Dining Out and Nightlife
You can choose from a wide assortment of cuisines and restaurants in the Tampa area. Chain restaurants are a dime a dozen in downtown Tampa. But while in town sightseeing, there are plenty of delicatessens and sandwich shops to provide your family with a good lunch at moderate prices. Though local seafood tops most menus, the influence of Cuban, Spanish, and Greek cultures is apparent. To experience some of the best food in the Tampa area, try any of the following:
The Castaway: Saltwater aquariums, exotic music, and articles that have washed ashore give this casual restaurant its South Seas ambience, but the food is mainly steak and seafood. (7720 Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, 813-281-0770)
The Columbia: An Ybor City institution, which opened in 1905 as a humble coffee shop for cigar workers, it is the restaurant in Tampa. As musicians serenade you, waiters wearing dinner jackets serve moderately priced traditional Spanish dishes while you gaze at newspaper clippings about the restaurant's history on the wall. (2117 East Seventh Avenue, Tampa, 813-248-4961)
Tampa's Silver Ring Café: Holding the reputation as the maker of the best Cuban sandwich, produced in a showcase window for all to see, this café's luncheonette decor has you sitting either at a long Formica counter, at tables, or on stools facing shelves along the wall. (206 North Morgan Street, Tampa, 813-301-0200)
JUST FOR PARENTS
Treat yourself to a night out without the kids at Bern's Steak House. After choosing a steak from the largest selection in Tampa, accompanied by organic home-grown herbs and vegetables, you'll think you're in heaven when you enjoy dessert from a sixty-five-page menu upstairs in a glass booth equipped with radio and television for after-dinner relaxation. (1208 South Howard Avenue, 813-251-2421)
When the sun goes down, things heat up in Tampa as bands in clubs and bars play everything from rock to reggae and blues to country. The center of nighttime action is Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, which becomes a pedestrian thoroughfare on weekend nights. The main entertainment center here is Centro Ybor (813-242-4660), a mix of shops, restaurants, and entertainment centers. Don't miss Gameworks, featuring over 180 games for adults and kids (813-241-9675), arranged around a palm-lined plaza. The city also has several comedy clubs, including the Tampa Improv Comedy Theater and Restaurant (813-864-4000) and Comedy Works (813-875-9129). Both feature top-name comedians. If you prefer to listen to blues and reggae, go to Skipper's Smoke-house (813-971-0666).
But Tampa has its cultural side, too. The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, one of the largest arts complexes in the country, houses three theaters, offering opera, classical music, and ballet programs plus Broadway road shows (813-229-2787). The city is also home to the Florida Orchestra (813-286-2403), as well as theatrical groups, such as the New Playmakers (813-972-1177), the Spanish Lyric Theater (813-223-7341), and The Tampa Players (813-229-3221). For nightlife listings, pick up a copy of Creative Loafing or Tampa Tonite, or buy the Friday edition of the Tampa Tribune.