The cold weather is OUT this weekend and brunch is IN. Come out for CL Brunched this Saturday, December 1st, 2018 from 12PM to 3PM at St. Pete Shuffleboard Club (559 Mirror Lake Drive St. Petersburg, Florida).
Enjoy great food, mimosas, bloody marys, complimentary shuffleboard, local craft vendors, and more.
Tickets are $30 in advance for GA and $55 in advance.
Full disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in exchange for an article about my experience at the annual event. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens or any other entity.
My family and I hit the road on Saturday for an evening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for their annual Christmas Town event. The weather on Saturday was perfect for a day at a theme park. It’s normally hot whenever I visit theme parks, but it was in the mid-60s on Saturday.
Immediately upon entering the theme park we encountered a few of the local workers dressed in excellent holiday outfits which made for great photo ops. If you are trying to take some family photos, Christmas Town is filled with props and characters to help build some great memories.
We decided to hit the ice skating show first called “Christmas on Ice”. I tried to hit this show last year, but arrived too late to enter the show. You need to arrive early if you want to watch this show, I recommend 30-40 minutes before the show at the minimum for good seats.
“Christmas on Ice” was a really great show with some exceptional ice skaters and plenty of different themes that can appeal to families, couples, kids, and various groups. I really enjoyed this show and recommend it to anyone visiting Busch Gardens during Christmas Town.
After the show we made our way over to the Christmas Village. They relocated the village this year to the lanes by Gwazi due to construction in their old zone. There was a good number of food and drink options, but it did feel slimmed back a little.
I had a turkey panini that was excellent here, however there was quite a line and wait for food, which was definitely frustrating. I also tried the Chicken N Waffles, which were delicious but went a little too heavy on the apple butter.
I recommend hitting up Christmas Village earlier if you’re going to get food because some booths were overwhelmed by crowds and didn’t seem to have a proper system in place to handle them. It have also been the fact that the booth I was mainly at was making mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, which may be logistically difficult.
A nice added feature was wine tastings and a whiskey addition, which gives you some liquor options unless you to venture over to Dragon Fire Grill & Pub or one of their other restaurants for some libations (we eventually did).
After we grabbed some food, we wandered over to the Serengetti Overlook Restaurant to watch the Carol of the Bells light show which is always fun and great for kids. After that we ventured back and headed towards the Sing-a-Long Train which is always one of my favorite things to do at Christmas Town and great for when you’re tired of walking and need a break.
We wanted to hit up Santa Clause and Rudolph but the wait times were over an hour so we decided to skip it since we didn’t have much time left until the theme park closed. Busch Gardens does sell priority access to these areas for $24.99 for those who would rather pay to skip the line.
One thing we didn’t see this year that I expected to see was the snow machines, which I appreciate quite a bit living here in Florida. Hope those come back in the future.
Overall, my family and I had a great time at Busch Gardens Christmas Town. The lights were beautiful and we enjoyed all the Christmas trees and cheer as well as all the photo opportunities to make some memories. Christmas Village could be improved a bit more logistically, but it was still enjoyable overall.
I recommend getting there early so you can get the most out of it or return back multiple times if you are a passholder and take your time going through the areas of the park and enjoying the holiday spirit.
4th of July brings lots of excitment and American pride. Fireworks and partying are at the top of the agenda as well.
Wondering where to go and get your dose of red, white, and blue? I have you covered.
