One of the best parts of visiting a new city is exploring its culinary scene — trying drinks you’ve only seen in photos or restaurants that received rave reviews from friends. But traveling, especially out of state, is still a bit tricky at the moment and not necessarily in everyone’s comfort zone. Lucky for Tampa, the city has attracted a huge number of new residents in recent years, and they’ve brought their regional cuisines with them. On the following pages, we’ve put together a culinary “road trip” you can take around the U.S., getting the flavors of cities from New Orleans to Boston, without leaving the Tampa Bay area. Pick up your forks and dig in.
Owners Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy inherited their Creole recipes from Elihu’s mother, Mary, a Louisiana native. A trip to the Big Easy may not be in the cards this year, but a stop at Chief’s Creole Café, not far from St. Pete’s downtown arts district, will get your taste buds there. They have the classics down — including a Creole gumbo, red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, spicy jambalaya, and shrimp or crawfish étouffée — made from scratch, using mostly okra and other produce grown down the street in a neighborhood garden. The Brayboys also dish up seafood boils daily, plus their special “dirty beignets.” They top the famous New Orleans doughnuts with cinnamon sugar and serve them with bourbon sauce for a unique twist.
CHIEF’S CREOLE CAFÉ
901 22ND ST. S. | ST. PETE | (727) 498-8979 | CHIEFSCREOLECAFE.COM
Foodies know that barbecue is a controversial topic. Florida doesn’t have a definitive style of its own, so we’re dependent on neighboring states lending us their sweet and smoky flavors. In Tampa, one of your best bets for regional ‘cue is Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, housed in a classic Ybor City bungalow. The Reynolds family uses a Tennessee-style, tomato-based barbecue sauce, and meats are dry-rubbed first (the ultimate Memphis debate is dry vs. “wet,” saucy ribs). Grab a slab of ribs or chopped beef (instead of the typical Tennessee chopped pork) and the classic Memphis sides of slaw and beans, or go for Al’s spicy collard greens or the very Tampeño yellow rice and chicken.
AL’S FINGER LICKING GOOD BAR-B-QUE
1609 ANGEL OLIVA SR. ST. | TAMPA | (813) 956-0675 | ALSYBOR.COM
Tampa has seen an explosion of Mexican restaurants in recent years, serving all styles of the cuisine. But for solid Tex-Mex, head to opposite ends of the city. In South Tampa, Miguel’s and Miguelitos are carrying on the tradition that owner Miguel Rodriguez’s aunt started at her restaurant in Houston, Texas, in the 1970s. At Miguel’s, fajitas are done in more than a dozen different ways, and enchiladas, chimichangas and flautas are all covered. Miguelitos has a stronger focus on tacos, plus margaritas and tequila chilled in their -5-degree tap. Further north, Chuy’s, an import from Austin, Texas, serves smothered burritos that are (accurately) advertised as being “Big as Yo’ Face.” Everything else is also appropriately Texas-size, including the margaritas, fajitas and “Chuychangas,” all of which use hand-rolled tortillas made at the restaurant each day.
MIGUEL’S MEXICAN SEAFOOD & GRILL
3035 W. KENNEDY BLVD. | TAMPA | (813) 876-2587 | MIGUELSCAFE.COM
2702 W. KENNEDY BLVD. | TAMPA, FL 33609 | (813) 872-5600 | MIGUELITOSTAMPA.COM
25750 SIERRA CENTER BLVD. | LUTZ | (813) 948-2211 | CHUYS.COM
While seafood lovers certainly have it made here on the Gulf Coast, New England’s take on the cuisine can be a delicious change of pace. Taste of Boston’s specialties include, of course, a lobster roll. The Ballast Point restaurant does theirs with chilled lobster salad seasoned with Old Bay and lemon juice on a toasted New England roll. Clams from Ipswich, Massachusetts (served either whole belly or in fried strips), crab cakes, clam chowder, and whole fried snapper are also up for grabs. Picture the waves of the North Atlantic instead of the Hillsborough Bay and it’s just like a trip to Cape Cod instead of South Tampa. Or, go a little farther north, in more ways than one, at Lobster Haven. The Oldsmar restaurant focuses on Maine seafood, including build- your-own steamed buckets with lobster, clams and mussels.
TASTE OF BOSTON
5314 INTERBAY BLVD. | TAMPA | (813) 831-2112 | TASTEOFBOSTONSOUTHTAMPA.COM
12807 W. HILLSBOROUGH AVE. | TAMPA | (813) 855-2888 | LOBSTERHAVEN.NET
NEW YORK CITY
Nothing says NYC more than doughy, filling foods you can scarf down while crossing a city block or running to catch the subway. We’re speaking, of course, of bagels and pizza. Start your day off with a classic bagel and schmear or bacon, egg and cheese from Bagels Plus, which makes their own bagels fresh every day. For a slice, Tampa Magazines readers have consistently voted Eddie & Sam’s as the city’s best. Their pizza is made using water shipped in from New York state and is cut into wide, foldable slices, so you can close your eyes and put yourself in your favorite borough — at least for a moment. Then, North Hyde Park’s Cass Street Deli is modeled after New York’s Jewish delis, so you can get your bagel and lox fix or dig into matzo ball soup, Reubens and pastrami sandwiches (which take 14 days to prepare). Babka and egg creams (chocolate syrup, milk and club soda) are on deck for anyone who still has room for dessert.
2706 E. FLETCHER AVE. | TAMPA | (813) 971-9335
EDDIE & SAM’S
203 E. TWIGGS ST. | TAMPA | (813) 229-8500 | EDDIEANDSAMSPIZZA.COM
CASS STREET DELI
1331 W. CASS ST. | TAMPA | (813) 609-6316 | CASSSTREETDELI.COM