Eat Your Way Through Tampa's Ybor City
To savor the flavors of Tampa’s diverse communities, walk through this National Historic Landmark District located northeast of downtown.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and the resulting interplay of cultures is evident in cities across the country, including Tampa, Florida, a city of 350,000 people on the state’s west coast.
Many people visit Florida just to see Walt Disney World or the Sunshine State's world-renowned beaches, but Tampa's Ybor City is worth the trip for its distinct mix of cultures and food.
Founded in the 1880s, Ybor City was once the cigar manufacturing capital of the USA. It was here that Cubans, Spaniards, Italians, Germans and Chinese brought their cultural traditions and tastes. Walk from one end of Seventh Avenue to the other and enjoy what the world's different kitchens produce, from the Cuban sandwich (said to have been invented here) to French crepes to sushi to Spanish tapas to Greek moussaka.
Ybor City’s main thoroughfare, Seventh Avenue, has its share of coffee shops and cafés where you can grab a quick meal to start your day. Try a breakfast crepe, which is served all day at many establishments. For less than US$10, breakfast crepes come in a variety of options that include egg, cheese, ham, peppers and mushrooms.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, there are an array of crepes to choose from that include fruit, chocolate, maple syrup and ice cream.
Start a day in Ybor City with a popular local option, a breakfast crepe.
Several restaurants in Ybor City claim to serve the best Cuban sandwich. While interpretations may vary depending on the maker, the main ingredients are the same. A classic Cuban sandwich usually costs less than US$10 and is layered with ham, roasted pork, salami, Swiss cheese, mustard and a pickle. It’s served hot between thick, crusty bread.
Tampa takes such great pride in the Cuban sandwich that there’s a festival every spring where cooks put their sandwich-making talents to the test. If you're not in the mood for a sandwich during your visit, try some comfort food such as the Dee Dee salad at Clementine Cafe, featuring butternut squash, kale and quinoa topped with bacon.
The Cuban sandwich is so beloved in Tampa there’s a festival devoted to it each spring.
Ybor City restaurants offer many delicious dinner entrées, from flatbread pizzas to classic Greek dishes to Spanish specialties. Temperatures often exceed 30 degrees Celsius in Tampa, so you won't go a block without some establishment offering mojitos or a cool pitcher of sangria to pair with your meal.
A popular place to savor sangria after a hot day is Columbia Restaurant, a 110-year-old Tampa institution designed with 15 dining rooms decorated in Spanish revival flair, which was popular in the early 20th century and features white stucco walls, terracotta accents and decorative clay tiles. The menu at Columbia offers traditional Spanish and Cuban beef, pork and seafood. Catch a flamenco show during dinner on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant features 15 different rooms and flamenco shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
In 2006, Florida state legislators proclaimed Key lime pie the official state pie. This dessert is made from the small Key limes that grow throughout the Florida Keys at the southern tip of the state. Chefs whip sweet, sharp lime juice with egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Like the Cuban sandwich, there are many interpretations of the Key lime pie; Ybor City serves up a silky-smooth slice.
Don’t leave Florida without trying the state’s official pie, Key lime pie.