Here are some places throwing events for 4th of July this Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 in Tampa Bay:
Aloft Hotel: Every Wednesday is Wine Down Wednesdays at Aloft Tampa Downtown and this 4th of July is no different. The event will feature $20 regular admission and $10 reduced entry with RSVP. Guests will enjoy bottomless wine, champagne, craft beer, and appetizers from 5PM-9PM and drink specials afterwards. Fireworks begins at 9PM. 100 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 898-8000
American Social: Celebrate Independence Day at American Social with food, drinks, music, and fireworks. The waterfront access of American Social makes this a great spot to view fireworks. Drink specials include $4 Tito’s Vodka and Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey as well as $3 Bud Light/Budweiser all day. 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd. Suite 107, Tampa, FL 33602 (813) 605-3333
American Victory Museum & Ship: Celebrate Independence Day at this 4th of July Family Funfest from 6:30PM-9:30PM. There will be music, games, food, beer, wine, contests, and giveaways. American Victory Museum provides a voyage to American Maritime History. Tickets range from $7-$13. 705 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL 33602
Astro Skate of Brandon: This local Brandon skating rink will offer $5 admission on 4th of July from 1PM-6PM (skate rentals extra). FREE all-you-can-eat hot dogs from 1PM-2PM and a singing contetst for “God Bless America” with a $25 cash prize. 750 W Robertson St, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 681-3635
George M. Steinbrenner Field: There is no sport more American than baseball and the Tampa Tarpons have a game scheduled against the Clearwater Threshers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Doors open at 5PM with the game kicking off at 6:30PM. Tickets range from $5-$8 and there will be specials including $3 16 oz. Budweiser / Bud Light drafts and $5 for 6 chicken wings. FREE Admission for current and former EMT Specialists, Firefighters, Police, and Military Personnel. 1 Steinbrenner Dr., Tampa, FL 33614
Hollander Hotel Downtown St. Petersburg: Feel like getting wet? Hollander Hotel will have a pool party on 4th of July with DJ Dutch from 1PM-5PM. No cover. 421 4th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (727) 873-7900
Museum of the Fine Arts, St. Petersburg: The MFA Cafe has a special buffet planned for 4th of July at 6:30PM. On the menu: Brown sugar and chipotle rubbed beef brisket, Carolina hickory smoked chicken quarters, BBQ pulled pork sliders, Sweet cole slaw, Grilled bbq gulf shrimp salad sliders, Charred corn aioli, Grilled corn on the cob with cilantro-lime butter, Build your own red, white and blue cupcake bar, and more. Enjoy fireworks after the feast. $46 for adults and $23 for children. Limited-seating. Call (727) 822-1032 for reservations. 255 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
The Sail: Channelside’s usual 4th of July festivities are on hold this year as construction continues on the plaza. The Sail located a few miles down the Tampa Riverwalk will have food trucks for 4th of July and a front-view of Downtown Tampa fireworks. Catch Casablanca Fusion, Sugar Shack Tampa, and Sexton’s Pizza from 11AM-9PM and The Bacon Boss, The Melt Machine, and Just Smokin BBQ from 5PM-11PM serving some street eats. There will be live music and drinks at the bar. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602. (813) 274-7778
Shephard’s Beach Resort: Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach has as weekly Wednesday night club party called NEON BEACH at their Wave Nightclub. The event will offer $2 drinks all night long starting at 9PM right after the fireworks go off on the beach. Guests must be 18 years or older to enter. There will be a relaxed dress code. 619 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach, FL 33767 (727) 442-5107
I visited Miami a few weeks ago and have been craving a Cafe con Leche since then. I asked around and tried some recommendations such as La Segunda and Bodega, but neither of them had that bold coffee that I grew to like during my trip in Miami.
Sabor A Cuba is a little house on the north side of Downtown Dunedin that sells Cuban cigars, coffee, and sandwiches. The owners give you that mom and pop vibe. No pretentiousness. I knew I was going to need to have a coffee the minute we stepped inside.
The Cafe Con Leche? Excellent. Bold coffee flavors going down my throat. I had a nice rush of energy right afterwards and the Cuban Sandwich? I LOVED it. This isn’t a Tampa Cuban Sandwich, but Miami style (no salami folks). I understand that some people in Tampa will not appreciate that, but I am a man that enjoys the variety in life.
What makes a good Cuban Sandwich to me? It’s not a specific thing inside the sandwich, but the combination of everything together. When you take a bite there should be crunch and as the ingredients move around in your mouth, you should feel some happiness and pleasure on your taste buds. This Cuban did that.
The sandwich will run you $8, but it’s a purchase I would make in the future again.
If you haven’t stopped by Sabor A Cuba, I recommend giving them some love. They regularly have live music outside and this is the real deal.
Yesterday I visited an ice cream shop with my family in Dunedin that was truly phenomenal called Ice & Cream Creamery. They have a few locations on Clearwater Beach and Madeira Beach for those of you hitting the sand this summer.
The shop is beautiful on the inside and feels like a blast to the past. The shop features 36 premium flavors from sherberts and sugar-free ice creams to candy-filled sweet spots. Some of the flavors include watermelon sorbet, pistachio, sugar free mint chip, key lime sherbet, and butterscotch bomb.
