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Tampa Bay is for Foodies!

by Nikki Devereux, Pinstripe Marketing

Don't Skip Lunch

While there are no shortage of lunch spots in Tampa, there are a few classics that you really must try! Below are two of my favorites that are wildly different, but shining stars in their own right.

 

The Columbia

Some fellow Tampa Bay residents may be puzzled by this choice, honestly. While it is a Cuban staple in the Tampa Bay area (it's been family owned and operated for over 110 years - that's five generations!!), the sandwiches are, I'm sorry to say, not the greatest our area has to offer. There are just too many other competitors for this one to shine. No... when you come to the Columbia, this architectural gem in the heart of Ybor City, you order the 1905 Salad. Everyone knows that.

It's prepared table side so you can see the simplicity of the ingredients as they are tossed in front of your eyes. You aren't convinced it's magic until you take your first bite; the flavors are perfectly balanced: salty from the olives and ham, the sour from the lemon, a hint of sweet and sour from the splash of Worcestershire - what a delight! How do these work so well together? Who knows, they just do. Mention "The 1905" to any true Tampa Bay citizen and they will exclaim their love and dedication. On this menu, try the Paella as well. It's noteworthy and if you want more than a salad you can share this and you'll be fueled for your Ybor City exploration!

Wright's Gourmet House

Wright's is another Tampa Bay icon that we all drool over. Don't let the name fool you - this is not a gourmet house, by any means. What it is: an unassuming, bustling, cafeteria-style warehouse that churns out some of the best sandwiches you'll ever taste. And as if that's not enough, they top it off with the most indescribable cakes (please don't leave without trying at least one. I am in love with the Alpine, a yellow cake, chocolate icing combo - but you really can't go wrong). Plus, a fun selection of iced teas to go along with your carb-fest lunch!


For sandwiches, try the Paris, with turkey, brie, and fresh apples on buttercrust white bread, so divine! And the signature house sandwich, the Beef Martini, is not to be missed, with rare roast beef, mushrooms marinated in white wine, crisp bacon, and garlic + herb spread on buttercrust white. Just fantastic! Who said gourmet had to be complicated?

 

Shining at Dinner Time!

Tampa's food scene really shines at dinner time. In the next two restaurants, we have the imagination, style, and flavors of simply memorable food, in two very different atmospheres. 

Haven

This sultry joint is the perfect date night, whether with a romantic partner or a girl's night out. Low light, candles, and a vast wine list create the ambiance, and the variety of seating lets you choose the mood. Sit at the bar for a bustling atmosphere or choose outside where you'll be surrounded by more natural materials and a more private, comfortable pace.

My number one must try is the mushroom toast. Sure, it sounds almost silly, but just try it. As the mushrooms and cheese melt in your mouth and the crust of the toast gently buckles under your bite into a chewy, buttery delight, you'll thank me. The dancing of the flavors on your tongue is so fulfilling that if you wash it down with an earthy pinot noir, you may not come back to our planet.

The truffle mac and cheese is topped with slices of truffle - a beautiful thing in and of itself, but the cheese they use is out of this world. Chef's selection of earthy, rich, bold cheeses! You can't go wrong here. And the grilled ribeye cap might as well be butter as it melts in your mouth and leaves a sweetness lingering on your palette. Sip on a slightly sweeter Napa cab with this meaty treasure. Don't take it from me, though - this menu is meant to be explored!! It's changes often and is divided into several categories, from meats, to fish, to vegetables and more, so the a la carte nature of the menu encourages sharing and you'll inevitably ask your server for advice on the food and the wine list. They are incredibly knowledgeable and happy to oblige all questions and may even give you a tour of the cheese cellar if you're on your best behavior.

The Rooster & the Till

A fun, hip place with a bar as the center of attention, what the Rooster & the Till lacks in romance, it makes up for in food. There's a reason it's been voted #1 restaurant in Tampa Bay for the last two years. The Rooster is another a la carte style menu with fun, ever-changing options and a simpler, yet complete, wine list. My favorite dishes of the moment are the rich and decadent pork belly and the roasted brussels sprouts. The crispy cobia collar is a Vietnamese delight, with all elements playing in that harmonius way that Vietnamese ingredients do, with sweet, salt, spice, and aromatics complementing the resounding crunch of the cobia collar. They currently offer a chef's tasting menu with both a food experience and a wine experience - the price is right for a 6 course tasting menu with wine pairings. Go ahead and splurge, you deserve it!

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