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.