According to their signage they are committed to fresh and local ingredients and are a big community player with a focus on the local arts. We were promptly greeted upon entering and proceeded to enter the line and make our move for ice cream.
My favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate chip cookie dough. I wasn’t in the mood for a scoop so I asked for a root beer float and it was excellent.
They stacked the cup all the way with ice cream and gave me the whole can of soda to take with me. You could really taste the quality in the ice cream, it was very creamy and also the cookie dough and chocolate chips were plentiful and tasty.
I would really recommend giving this place a try if you find yourself in Dunedin or their sister store on Clearwater Beach.
Milkshakes are hand-spun so that might be a future option for me if I’m in the area.
We caught the sunset at the Dunedin Pier nearby afterwards and it was a beautiful evening.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 has started in Moscow. Looking for a bar to go watch the games in Tampa Bay?
Here are some suggestions:
Mr. Dunderbak’s: World Cup Headquarters for Germany fans. Dunderbak has long been the haven for fans to embrace camaraderie. They now make their own beer in addition to having a massive menu and great beer list with both craft beer and plenty of imports with over 500 bottles and 65 worldwide beers on draft. Happy Hour pricing will be available during all games. 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 977-4104
Don Julio’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine: This local Mexican restaurant near Carrollwood and New Tampa is offering breakfast during the World Cup for fans as well as lunch and happy hour on margaritas, beer, and wine. 2808 E. Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 898-2860
GameTime: Ybor’s arcade bar is having drink specials and food specials during matches of the World Cup. 1600 E. 8th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 241-9675
Hofbrauhaus St. Pete: This massive German pub will really get you in the mood during the World Cup. It’s a branch of a historic Munich brewery. If you’re in Downtown St. Pete, it’s worth a look. 123 4th St. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 898-3333
Independent Bar and Cafe: Independent Bar is probably the most popular bar in Seminole Heights and a great way to kick it with the locals during the games. 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 341-4883
James Joyce Irish Pub: All FIFA World Cup games are being shown on the big screen at this Irish pub in Ybor City on 8th. They have great happy hour deals and also one of the best burgers in town. You’re welcome. 1724 E 8th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 247-1896
London Heights British Pub: This beautiful British pub will be showing all the world cup games for fans and is just on the edge of Seminole Heights. Enjoy $4 Carlsberg, $4 Kombacher, 20 wings + a pitcher of Coors Light for $25. 7701 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 231-7200
LPCX Cafe & Bakery: Colombia fans can check out this cafe (La Pequena Colombia Express) and bakery that is hosting watch parties for all the FIFA World Cup games. The full menu is available during the games on top of an espresso bar, baked goods, beer, and wine. Tickets for parties are available and include an all-you-can-eat buffet (normally $25 but $18 during 8AM games) and are limited, reservations are only required during Colombia games due to space limitations. The buffet includes coffee and select drinks. Their outside deck is first-come, first-serve and open to walk-ins with appetizer-like foods and drinks for purchase. 6204 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 870-6717
Nazca Bar & Grill: Most people are probably unaware that Tampa has a Peruvian sports bar, but Nazca is just that and open late. I stopped by to watch a game and had a blast. The televisions are in Spanish – I know some people are searching for bars with that. 5915 Memorial Highway Tampa, FL 33615. (813) 252-6025
Pisco Restaurant & Bar: This Peruvian and Chinese fusion restaurant is offering drink specials on beer buckets and appetizers during the FIFA World Cup. The also have daily breakfast and lunch combos. Space is limited so come early. 7507 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 305-7910
Prost Bar + Kitchen: This German-style modern pub near USF on Bearss will fully embrace the World Cup. They have deals almost everyday of the week as well. 2802 E Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 466-5249
Restaurant Old Castle: This German old-world-style tavern will have all FIFA World Cup games playing for those looking for a bar on the south side of town and of course bratwurst and German specialities. 3830 Sun City Center Blvd #107, Ruskin, FL 33573 (813) 633-3331
Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar: All World Cup games will be shown at Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar in Downtown Tampa. $3 Estrella Draft Beers will be available as well as giveaways and raffles. 513 N. Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602 (813) 223-2831
Three Birds Tavern: This European pub has been a gathering spot for football fans for decades. They will be open early for all World Cup games including the 8AM games. It is pet-friendly as well. 1492 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 895-2049
Zydeco Brew Werks: Located in the heart of Ybor near plenty of city and street parking and with plenty of televisions. Zydeco has ample seating, they have craft beer and food. What’s not to like about this? 1902 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 252-4541
Negroni Week started in 2013 as a celebration of the Negroni cocktail and a fundraiser for charities around the world. It is a partnership between Campari and Imbibe Magazine.
