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Where to Eat in the Tampa Bay Region

So you’re planning a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida and you’re flying into Tampa. Wondering where to eat while visiting the Tampa/St Pete region? You’re in luck! 

From breakfast to dessert, we’ve got you covered. Some may only think of seafood when they think of this area but, we promise, there is so much more to discover and enjoy. It’s truly a foodie’s paradise. And, as always, we’re highlighting a few of our LGBTQ-owned favorites, too!

Breakfast/Brunch

Diners

If diners are your thing, then you’re in for a treat. Dotted all along the coast and in the city are fantastic classic and modern diners.

For a classic diner experience, head to Millie’s in Sarasota. Try their German apple pancake and homemade eggs benedict. For more of a city vibe with diner charm, 2nd and Second in downtown St. Pete is sure to please. Try the cheese sticks (skewers of halloumi placed on a hot grill instead of the traditional deep-fried fare) or the BLT+AE on grilled sourdough bread.

Brunch with Entertainment

Looking for brunch time entertainment? Then check out Iberian Rooster on Central Ave in downtown St Petersburg. Not only does this local favorite have delicious food, but they’ve become famous for their Saturday Drag Brunch. 

Featuring the 2019 winner of the best drag performer in the bay, Adriana Sparkle it’s not to be missed. A spectacular brunch buffet is served while you enjoy the show.

The Queens Head Eurobar also offers a brunch complete with live local singers, like Jennifer Real. Make sure to try the phenomenal Breakfast Buddy Sandwich, it’s to die for. Another stop on the brunch bus should be Punky’s Bar and Grill. Tons of drink specials and live entertainment make it a fun place to spend a Sunday.

Classy Fare

Just because it’s breakfast doesn’t mean it can’t be fancy. Some of our favorite spots for a classy breakfast do a great job of kicking their breakfast favorites up a notch in a more upscale way.

Check out Cafe Alfresco in Dunedin and get pampered while enjoying a crab benedict or french toast a la ritz. The Library in St. Pete (whose kitchen is home to the phenomenal LGBTQ chef Rachel Bennet) offers a delicious savory breakfast burrito, pancake stack, and top-notch french toast.

Don’t forget the espresso brownie to go with your coffee.

Lunch

Cuban Sandwiches

Nothing beats a Cuban sandwich for lunch. The original Cuban sandwich here in the US was not born in Miami as some would suspect but, rather, here in Tampa. 

What is a Cuban sandwich? Traditionally, it’s Cuban sandwich bread loaded with ham, swiss, mustard, and pickles then grilled on a press. The outside gets super toasty and the inside is warm, melty, and chewy. With a little tang from the pickles, it’s a work of art. 

There are a few spots to check out this amazing sandwich. Head to Ybor City for a taste of the Cuban (Carmine’s is a personal favorite, they put roast pork on their Tampa Cuban too) and to enjoy a hand-rolled Cuban cigar. Also, in Treasure Island, The Floridian is known as the birthplace of the Cuban sandwich and it certainly does not disappoint.

Sandwich Variety

Craving a sandwich, but not a Cuban? Then Pom Pom’s Teahouse should be at the top of your list. This St. Petersburg LGBTQ-owned favorite lunch stop has everything from ham and cheese to thanksgiving on a sandwich. And don’t leave without a sampling of their bread pudding. 

Seafood Sandwiches and Tacos

Two seafood sandwich favorites in the Tampa Bay region are Grouper and Mahi Mahi. And in our opinion, they are best served on a brioche roll or in tacos! 

While both can be cooked in any application, grilled, broiled, baked, etc., there is one way that seems to bring out the flavor better than the rest – blackened. What does blackened mean? The fish is coated in a blend of herbs and spices to give it a spicy kick and then pan-seared until the outside is crisp and browned and the spice blend is infused in the filet.

Check out the blackened grouper sandwich from Walt’s Fish Market in Sarasota and the Mahi sliders at The Honu in Dunedin (another LGBTQ-owned favorite). 

Are you a Rueben fan? Then you’ll love Donna’s Mahi Rueben at O’Maddy’s in Gulfport, Florida, and the Grouper Rueben at Cortez Kitchen in Cortez, Florida, the oldest remaining fishing village on the West Coast.

For fish tacos, head to Badfins & Brew in Clearwater or Buoy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill in St Pete Beach.

Deviled Crab

Another import from the Cuban and Spanish communities in Florida comes the deviled crab. Now, this doesn’t look anything like a deviled egg.

Deviled crab is a stuffed pocket of crab meat and seasonings that is then deep-fried into a handheld treat. This crab meat croquette, known in Spanish as croqueta de jaiba, is a wonderful lunch or snack to walk around with while sightseeing.

Think of it as the tropical seafood answer to a Scotch egg or the crab equivalent to the Latin potato ball.

Check one out at Big Ray’s Fish Camp.

Happy Hour

There are plenty of places to grab a cocktail all along the Tampa area. For something special try Flute and Dram for their drink specials and caviar bar. Punky’s Bar and Grill always has the best BOGO drinks.

