We’ve only been in Florida for one year, but I already have my handful of spots I take guests. When looking for restaurant to take someone that is visiting Tampa Bay, I stick to the following requirements:
- Kid Friendly – most of my guests are here to see the kids so this is a priority.
- Good Food – a given!
- Appealing Atmosphere – two for one if you will, see the sights and eat while you do it. Yes, sometime the food is the atmosphere.
- “Mostly” Non-Chain – there are some great chain restaurants out there, but my rule (most of the time) is to never take someone where they could eat at home. Exceptions: Paciugo and Cooper’s Hawk.
Following is a list of my personal favorites along with a few submissions from fellow Tampa Bay Moms Blog Contributors.
- Bella Brava, 204 Beach Dr NE, St Petersburg, FL 33701 – Located in downtown St. Petersburg, this local favorite provides amazing pasta dishes and loads of people-watching. TIPS: Sit outside, kids portions are very large, do the Pasta Brava.
- Paciugo Gelato & Caffé, 300 Beach Dr, Ste. 120, St Petersburg, FL 33701 – This is the only location in Florida and the gelato is downright diet busting worthy. TIPS: Sample, you can choose up to 3 flavors in the small size, sample again, try Violet.
- The Boardwalk Grill, Johns Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, FL 33708 – As the name suggests, it’s a hidden “fast-food” gem along the John’s Pass boardwalk. The food is cheap and a bit greasy HOWEVER the onion rings are as big as your hand and they have quite possibly the best burger this side of the bay. TIPS: Bring your camera, you are likely to see dolphins while you wait, fries are not impressive.
- Clear Sky Café, 490 Mandalay Ave, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767 – Most visitors to Clearwater Beach hit Pier 60 and stop! This café is the reason to head north. It’s not quite on the water but definitely a refreshing spot after a long day in the sand. TIPS: Check live music schedule, stop for photo ops in the lifeguard chair, shop the small portion menu!
- Cigar City Brew Pub, 15491 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33624 – Don’t let cigars + brews scare you from taking the entire family. This is the spot to taste some local brews and enjoy a Cuban sandwich. TIPS: Grass-fed burgers, beer flights and Root Cream (root beer + cream soda)
- Wildflower Cafe, 1465 S Ft Harrison Ave #105, Clearwater, FL 33756 – It’s ok that there’s not much to see here because you will be staring at your food. Known throughout the bay as a breakfast spot, many also enjoy the soup and salad offerings at lunch. TIPS: Go early. (They close at 2:30 p.m. most days.) It’s a local favorite, Sunday Brunch, malted Belgian waffle!
- Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, (Three locations: 1901 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL; 13020 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL; Market Place East, 1912 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL) – What visitor doesn’t love pizza? When you can’t decide on where to go, Anthony’s is always a crowd pleaser. TIPS: Paul & Young Ron, check out the lunch specials.
- Ukulele Brands, 4805 Land O’ Lakes Blvd, Land O Lakes, FL 34639 – This is casual Florida dining at it’s best. Go for the fish, stay for the music. TIPS: Fisherman’s BLT, turtle and fish viewing on the patio, skip the weekend nights.
- The Shrimp Boat Grille, 1020 Bloomingdale Ave, Valrico, FL 33596 – Don’t let the name fool you. The Shrimp Boat offers an upscale atmosphere, five-star service and some of the best seafood around. Save room for chocolate cake, described by some as nirvana! TIPS: Coconut shrimp, $3 draft specials, call ahead reservations, Category 4 Tasting = kids at home.
- Chocolate Pi, 1205 S Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606 – Cupcakes, gelato, macaroons and pie…OH MY! Your guests will swoon over everything in this boutique bakery in SoHo, even the lattés. TIPS: Menu changes daily, order a few items and share, pack macaroons as a parting gift.
- Cooper’s Hawk Winery, 4110 W Boy Scout Blvd, Tampa, FL 33607 – Wine. More wine. Cooper’s Hawk also offers one of the BEST kid’s menus: chicken noodle soup, potstickers, salmon, etc. Fact: They are the nation’s only wine bottling recycling line. TIPS: Gluten free menu, Happy Hour starts at 3 p.m. so you can go early enough to have a late lunch and $5 glass of wine before the crowd!
We would love to hear where other Tampa Bay moms are taking out-of-towners. Please pass on your favorite spots.