The Negroni dates back to 1919 in Florence and is named after founder Count Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda after visiting London’s gin scene. The recipe for the cocktail is almost a century old.
Over 7,700 venues have participated to date and over $1.5 million has been raised. 60 countries now participate in the annual event. Several Tampa Bay bars and restaurants are participating this year.
Wondering where to go in Tampa Bay? I have you covered. This guide is meant to be a way for you to navigate Tampa Bay and find great places to eat, drink, and play.
Tampa is filled with plenty of different types of businesses – but many of them are hard to find without someone telling you first.
The guide will be separated by neighborhood for travel purposes. Tampa Bay consists of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and sometimes Sarasota is thrown in. I’ll leave Sarasota for another guide. Each major city is about 30-45 minutes away from the other depending on traffic so plan accordingly.
I live in Tampa so the majority of my recommendations will be based there. I will expand the list as I try new places. Also – the list is a work in progress.
Circle’s Waterfront Dining
Marian’s Sub Shop
Bullfrog Creek Brewing Company
Chicago’s Best Burger
First Choice BBQ
La Villa River Hills.
Leaven Brewing Company
Revolution Ice Cream
Sarge’s Smokehouse BBQ (Food Truck)
Bearss Sandwich Shop
Simply Pho & Grill
Eddie & Sam’s NY Style Pizza
Toma Spain Bar
Anise Global Gastrobar
The Gin Joint
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Pirate Water Taxi
Tampa Bay History Center
Tampa Museum of Art
81 Bay Brewing Co.
Full Circle Pizza
North Hyde Park
The Lab Coffee: The best coffee shop in Tampa based on sheer quality. The Lab is home to Zeal Coffee Roasters. Getting a pour over here will make my day. I drive over 30 minutes regularly to get here. They are still very mom + pop so don’t expect a big and beautiful cafe, but it is definitely an incredible coffee dive.
Raw Smoothie Co.
Brew Bus Brewing: Checking out Tampa’s craft beer scene? Brew Bus is a hub where you can hop on and off to different breweries around the central part of Tampa and down to Ybor. There is much more here though. Brew Bus makes their own beers and also owns Florida Ave. Brewing and makes a number of sour beers under that brand. They also have their own chef cooking up some great food as well. Biggest attraction is the ample parking which is almost unheard of in Seminole Heights.
The Independent: One of the most popular hipster bars in Seminole Heights. You’ll find an extensive beer list here and plenty of locals hanging around The Independent.
The Refinery: The original Refinery is gone, but if you still want some of their delicious food you’ll have to trek over to where Fodder & Shine once stood and The Refinery now stands. The Refinery originally built themselves on offering quality food to the masses. It became a hard to sustain mission and things have changed a bit, but one thing has always been good: their burgers.
Revolution Ice Cream
Spaddy’s Coffee Co.: Spaddy’s was the first one to bring real coffee down to Seminole Heights and actually bring Starbucks some competition. His food truck initially had a small piece of land and has expanded and grown as he built the area around him. Always having a great taste for coffee has been a major part of this business. Definitely a local, neighborhood coffee stop. It’s outdoors so weather should play a factor on if you stop by or not.
Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop: Hanging off the edge of Seminole Heights heading towards USF is the Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop. This is a classic sandwich shop that has become scarce in the era of Subway, Jimmy John’s, and Publix – but this shop carries with it quality deli cuts and plenty of creativity and local love.
Bella’s Italian Cafe
The Blind Tiger Cafe – SOHO
Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club: Quite a number of transformations have happened at Ciro’s over the years, but one thing that has always been true is their commitment to quality cocktails. This is a great place to take a date or to have an elegant night out with friends. The drinks are on the pricey side, but the atmosphere definitely makes this a must-visit if you like taking a trip back in time.
Japanese Kitchen Dosunco
Foundation Coffee Co.
