Florida’s constant stream of sunshine and moderate temperatures make outdoor dining a viable and popular option when it comes to eating out in Tampa. Here, we share seven of our favorite restaurants around the city to enjoy some of what makes Tampa great — fab food, alfresco tables and views you can enjoy all year long.
Big Ray’s Fish Camp
The head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a regular at this popular spot for a grouper sandwich with locations with mostly outdoor dining in the Ballast Point neighborhood and in downtown Tampa along the Riverwalk. Big Ray’s Fish Camp does a mean blackened grouper sandwich, but Tampa regulars are particularly fond of the messy (but worth it) Grouper Reuben, thick with a slab of fresh Gulf grouper, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing.
Tampa’s popular food hall is the perfect spot to dine outside with views of the city skyline and the Hillsborough River. Armature Works is housed in the building where the maintenance facility for Tampa Electric’s (TECO) streetcars from 1910 to 1960. After years as the site of a phosphate machinery manufacturer, the building underwent incredible renovations and is now one of the city’s hottest spots.
Inside Armature Works’ Heights Public Market, find 15 food stalls ranging from ramen to burgers, sushi to Cuban, vegan dishes to empanadas, and loads of options that will please any palate. After you’ve grabbed your food, find a spot under an umbrella at a picnic table, or take a seat in an Adirondack chair on the lawn with views of the city skyline and Hillsborough River.
Rick’s On the River
Hop onto the Pirate Water Taxi in downtown Tampa and take a ride along the Hillsborough River to the end of the line, stop 17 at Rick’s on the River. Incredibly popular with the locals, Rick’s is where you can grab a beer and slurp some local oysters while listening to live music out on the deck. The vibe is relaxed, casual and easy-going. Even if you’re not on vacation, you’ll feel like you are when you’re at Rick’s – that’s just the vibe, and it’s easy to get swept into.
Fronting a sweeping stretch of Tampa Bay on Rattlesnake Point in the up and coming Westshore Marina District, south of downtown Tampa, Salt Shack faces due west and is a sunset favorite. There’s tons of seating both under cover (yet open to the salty breezes) as well as down by the water’s edge at tables shaded by umbrellas. The menu mixes Florida and Caribbean flavors with things like Bahamian conch chowder, grouper bites with mustard sauce and Key lime pie with the obligatory (in these parts, at least) graham cracker crust.
Ella’s Folk Art Cafe
Take a seat on the shaded patio and take your time perusing the menu… Ella’s Folk Art Cafe in Seminole Heights has a lot to offer, from burgers to pizzas and entrees that will make your mouth water.
You can’t go wrong with the Chicken & Waffle Sammy, with fried chicken thighs served between two Belgian waffles, topped with caramelized bourbon honey; and on the pizza front, The Goldberg is the furthest thing from traditional: smoked salmon, pesto, capers, mozzarella and cream cheese
Sometimes you just want comfort food from a diner, and Tampa’s got you covered there, too. The Trip’s Diner location in Seminole Heights, just north of downtown, opens early for breakfast (6 a.m., weekdays, and 7 a.m. on the weekends), and stays open well into the night (3 p.m. Sundays) to serve up its diner favorites. The covered patio at Trip’s is a terrific spot to dine, and it’s dog-friendly, too!
For breakfast, which is served all day, order a Hubcap (that’s a pancake as big as a car’s hubcap), or try the BST Benedict: eggs, fried green tomato, spinach, lemon Hollandaise sauce and crumbled bacon. If you prefer lunch or dinner entrees, go for a Meatloaf Melt: meatloaf with sautéed onions and provolone served on grilled sourdough.
It’s easy to imagine you’re in the Florida Keys at this hideaway outdoor spot with a little beach for launching kayaks and SUPs into the surrounding mangroves (you can rent them onsite) and colorful picnic tables set in the sand. The Getaway is right across the Gandy Bridge bridge from South Tampa as you enter the St. Pete side of things, and gets as much business from locals (many of whom pull up in their boats right at the dock) as visitors. The breezy bar under a tiki-style roof does brisk business on the weekends. On the menu? Bar food standards with some Florida twists. Think: smoked fish dip, wings, mahi and lobster tacos and the like.
Top photo credit: Salt Shack.
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