The inaugural edition of the Michelin Guide to Tampa saw 19 local restaurants recognized and recommended by the famous French publication. The featured restaurants are diverse, from a historic Cuban restaurant in the heart of Ybor City to contemporary Vietnamese French fusion cuisine. One of the restaurants on this list is almost as old as the guide itself, while others opened less than a year ago, reinventing classics and shaking up the scene.
From Seminole Heights to South Tampa, Tampa is a foodie destination that’s as varied, flavorful and vibrant as the people who live here. Whether you’re local or just visiting on vacation, here are the restaurants recommended by Michelin in 2022.
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Rooster & The Till
In Seminole Heights, Rooster & The Till is the brainchild of culinary masterminds Chef Ferrell Alvarez, Ty Rodriguez and Chon Nguyen.
An ever-evolving menu tantalizes visitors, along with a hearty wine list and regular pop-up events.
“It’s been a great honor to receive the Bib for model recognition from Michelin,” owner and chef Ferrell Alvarez says. “We believe our food and energy sets us apart from what you typically find in the Tampa area. We like to have fun so when the restaurant is busy we feel that the positive energy is infectious.”
The chef recommends the gnocchi and the Cobia Collar, which Alvarez describes as “two staples that can’t be removed from the menu unless we want to experience a revolt.”
He adds, “We just made some seasonal changes so we are all very excited with the new scalloped Crudo and Prime New York strip steak preparations. In addition, we also offer a one-off chef’s tasting menu that changes bi-monthly for those who want to push the envelope and step outside of the norm.”
Casual and authentic Ramen is the star at this Seminole Heights eatery. Hearty and flavorful broths, springy noodles and delicious toppings can be expected.
The ramen is superb, but there are lots of other highlights, such as Ichicoro’s small plates and cocktails. Make a reservation before you go, as seating is tight and waits can be lengthy.
Named after the family who owner and chef Bryce Bonsack lived and worked with while in Italy, Rocca specializes in fresh handmade pasta, starters, meats and fish dishes. Fresh fare is accompanied by a lengthy wine list in Rocca’s elegant setting.
The impeccable house-made pasta steals the show. Guests also can’t get enough of Rocca’s fresh mozzarella, hand-pulled to order tableside.
Bern’s Steak House
Bern’s is a Tampa fine-dining institution – and for good reason. Vintage opulence, culinary excellence and one of the world’s largest wine collections make Bern’s a must-visit.
Bern’s dessert room is an intimate end to the dining experience, where famous Baked Alaska and other decadent desserts can be enjoyed with house-roasted coffee, dessert libations and live piano.
With a beautiful location at Armature Works along the Hillsborough River, Steelbach is a Southern-inspired culinary concept highlighting simple, fresh flavors and the highest quality grass-fed steaks, cooked on a Florida Oak-fired grill.
“It’s an honor to be recommended by MICHELIN,” says Matthew Mangone, director of culinary for Three Oaks Hospitality. “The Tampa food scene has come a long way and we’re excited to be a part of it. At Steelbach, our beef program is what sets us apart. We partner with local producers to raise and deliver Steelbach’s grass-fed beef. We minimize waste and maximize flavor.”
To be expected, the chef recommends one of Steelbach’s exceptional steaks.
“I always recommend the Tomahawk Ribeye with the charred broccoli topped with smoked cheddar cheese,” Mangone says.
Koya is an intimate, exclusive tasting menu experience with only eight seats and just one seating per night. Koya’s offerings embody the Japanese concept of shun, the peak season of a particular ingredient.
“The highlight of our tasting is all the fresh fish and ingredients that we fly directly from Toyosu Market in Japan,” says Adriana Fralick, co-owner at Koya. “Guests can expect artfully crafted raw and cooked courses that highlight the bounty of the market at that time.”
Available by reservation only, Koya’s seasonal, ever-changing menu is a mixture of culinary tradition and contemporary techniques.
Chef BT Nguyen fuses her Vietnamese heritage with classic French training in her flagship, Restaurant BT, where the motto is, “eat local, think global.”
“We offer our take on several global cuisines, but with an emphasis on French and Vietnamese dishes and a commitment to using only the best ingredients available,” she says. “We were happy to hear that MICHELIN has started looking at Florida restaurants and we are looking forward to the guide becoming an established reference source for our community.”
The chef recommends some of her signature dishes, Tuna Tai Chanh (a bluefin tuna tartare preparation) and Bo Tai Chanh (a steak tartare prepared with locally raised Provident Cattle Company tenderloin).
This clean casual Vietnamese French fusion bistro is another concept from celebrated chef BT Nguyen. Here, she serves moderately priced homestyle meals that draw on both styles, such as Vietnamese spring rolls, pho, banh mi, and on the French side, a grass-fed burger served on a French baguette and soup de légumes.
Oak & Ola
A European American restaurant drawing flavors from near and far, Oak & Ola at Amature Works curates appetizers and mains made with bold flavors. Notable are the dishes cooked in wood-fired ovens and the refined, yet unstuffy, upbeat atmosphere.
Traditional Italian with modern flare, Olivia’s cuisine makes use of classic flavors and ingredients presented with personality and creative additions. Pizzas, pasta, meat and seafood are served, along with an extensive wine list and cocktails in a lively swanky location.