Hidden Springs Ale Works
Town N’ Country
Cuenelli’s Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken
Filipiana Philippine Cafe
Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu
Kaleisia Tea Lounge
Mel’s Hot Dogs
U Poke Spot
Wood Fired Pizza
West Tampa Sandwich Shop
Cigar City Brewing
Frankie’s Lobstah Trap
Al’s Finger Licking Good BBQ
El Puerto Restaurant & Grill
James Joyce Irish Pub
The Brass Tap
The Bricks of Ybor
Cigar City Cider & Meadery
Coppertail Brewing Company
Downtown St. Pete
The Lemongrass Sushi Thai Tapas
Overflow Brewing Company
Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company
Badfins Food + Brew: If you’re looking for a casual spot that has a great craft beer list and American/Mexican-inspired food than Badfins will have you covered. I wondered into here one day and was impressed with their offerings and prices were beyond reasonable for the area at $10 or less.
Caretta on the Gulf: Most of the spots on Clearwater Beach are touristy and Caretta on the Gulf is no exception being located inside the Sandpearl Resort. Despite being a tourist spot though I will say that their food is delicious, though pricey. You really can’t beat their patio view of the ocean and pool deck. They also have a great brunch buffet if you’re in town during the weekend.
La Fondita de Leo: Being from Puerto Rico, my family is really picky about where will eat Puerto Rican food. La Fondita makes the list and has authentic food. The prices are reasonable too.
Arkane Aleworks: 2018 winner at the Best Florida Beer Brewers Ball. Arkane Aleworks is haven for people who love sour beers. They have a wide-variety of options on their tap list and are constantly coming out with new creations. This is my favorite brewery in Tampa Bay.
Faceless Samurai: Quality sushi in Tampa is hard to find. Faceless Samurai has great sushi and sashimi cuts. They have great lunch specials and dinner is still not too expensive either. Their shop is very quaint and the sushi chefs are friendly and remind me of a small shop in Asia.
The annual Creative Loafing Meet the Brewers craft beer event is this Saturday, February 17th at Brandon Harley-Davidson (9841 East Adamo Drive, Tampa, FL 33619) from 1PM to 4PM.
GA Tickets cost $30 in advance and $40 at the door. General Admission includes unlimited beer while you mix and mingle with local brewers.A portion of proceeds will benefit Ybor City Museum Society.
VIP costs $75 in advance and $85 at the door and includes an hour of early admission to the event and food provided by Mini Doughnut Factory, The Mill Brandon, beer from Slim Pickens Cider & Mead, and more.
The event is sponsored by Brandon Harley-Davidson, Smashburger, Mini Doughnut Factory, Florida Brewers Guild, Tampa Bay Beer Week, Tampa Bay Brew Tours by Thirsty Pelican, Ybor City Museum Society, The Mill Brandon, Roundhouse Creative, Lyft, andUNATION.
Smashburger opened its first Tampa location last week in South Tampa at 4035 South Dale Mabry Highway and plans to open at least 35 new restaurants along the Florida West Coast in the next 5 to 6 years.
The investment will cost $37 million dollars. Each location will employ 30 people, adding about 1,400 new jobs in total to the region.
The Denver-based, fast-casual, burger concept is also located in Clearwater and Sarasota. Smashburger was founded in 2007 and serves “made-to-order, never frozen” burgers.
Their localized burger for the Tampa Bay area is the “Media Noche” burger, which contains smoked ham, aged Swiss cheese, pickles, red onion, and mustard on an egg bun. Local craft beer from the area will be a highlight of these locations.
Some would say the Tampa market is over-saturated with burger concepts. I don’t think that is necessarily the case.
There are just a number of low-quality, badly-managed, and overpriced restaurants that have expanded too much and you can see that playing out in the market with bankruptcies and retreats from locations.
Smashburger is participating in the Creative LoafingTampa Bay Burger Week and serving their “Sin City Burger” from Vegas for the promotion for $6.69 plus tax. The burger features “signature Smash sauce (a mayo, mustard, relishy blend), topped with a fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, and haystack onions”.
I stopped by last week for a taste and my favorite burger was the Truffle Mushroom Swiss. I thought about that burger days after visiting. I don’t care what food snobs say about truffle being overrated, I’ll take some on everything, thank you very much.