Mattison’s City Grille in downtown Sarasota has some of the best happy hour specials in the area. In Tampa, if beer and wings is more your thing, check out Hattrick’s Tavern for $12 buckets and $0.50 wings.

Dinner

From casual dining to formal fare, the dining out options in the Tampa region are endless.

For an upscale experience in Clearwater check out the Beachcomber restaurant for the freshest surf and turf. Indigenous in Sarasota focuses on local careful sourcing for all their eats.

In Tampa, try Steelbach for a mind-blowing modern southern experience. Make sure you try the life changing avocado and fennel salad and the short rib mezze. Chef Nathan Hardin was the chef de cuisine at the Ritz Carlton Orlando before opening this place so he knows what he’s doing.

Rooster and The Till offers another unique take on new American cuisine. Don’t miss the Smashburger with raclette cheese and the not pork dumplings with house-made chili oil.

Waterside

When you think of Florida the thing that everyone thinks of first is seafood. The Tampa and St. Pete region has it’s fare share of incredible eats from the sea as well.

For an out of this world meal and a beautiful view to boot, check out the Big Catch at Salt Rock Creek. Their new chef Jason Gordon has made this a don’t miss experience for the best seafood. Make sure to start with their amazing and famous fish spread, try the oysters from local sources all over the state, and finish off your meal with their Prawn and Lemon Curd masterpiece of a dish (the prawns are the size of your hand, it’s a new favorite on the menu).

If you’re looking for fantastic eats and your toes in the sand you can’t miss SandBar in Anna Maria Island. They have delicious sandwiches and other light fare right on the waterfront.

For less sand and more city, but keeping your water view, check out Ulele in Tampa’s Riverside area. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. It’s all incredible.

Cultural Cuisine

If you’re a fan of traveling through culinary experiences you won’t be disappointed in all the options available in Tampa/St. Pete.

You can find everything food-wise in these cities now and have delicious bites from all over the world. Enjoy some great fish and chips at Queenshead Bar and then have a delicious bowl of Japanese pork belly ramen for dinner at Buya Ramen.

Make sure to check out some authentic Spanish food at Columbia Restaurant with locations from Sarasota to Clearwater. For some great tapas, check out Bulla Gastrobar in Tampa (don’t miss the grilled octopus or sauteed garlic shrimp). For more small bites head to Ceviche in downtown St. Pete. They have a wide variety of ceviches and an amazing happy hour to boot.

If you’re looking for the best in Bahn mi sandwiches you have to stop by La V the best Vietnamese restaurant in St. Pete.

Looking for sushi? Don’t miss Pisces in Dunedin for a raw fish treat.

Romantic

The Gulf Coast is certainly picturesque and makes quite the backdrop for some epic romance. Looking to really wow and woo your partner? Don’t miss the famous and historic Maritana Grille at the Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach. This waterfront legendary pink hotel is the epitome of romantic.

Pass-A-Grille is only a short drive past the Don Cesar and is also home to an incredible and romantic restaurant. Grace offers a variety of modern Italian interpretations like their Orecchiette with Rapini, Shallots, and Herbed Bread Crumbs and Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Broccoli Rabe, Raisins, and Pine Nuts.

Another romantic hot spot in St. Pete Beach is Spinners and Level 11. Spinners is the legendary rotating restaurant serving the best in surf and turf. After your meal head one floor down to Level 11 for some fantastic cocktails and charcuterie.

If you’re heading to Tampa for romance make sure to stop by Donatello Italian Restaurant and share an order of the Abbacchio Al Forno Alla Ciociara. This succulent Rack of lamb is seared and baked with mustard and herb breadcrumbs and finished in a rosemary demi-glaze sauce. It’s served family-style for two.

Dessert

From in-house made popsicles (at The Hyppo) to ice cream on freshly made waffles (at Urban Creamery) we have dessert more than covered too. 

Make sure to try (swah-rey) a dessert bar that’s been featured on the Cooking Channel, Wedding Wire, and more. Their hookups, mini cupcakes served over boozy (or virgin) shots of a perfectly paired beverage, are not to be missed.

The Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa is also a phenomenal choice. Try the King Midas a Bern’s original recipe of carrot cake with spiced pecans and almonds served with their signature Macadamia Nut ice cream and rich hot fudge.

Last, but not least, stop by Let It Be Ice Cream in Gulfport. This LGBT-owned ice cream shop offers ice cream novelty treats that come with less guilt. They feature everything from vegan to low-sugar and 100% fruit options. They even have treats for your pup!

Come for the Sun and Stay for the Food in Tampa/St. Pete

No matter what brings you to this side of the state you’ll want to stay forever. Beautiful scenery, delicious food, wonderful people, what is there not to love?

We hope this gives you a great jumping-off point on where to eat in Tampa and the surrounding areas and we push you to explore. There are a plethora of amazing eats in the area, far too many to name here.

Heading to Orlando on your trip too? Check out our guide on where to eat in Central Florida here.

Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).  


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