition, but if you ask the right person they will show you that the wall the document is posted on is actually a doorway concealing to a staircase, which leads to the secret attic The Colombia staff used to use to hide liquor during those conservative years.

Every dining room in The Colombia is unique. In fact, the Don Quixote room was the first ever air-conditioned dining room in Tampa. The colorful tile you see throughout the restaurant (including the pitcher servers make their famous Sangria in) come from the Triana district of Seville, Spain. The restaurant even has an adjacent museum that features pieces of art and historical artifacts from the institution’s history.

Reading the menu is like reading a family memoir that is well versed in local Cuban history. The description of their house salad alone is a full paragraph, and the various sections of the menu are decorated with historic family photos. The Colombia offers traditional Spanish Tapas, up-scaled Cuban dishes like Ropa Vieja, and local Tampa Bay inventions like the Cuban Sandwich, which call all be washed down with a delicious mojito that has an actual piece of sugar cane sticking out of it.

But with all of that history, cultural influence and celebration, the sad truth is that there are only a few things on the menu that The Colombia does exceptionally well. It is a controversial stance to take when discussing this restaurant that has been the premier restaurant in the region for over 100 years, but true nonetheless.

So if you are planning on visiting The Colombia Restaurant, first of all, make sure it is the original one in Ybor City, then make sure you understand what to ask for in order to have the best experience possible at this location that exemplifies living history.

 

Step 1: Getting There

Even though not everything on the menu is delectable, the trip into Ybor city is well worth it for an evening out. Reservations are recommended, but not particularly hard to get, so just call ahead. If you would like to see the Flamenco dancers, who perform every night of the week except Sunday, you will need a special reservation and you will be paying an $8 entertainment cover per guest. You can valet your car right at the front door, and while dressing up is in no way required, why not throw on some cocktail attire to dine at a restaurant that once served Marilyn Monroe, and more recently, George Clooney?

 

Step 2: Drinks & Bread

Your meticulously dressed waiter may engage in some pomp and circumstance before taking your drink order, so be ready for a quick introduction to the beautiful interior of The Colombia. When it comes to drinks, their wine list is somewhat limited, but if you are a fan of Spanish wine then you are in luck! The best cocktails on the menu are the Mojito, which comes in a highball glass with fresh mint and a stick of sugar cane that a lot of people mistake for a straw when they are first served, and the Sangria Tinto, which your waiter will mix for you table-side and serve in a stunning ceramic pitcher from Seville, Spain.

In between your drink order and their delivery, a different waiter will deliver an individual piece of Cuban bread to every guest at the table, along with their own shallow ceramic dish of soft, whipped butter. The piece of bread you receive is not a slice of bread or a roll, but rather an entire chunk off of a loaf of Cuban bread, and each chunk is hand-wrapped in a thin piece of white paper. If you have never had Cuban bread, you are in for a treat. Baked fresh daily at La Segunda Central Bakery down the street, Cuban bread is hard and crispy on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. The flavor is mild, but when it is spread with the soft whipped butter, something magical happens. Do not panic if you see what looks like a long black hair sitting on top of your bread – that is just a leftover palmetto leave. La Segunda Central bakes Cuban bread the traditional way. Before each loaf goes into the oven a fresh palmetto leave is placed along the length of the bread, which causes the surface to crack aesthetically. Also, keep in mind that you are not limited to just one piece of this Amazing bread. If you ask your waiter for more, they will continue to bring you fresh warm bread and a new butter dish.

 

Step 3: Ordering your Meal

At this point, many are tempted to try a variety of tapas or traditional Cuban food. Some of these selections are excellent, but overall the main courses here are over-salted and under-sauced. Instead, opt for the entrée portion of their famous 1905 Salad. This salad is unique and filling. The following description is pulled from the Colombia’s menu verbatim:

“The Colombia’s legendary salad tossed at your table. Crisp iceberg lettuce with julienne of baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese, and our famous garlic dressing. The award-winning salad won honors from USA Today as “One of the 10 Great Places to Make a Meal Out of a Salad”. The signature salad, named for the year the restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Latin district of Ybor City, was inspired by immigrants to the Cigar City: Romano cheese from the Sicilians and the famous garlic dressing used by Cubans to marinate fresh roast port, plus Florida tomatoes, iceberg lettuce (*Originally known as crisphead, iceberg lettuce got its name from the layers of ice covering heads of lettuce being shipped to Tampa via Henry B. Plant’s trains. As the trains pulled up, people would yell, “Here come the icebergs!”), julienne of baked ham and Swiss cheese. In the ‘40s, Tony Noriega, who ventured to New York City during the Depression to find work, added a “secret ingredient,” Worcestershire sauce, to the recipe” (source).

Why that lengthy description includes the entirety of the ingredients listed twice, or that detail about the man headed to NY (a place that is decidedly not Tampa), for work instead of describing how he came to add his secret ingredient, we may never know. But lengthy pontifications aside, this salad is absolutely delicious. You have the option to order the salad with either turkey or grilled Shrimp rather than the ham, but don’t do it. Stick with the original.

A few minutes after your order is submitted, your water will wheel a petite card over to your table, and present each ingredient of the salad as he prepares it and tosses it in front of you. Once you have your first bite of the decadent, vinegary taste of this hearty entrée salad, you will not even wonder what anything else on the menu tastes like.

 

Step 4: Dessert and Coffee

The desserts on this menu are really nothing to write home about, but if you have an insatiable sweet tooth, then it is really hard to go wrong with either the Flan or the Key Lime Pie. If you are a fan of an after-dinner coffee, then definitely go for the café con leche. The beverages consists of strong coffee mixed with scalded milk in a 1:1 ratio, and it is unbelievably better than a latte. It may keep you up a few hours later than you are used to, but it is worth it.

 

Step 5: Heading out into Ybor

A night at the Colombia wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down 7th Ave following dinner. Depending on what time of night it is, you will encounter an increasingly eccentric cast of characters. From the man who carries around a boa constrictor in a shopping cart and charges people for pictures, to the rotating parade of insanely tricked out vehicles that roll down 7th every 15 minutes or so, it is almost like getting a show along with dinner. There are some fantastic bars on the strip if you are looking for a nightcap, but those tips belong in a different article.

 

Summary:

The ideal order at The Colombia Restaurant:

  • Pitcher of Sangria Tinto (doesn’t even matter if you are sharing it or not)
  • Multiple orders of the Cuban Bread
  • The Entrée portion of the 1905 Salad
  • Flan and Café con Leche for dessert