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A Tantalizing trip to Tampa, Florida

Part Two: Where to Eat

by Lis-Marie Liden

From Part One we know where to stay and where to go in Tampa, in this guide, I will take you through which restaurants to go to and what I ate. We had a perfect mix of places both fairly new and some with a vast history.

Elevage Soho Kitchen & Bar

As we landed fairly late in Tampa, we decided to enjoy our first dinner at the Epicurean Hotel, and its restaurant, Elevage is inspired by several cultures such as Mediterranean, Asian and Indian. With dark wooden tables accompanied by leather chairs, lovely heavy ceramic plates, tiled floors and rope accents all around, the atmosphere was calm and upbeat at the same time.

elevage soho kitchen

We were treated to a selection of starters to share such as Grilled Octopus and Baked Oysters, I stuck with the Cheese and Charcuterie board. For my main, I chose the Grilled Fillet Mignon, and what a treat it was, a nice piece of medium rare tender fillet resting on top of Pomme Puree garnished with Caulilini and green pepper sauce. The portion was a good size still allowing space for dessert. My glass of house red was a perfect compliment to the fillet. For dessert, I could not resist the Flourless Chocolate Brownie topped with peanut butter ice cream, peanut brittle and chocolate sauce, a perfect end to a lovely meal.


Ciro’s, which is located inside the historic Bayshore Royal building in Tampa, had my heart from the moment I heard a password was needed to enter, and that this could only be acquired through text and lasted for a short time. Ours: Humphrey Bogart.

The door, which had a sliding hatch to not let people without a password, made it all the cooler. Once inside it’s dim but warm. Lounge music in the speakers lingered with the chatter of the guests. The style is Old Hollywood meets Speakeasy. Right up my alley!


We are led to a booth draped with black sheer curtains with an intimate space with seats and small tables inside. If you want privacy, this is it for you. Our cocktails were created by master mixologists and with great care, I treated myself to the Southside Royale; Waterloo nr 9 Gin, cucumber, lime, Mint and Champagne. Fresh and fun.

For starters we shared Truffle popcorn, tossed with truffle oil, salt and pepper and Duck Fat fries, hand-cut fries crisped in duck fat, truffle oil, gruyere, and chives with mornay fondue. Both are great starters still allowing space for the more.

My main was the Fattoush Salad with Grilled Chicken, a nice light salad with a great protein addition. The size was amazing, definitely enough to keep you. For dessert we shared Milk and Cookies, but it’s not just any milk and cookies. Homemade large chocolate chip cookies served warm with a selection of spiked milk. This restaurant really felt like we were in the prohibition era secretly enjoying our spiked beverage.

Goody Goody

Goody Goody is America’s first drive-in restaurant and still has that vintage diner feel to it. I was beyond excited as I have always had a love for diners! Established in 1925 and still keeps the same atmosphere alive.

Goody Goody Copy

The interior is in yellows and greens, with leather seats on metal-framed chairs, booths for the lovers and a rounded bar for that morning cup of Joe. For my breakfast I chose the Tampa Omelette, this is Goody Goody’s version of the Denver Omelette and a very special dish for the Co-Owner Richard Gonzmart.

A nicely sized omelette with Bacon, Jalapeno, onion, red pepper, potatoes and cheddar, is definitely enough to start your day. And if you needed more, it was served with fries and an English muffin.


To drink of course I asked for a latte, and after enjoying it in the Goody Goody heavy ceramic mug I just had to ask if I could buy one to take with me home, this is now the only mug I drink my coffee from.

Oxford Exchange

In this magnificent stylish and sophisticated building filled with history and so many places to meet we finally found our way to the restaurant for our brunch. The tables surrounding a gorgeous fountain are all surrounded by large vines and kept bright and airy by the retractable glass roof. For the first time in my life, I had an Apple cider Chai Latte, spicy and with a healthy dose of apple cider vinegar, I liked it very much.

Oxford Exchange

To add some pleasure to this healthy choice I went for the French Toast, which was a bigger portion than I was expecting but that’s not a bad thing. Warm cinnamon swirl sourdough topped with fresh berries and maple syrup. And to share we also had the Fried Brussel sprouts, and yes they were very tasty! Mixed with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette, Shaved ricotta salad and smoked sea salt.


On the banks of the Hillsborough River, located on the edge of a restored natural spring, you’ll find the Michelin, Native Inspired restaurant Ulele. All their food is harvested or sourced from independent companies with non-genetically modified organic food. The interior is vibrant with high ceilings, a big statue of a horse and grand windows looking out over the patio and the river.

Ulele outside

To drink I started calmly with a mocktail in the shape of the Springside Smash, seasonal berries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey syrup and fresh mint.

For starters, we shared Crispy Okra Fries, hand-cut, unbreaded okra, fried and tossed in freshly squeezed lime juice and kosher salt served with homemade ketchup, joined by the Gator tail, Chili marinated fresh from Florida Alligator. Dusted in seasoned flour, flash-fried served with a spicy remoulade. Such an interesting dish and so tasty! My favourite starter at Ulele for sure.

