South Tampa has served as an important part of Tampa’s food scene in history, partially due to its consistently affluent audience that lives nearby.
After the 2008 financial crisis, other parts of town began attracting great food like Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights, but many of the South Tampa strongholds are still hanging in there and restaurateurs continue to target the area as a place to make their mark.
Parking in this area can be more limited and you may be required to valet park so always be prepared for that when dining or drinking in South Tampa. Due to the audience, the restaurants usually charge a little more as well too, but it really depends where you go and what you are looking to do.
Here are 9 South Tampa destinations:
Bella’s Italian Kitchen
Probably one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Tampa, Bella’s is what I think of when I think old-school Italian food. Sauces and pasta made in-house and it shows in the flavors. You’ll spend about $10-12 for lunch and around $20-40 for dinner per person. The restaurant is inviting for couples and also for family or business meetings. Don’t miss the late-night menu which discounts their pizzas and other items.
1413 South Howard Avenue #100, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 254-3355
Harry Waugh Dessert Room - Bern’s Steak House
Everyone talks about Bern’s Steak House, but it is the dessert room that is the true gem in this building. You’ll find a delicious array of options as well as cognacs and wines to drink from, the atmosphere here is less stuffy and still private. This is a great place to celebrate a birthday or to go on a date, or maybe just to celebrate life.
1208 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-2421
Terra Gaucha Brazilian Tampa
If you love meat this is the place! Unlimited meats will flow around the giant dining room and I have confirmed from a Brazil transplant that this place is the real deal. It is similar to other unlimited steakhouses where you have to indicate if you are still eating or the food will keep flowing. Personally I like it much better than the other spots in town like Texas de Brazil and if you look online you can find great deals to save on lunch or dinner at Terra Gaucha. Don’t miss the buffet bar and also their cocktails, they have a mean caipirinha.c
1108 South Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33629. (813) 871-1400
Sally O' Neal's Pizza Hotline
I have a strange love affair with this place. I have never actually eaten at Sally O’ Neal’s Pizza, but I enjoyed it many years again and again at a food festival at the Straz Center called Taste the Best of Tampa Bay. Stellar pizza and it shows. Sally O’ Neal’s Pizza has been in business since 1985 which is quite a long time in this town.
1319 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-0220
Everyone is talking about OLIVIA. Personally I have not had the chance to go yet which is really unfortunate because every single person I meet rants and raves about it. They call themselves a “modern Italian restaurant that delivers all the authentic flavors of a traditional trattoria with the creative flair of a chef inspired menu”. Prices are about what you would expect for a classy Italian restaurant with most things running $11 to $20. Everyone talks about the fresh mozzarella and you’ll find it in most people’s Instagram posts. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I would say this is a place worth checking out based on what I have read and seen.
3601 West Swann Avenue, Tampa, FL 33609. (813) 328-8866
Sushi Ninja Tampa
I was first introduced to Sushi Ninja in Brandon, but the South Tampa location on Kennedy has way more Korean food options and sushi rolls. The owner is Korean, so you can count on some Korean dishes that you just won’t find anywhere else in town. The food is a little pricey which isn’t surprising for the location, but you can also get really great lunch deals here if you come at the right time. The staff is normally pretty friendly too, which sometimes is lacking at dives. The ambiance isn’t anything to brag about, but not a big deal since the food is great.
3018 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33609. (813) 898-2874.
Japanese Kitchen Dosunco
One of the original ramen shops to open in Tampa when the trend first began to invade Tampa Bay. Japanese Kitchen Dosunco has Japanese owners which is pretty rare for Tampa and they do their best to offer a simple ramen experience. The broth selection is limited, but they are good at what they do. Initially the restaurant had growing pains which seem to be mostly solved on my last few visits. It’s nothing fancy, but a good ramen-ya.
3310 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33609. (813) 605-5741
Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club
We are living in the Roaring 20s again and the original era is the inspiration for Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club. Elevated craft cocktails and an atmosphere that will take you away from Florida is what this place has to offer, hidden inside an apartment building. You’ll need a password to enter, but it is as easy as calling them to get it. They get really busy during normal times, so I recommend planning ahead and making a reservation. Don’t miss their late night happy hour.
2109 Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 251-0022
Luna Lounge - Bulla Gastrobar
On the top floor of the Spanish restaurant chain Bulla Gastrobar in South Tampa is the rooftop bar Luna Lounge that overlooks the Downtown Tampa skyline. Rooftop bars are far and few between in Tampa and most don’t have a great view, but this was probably one of the first ones that was worth visiting. Luna Lounge gets packed regularly and doesn’t really have the best selection of food or cocktails, but the view is still worth it - especially on a clear night. They have a really great happy hour as well normally. You take your city vibes where you can get them in Tampa.
930 S Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 773-8626.
Have you been to any of these places? What do you recommend in South Tampa?
Carlos Hernandez is a local writer who has written about food for ten years. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CarlosEats or visit him at CarlosEats.com.