My good friend and fellow Tampanian Coleman (@colemanicewater) pointed out that not everyone I know could possibly be an alcoholic and I, therefore, was doing a disservice to my friends and roommate (we’re not friends until after the election) by not doing a rundown of the stuff to stuff your face with. Below is the rundown of the best places to eat in the bay area as determined by those of use who spent our young adult lives there.
Greek/Mediterranean: Acropolis (multiple locations)
Acrop is a solid Greek restaurant. The best part is that it is reasonably priced and there are locations throughout the bay area. The atmosphere is laid back and includes live music most nights, the napkin dance twice an hour, and dancers on the weekend. Each location is very popular on the weekend, so go early or go on a week night. North Tampa has a thriving Greek population, so the standards for good Greek food are there, and it’s comparable to the food you’d get at the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, the Greek neighborhood that’s way too far away for con-goers to drive to. Recommended: Spanakopita, Chicken Shawarma, Dolmades
Mexican: Taco Bus (multiple locations)
With locations near USF and downtown, this Tampa staple is easily accessible to con-goers. Featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, the once innocuous taco stand (literally a bus) restaurant has exploded in popularity in the last few years. The original location is still open 24/7, and it will never be empty. You CANNOT beat the prices. Believe me, if college kids can afford to eat here multiple times a week, it’s cheap. However, quality is not sacrificed, and there is something for everyone. Recommended: Tortas and Fish Tacos
Cuban: Segunda (Ybor City)
Everybody knows the best Cuban sandwiches north of Miami- Dade can be found in Tampa (and, think about it, pretty much EVERYTHING is north of Miami). The best place to get a fantastic, fast lunch for very little money has to be Segunda Bakery. Four words: fresh baked Cuban bread. That’s the secret to the most amazing sandwich in the bay area. It’s a bakery, so you know they’re going to get that all important element right. Have you never had a Cuban sandwich? Cuban pastries? No!??! Change that. Seriously, it’s got something for any time of day, and it’s only a short drive and completely worth it. If you’re lucky enough to be a petite white woman, you’ll be adored by all of the staff (not speaking from experience or anything). Breakfast is also available, expanding your opportunities to have some amazing. Recommended: ANYTHING with bread.
BBQ: Hungry Harry’s (Seffner)
Go ahead and try to tell me Florida is not the South. I DARE YOU. My grandmother will rise from the dead to personally pop you in the mouth. So what if we don’t have a particular style of BBQ like North Carolina or Kansas? I’m sorry, but sweet tea runs in our veins (which explains the obesity) and BBQ is a way of life. Lauded by my guy friends as THE place to get BBQ (and guys know meat, right?), Hungry Harry’s is the place to go for your favorite BBQ staples. The food is well priced and the sauces are to die for. Don’t be a high and mighty “dry BBQ only” jerk. Recommended: I mean, it’s meat and sauce….where can you really go wrong?
Gastropub (I guess?): Datz (Macdill Ave)
Datz literally has everything. And if they don’t have it, it’s probably because they’ve figured out a way to reinvent it. It’s open late on the weekend and for every meal the rest of the week. It’s a chill place to grab a range of foods and grab a beer with your colleagues. Consistently ranked on Urbanspoon as one of the best restaurants in the area, it’s not as cheap as Taco Bus, but I’m assuming you make more than I do. You literally cannot make less, so I know you can spring for some gumbo here. Recommended: PLEASE try their desserts and breakfast items if you can. This is no time to watch your girlish figure!
Wildcard: Jerk Hut (Downtown and USF)
There is absolutely no reason for there to be good Jamaican food in Tampa. Thank God life doesn’t make sense, because Jerk Hut is certainly a Godsend. With a location very close to the convention, there is no excuse not to stop by. There’s a huge menu with everything from Jamaican soda to vegetarian plates, it’s just a great place to go for something different. I would sell my firstborn for their jerk chicken. There are few things I wouldn’t do for their jerk chicken. In fact, can someone throw some in a plastic bag and bring it back to DC with them? This place – not my family, not my friends, not the weather – is the thing I miss most about living in Tampa. It’s just killer. The downtown location is easy to miss and kind of sketchy and hole-in-the-wallish, but that’s how you know it’s good. Recommended: Jerk Chicken, RED SAUCE!!!!!!
I will gladly accept any leftovers you are willing to bring me. Seriously. Not kidding in the slightest. Happy eating!