Ulele cocktail

I chose to follow this up with the Chargrilled Chicken for my main. All natural chicken breast with datil pineapple stone-ground mustard, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, arugula, and Manchego cheese nestled inside a brioche bun, and fries on the side. of course. I sadly had no space for a dessert but left excited and happy nonetheless.

The Pearl Tampa

For the seafood enthusiast this restaurant is a must, but fear not if that’s not you, there is something for everyone. The Pearl sports an eclectic décor with hints of nostalgia as well as giving you a peek into the action in the kitchen. It’s a new place featuring unique dishes and hand-crafted cocktails.

We were seated at a lovely round table in a corner giving enough pace for 6 of us without effort. Starting out strong, and also because I hadn’t had one yet, I chose the Gin Thyme cocktail with Botanist Gin, grand poppy amaro and fresh lime. Lush!


For our starters, we decided to share and I might have fallen in love with their Fried Pickles, a simple but understated starter. The same goes for the Tater Tots, small but mouth-watering mighty.

I am not the biggest fan of seafood but luckily for me they had an amazing selection beyond that. I chose the Tavern Citrus Salad, Gem lettuce, Radicchio, Fennel, Chili Citrus Vinaigrette, Pistachios and Goat Cheese. A large portion of a light and fresh salad. Just what I craved.

Chill Bros

As a small side treat and because we had seen them every day leaving the hotel, we decided to pop by Chill Bros, just across the yard from the hotel lobby. A retro-style Scoop shop offering a great and interesting array of flavours. Run by the Chillura siblings hence the name, bringing a spot to hang out all the while enjoying ice cream.

chilli bros ice cream

I chose to go for the Candy Cane Forest ice cream in a cup, part of their seasonal flavours. Smooth peppermint with little pieces of candy cane together with crunchy ribbons of chocolate. Light, sweet and minty fresh all at once. They are always trying out new flavours and the menu is evolving so there’s always going to be something new to try.


I’m a big fan of Greek food so this breakfast at Psomi was very much welcomed. Psomi makes you feel like you’re at a Greek friend’s kitchen table, they’re driven by the concept Philoxenia, “the art of making a stranger a friend” and it truly did feel relaxed and welcoming. The owner/Chef Christina Theofilos, second-generation Greek American has won the 2023 Young Chef award and I definitely see why!

I learned that it is never to early to have a Chicken Souvlaki, so that’s what I did, with organic chicken breast, Tzatziki, tomato, red onion all wrapped in a soft pita with crispy fries on the side. Mouthwatering! And of course, there is no breakfast without a lovely Latte.

Columbia Restaurant

For our last supper (late lunch more like it) before leaving the amazing Tampa we went to the renowned Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. My heart was full after having been here. Columbia Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in all of Florida, established in 1905 and also the world’s largest Spanish restaurant.

columbia ybor city patio balcony dining room 2017 97C661D3 99FD 4CCF A39B118C49554572 Copy

A side note for you and fun titbit, Columbia, Ulele and Goody Goody are all part of the same family and all hold a magical chunk of history.

One is already captivated by Columbia before even entering with its colourful tiled exterior, blue white and yellows all around. From the outside, you wouldn’t know that there are 12 different dining areas, all with their own character and differing slightly in style.

We were seated in the corner of the El Patio dining room, a hop and a skip away from the very table where Marilyn Monroe and her Joe DiMaggio used to sit. Fangirl moment! Of course, I had to take a photo of this empty table and touch it, taking it all in. Our amazing host Jeff told us a story of when Marilyn and Joe had a tiff and Marilyn ran off to the ladies’ room. There she was met by Lula Mae Tollaman who told her “ Honey, no man is worth your tears”. I had to follow Marilyn’s footsteps, without the fight of course. Just wow.

Ok, enough swooning and let’s talk about the food. While we waited for our Sangria to be mixed to perfection we started with the Tapeo samples, a mixture of seafood and other tapas like Empanadas and Chicken Croquettes. A great treat while listening to Jeff tell us all about the history of the house and the menu.


For my main I felt like going out with a bang, so I had the Original Cuban Sandwich, named the best sandwich in Florida. Inspired and transformed through the years by immigrants who brought the finest ingredients.

Spanish with their fine ham, Sicilians with their Genoa Salami, Cubans with their mojo-marinated roast pork, Germans and the Jews with their Swiss Cheese, pickle and mustard, and when all put together between sliced Tampa Cuban bread you’ll find this magnificent creation of a sandwich. I decided to have a cup of Spanish Bean soup on the side which happens to be the soup that made Columbia famous. Garbanzo beans simmered with Smoked ham, chorizo sausages and potatoes in a broth of chicken and ham.

My goodness, what a perfect end to my tasty Tampa trip. Such a magnificent history and amazing flavours all around. If you have read part one of my Tampa trip you will know there are also some great places to see in between some great food to eat. Whether it’s a holiday or a business trip, hopefully, you will find some inspiration and visit Tampa soon!


  • Lis-Marie Liden

    Originating from Sweden, Lis-Marie is a food, wellness and travel enthusiast. Now based in London, exploring products, restaurants and destinations around the world is her passion and she hopes to inspire others with her experiences. Also not afraid to share “almost” everything, Lis-Marie loves to share her views and thoughts on life in the BBB Musings section.

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