“We find being named to the inaugural MICHELIN Guide for Tampa to be an incredible honor, especially being recognized not only for Olivia, but On Swann as well,” says Chris Ponte, chef and owner for Olivia and On Swann. “I believe Olivia is considered a special place to dine by our guests due to the unique take on the food that still holds to traditional Italian fare. In addition, the ambiance of the restaurant along with the sense of family creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for a dining experience.”
The chef recommends the patron favorite, Mini Rigatoni which is a 24-hour ragu bolognese prepared with parmesan and herb ricotta.
This dining concept from the masterminds behind Bern’s puts shareable plates at the forefront of the menu — eclectic but carefully constructed. Artisanal charcuterie and cheese selections and a boast-worthy wine list are good choices in this trendy casual restaurant.
Élevage SoHo Kitchen & Bar
Inside foodie destination Epicurean Hotel, Elevage is an American restaurant that draws rich flavors from across the globe to craft balanced flavor-forward dishes that are anything but plain. A warm, cozy dining room is a great place to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner plus cocktails and after-work happy hour deals on food and drinks.
Timpano Italian Chophouse has been serving modern Italian cuisine in Tampa for nearly two decades. After closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Timpano was re-imagined, renovated and relaunched in 2021 with a chic vibe befitting of all the trendy new development in Hyde Park.
“Timpano is a place where the food, decor, service and energy of the restaurant cohabitate in a chic Italian fashion placed in the heart of Hyde Park,” says Michael Ferraro, vice president of food and beverage for Tavistock Restaurant Collection. “The Timpano team and I put so much passion into the reimagined space. To be recognized as one of the few Tampa Bay restaurants that made it into the guide makes all the endless workdays that go into a reopening even more fruitful.”
The chef recommends that guests try the Wagyu beef carpaccio with fresh truffles, cured egg, Parmesan and arugula.
“This dish allows the quality of the ingredients to be the star, simplicity at its finest,” he says.
Mise en Place
Mise en Place was originally a catering business founded in 1986 but has since become a Tampa culinary fixture, serving modern meals inspired by the French culinary tradition.
Co-owner Maryann Ferenc has run Mise en Place with partner and Chef Marty Blitz for over 35 years.
“This is our life and MICHELIN is the deal. Chef Blitz was trained by one of the first Certified Master Chefs in the USA,” she says. “I grew up in classic cuisine restaurants. Literally, my parents were in the business. When you think about it, we are a European proprietor-style establishment. All of this translates into the MICHELIN Guide being meaningful. So, to be recognized inspires us to get better at our craft. We are grateful for this honor and the inspiration.”
With a traditional fine-dining atmosphere, the menu demonstrates how traditional cuisine, expertly made, can evolve well to contemporary palates.
“Mise en Place has always been a creation of the people who work there, led by Chef Marty and I,” adds Ferenc. “So it is the talent, energy and passion of the people there at any given time that makes us a special place to dine.”
Chef Blitz recommends guests try the venison next time they visit.
“I love game, we are known for our grits and this is a new twist on my grits, plus you can’t find anything like this on menus in the Tampa Bay market,” he explains. “Duck is another thing that I’m known for. It was an early hit on my very first dinner menu at Mise. Plus, the cabbage is crazy good.”
Ulele’s name pays homage to a legendary native American princess, while its kitchen makes use of native-inspired ingredients and a multitude of locally sourced seafood prepared on a barbacoa grill.
An onsite brewery provides craft beers and the wine list features domestic wines from family-owned vineyards. At Armature Works, the surroundings are scenic and visitors can enjoy views of an outdoor sculpture garden alongside the Hillsborough River.
The Columbia Restaurant
Founded in 1905, Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant serving famous Cuban-American specialties from deviled crab croquetas and gambas al ajillo to Cuban sandwiches and Spanish bean soup.
Still operating in its opulent and elegant historic location, which occupies an entire block in Ybor City, live flamenco performances are a noteworthy highlight. Although multiple offshoots have opened across the Bay – when in Tampa – a visit to the original location is a must.
Casual and entirely unpretentious, Yummy House is a Tampa go-to for traditional Chinese dishes like clay pot-braised fish, along with American staples like orange chicken or salt and pepper calamari and a separate dim sum menu. The popularity of the East Tampa eatery spawned a second location in South Tampa, which seems to get as busy as the flagship.
In the buzzy Channel District, Cena serves modern, fresh simple Italian food. Pasta is popular, but nothing on the menu disappoints. Cena’s chef Michael Butacavoli’s meatball sub once defeated celebrity chef Bobby Flay on his show.
End the evening with Cena’s playful deconstructed tiramisu, as delicious as it is fun.
Lofty and well-appointed in the stylish Hyde Park Village neighborhood, On Swann’s offerings consist of fun and eclectic Contemporary American dishes, with nods to Southern and Italian flavors, as well as other regions.
Food is prepared in an open kitchen and a menu of seasonal cocktails are expertly prepared to tantalize. For good reason, On Swann, much like chef Chris Ponte’s other restaurant Olivia, is a popular dinner spot among locals.
Feel like having some wine with your dinner? Click here to see the 14 Tampa restaurants recognized by Wine Spectator in 2022.