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Dining Guide: Where to eat in Tampa’s Uptown (University Area)

I spent quite some time at USF in my late teens and early 20s. One of the interesting things about that side of Tampa, now called Uptown, is that many people seem to be unaware how multicultural the area is.

You can find food from most cuisines within a few miles of each other and some food that you cannot find anywhere else in Tampa Bay. Places have come and gone over the years and the neighborhood is still evolving from when I lived, studied, and worked there, but there are definitely great food finds in Uptown.

Here is what I recommend:

Tacoson Mexican Grill

The original founders of El Taconanzo which was sold and became the Taco Bus, Tacoson is the only entity to survive the numerous changes in the Mexican scene in Tampa. It remains a solid spot for the taco faithful in Tampa. It gets crazy packed (especially around lunch time) so come ready to wait, but the food is filling and tasty. Daily deals and breakfast specials are part of the rhythm here.

Tacoson Mexican Grill. 7521 N 56th St., Tampa, FL 33617. (813) 989-2080

Chuck’s Natural Fields Market

Chuck’s Natural has a few locations around Tampa Bay with vegan friendly food options. They opened a cafe next door called Windmill that serves food as well. The thing I notice the most about this place is that prices are still fairly approachable despite being organic, GMO-free, and healthy. The shakes are also excellent. This spot can easily rival local restaurants and is a good spot for when you need to detox.

Chuck’s Natural. 11301 N 56th St, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 980-2005

Soul of Korea

Korean restaurants are a rare find in Tampa, but Soul of Korea is a solid restaurant with a home-cooking feel to it. The owner previously owned a restaurant in Seoul and bought Soul of Korea this past year from some other proprietors. Most of the menu has stayed the same with some extra additions to the menu. I would call it comfort food.

Soul of Korea. 7612 N 56th St, Tampa, FL 33617. (813) 989-9030

Babushka’s Traditional Russian Cuisine

 

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Delicious new noms with dear friends!! 💖

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Russian food is pretty much unheard of in Tampa Bay. Babushka’s has a great menu with absolutely delicious pierogies, draniki, sweet kasha, blinchiki, and more. Service can be a little slow when they get packed so make sure you are not in a rush if you visit.

Babushka’s. 12639 N. 56th St, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 515-7415

Quickly USF

When it comes to bubble tea and snacks, QuicklyUSF is where its at. They serve some lite Vietnamese food and Taiwanese-inspired dishes. My favorite drink on the menu is their Kiwi Lychee Fruit Tea which is a must-order for me. They have a huge menu though and the cafe is a great place to work out of and study at or meet a friend.

QuicklyUSF. 5731 E Fowler Ave, Temple Terrace, FL 33617. (813) 860-8841

Mojo Books & Records

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White chocolate strawberry latte with almond milk

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Mojo is one of the last standing record stores in the Tampa area and they have great coffee and books for-sale as well. I just love drinking a coffee inside of a bookstore. It’s the best. They serve Zeal Coffee which is one of my favorites in Tampa. The baristas are super friendly and they also have a nice tea list as well. Support this great Tampa gem.

 Mojo Books & Records. 2540 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33612. (813) 971-9717

Mr. Dunderbak’s Brewpub

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Mr. Dunderbak’s is a Tampa institution that goes back to when the University Mall once a busy and bustling mall. They are now their own restaurant and brewery in New Tampa just off Bruce B. Downs by USF. It is the best place to be on Oktoberfest and during the World Cup (if you’re rooting for Germany). The food is great and the beer selection is even better. They have one of the largest beer lists in Tampa and prices are fair. You haven’t experience Tampa until you go here on a busy day.

Mr. Dunderbak’s. 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613. (813) 977-4104

Tacos Gone Mobile

I’ve never really understood why Tampa lacks a taco truck phenomenon. Tacos Gone Mobile is the closest I have ever had compared to quality Mexican food in California. These tacos are affordable and delicious. It’s a take-out truck, but they do have seating if you want to eat there. One thing you’ll notice is that actual Mexican people eat here which you hardly see in Tampa’s popular places that have Americanized menus.

Tacos Gone Mobile. 1309 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33612. (813) 400-9439

Enjoy!

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Reviews

Gyro Zone serves up excellent, affordable Lebanese food

There is this is hole-in-the-wall restaurant I have been frequenting by USF and the University Mall called Gyro Zone. It fits every definition of the phrase “hidden gem”.

The prices are fair and trend under $10 with student deals and combos that can appeal to the college students. The hours are also college-friendly with Gyro Zone open until midnight from Monday-Saturday (good luck finding a decent meal after 10PM at other places by campus). The food will leave your heart and stomach in a good place.

When you walk into Gyro Zone – you’re not sure what to expect. The place is simple enough – a long hallway with tables and a counter for ordering your food and pickup. The kitchen is open you so you can see the schwarma in all its fine excellence and their dedication to quality as they prepare the food.

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Picking a menu item can be tough – I have trended towards chicken schwarma on most visits – simply because it is the best chicken schwarma I have had in the Tampa Bay area. It’s incredible. I usually grab it in a pita, but on my last visit yesterday I decided to go for the Schwarma Bowl which comes with rice, chicken schwarma, some veggies, and a drink. All for around $7. It. is. amazing.

Gyro Zone has 41 reviews on Yelp and seems to have organically reached a 5-star average, yet every time I visit the place isn’t busy which has me concerned, so here I am…writing my love to this excellent food. I have visited over 6 times in the last 3 weeks and I left happy and satisfied every single time.

The fries that they serve with their pita are better than Five Guys and cooked to perfection. The owner (I assume) and employees who work there are always super chill and friendly. They offer delivery (I hear they may be on UberEats soon? – let’s hope).

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I finally tried the hummus on my last visit. I LOVE hummus – but my experiences with it are all over the place depending on what restaurant you eat it at. The hummus at Gyro Zone was excellent and came with some of their pita chips which I’ll add are also crazy good. Everything here is just on-point and exceeds expectations.

My friend was feeling adventurous yesterday and decided to order the cheeseburger at Gyro Zone. Sure – not an ode to Lebanese cuisine. However, I took a bite or two or three out of his burger and it was insanely delicious. I’m not sure if it was the sauce in the burger or the seasoning in the beef that made it taste so good – but this burger was not your average burger and it seems like that applies across the entire menu at Gyro Zone.

It’s hard to open a great, local business and restaurant in Tampa Bay and all the right elements are at Gyro Zone. All that is left is for people to go and experience it for themselves. Don’t just take my word for it. Go try it yourself. The prices are fair and the food is excellent.

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Restaurant Name: Gyro Zone

Address: 2709 University Square Dr. Tampa, FL 33612

Phone Number: (813) 284-0777

Website: http://www.gyrozonetampa.com/

Menu: http://www.gyrozonetampa.com/menu.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Gyro-Zone-166848396852439/