Cuban sandwiches: Columbia Restaurant
Towards the end of the 19th century, Tampa became known as the ‘Cigar Capital of the World’. Settlers from around the globe came to work in the booming cigar industry, which at the time produced more stogies than Havana. According to local legend, the Cuban sandwich was created in Tampa during this period, with different waves of immigrants each contributing to the recipe. The Spanish and Cubans brought the pork, the Germans the pickles, and the Italians the Genoa salami. Whether you believe the lore or are just hungry, the best spot to enjoy a Cuban is the Columbia Restaurant, a Tampa institution that’s also the oldest restaurant in Florida. Come at night to enjoy your sandwich with a side of flamenco or live jazz.
Châteaubriand: Bern’s Steak House
Since its opening in 1956, Tampa’s Bern’s Steak House has hosted the rich and famous, as well as locals who want to celebrate their birthday in style. Here, the dress code is smart casual and the fillets, sirloins and porterhouses are all perfectly dry-aged in house. One of the biggest stars on the menu is the châteaubriand, a tenderloin steak available in cuts large enough to serve up to six guests. You can enjoy yours broiled and topped with truffle herb butter, foie gras or scallops. Bern’s also serves a châteaubriand carpaccio with parmesan, arugula and grapes. Come hungry, and thirsty: Bern’s is home to the largest wine cellar in the world.
Poke bowls: Heights Seafood Co
Tampa — and the rest of the world — can thank Hawaii for poke bowls: a mix of raw fish, rice and toppings like soy sauce and green onions. Though the dish may hail from another corner of the country, Tampa’s chefs are taking advantage of the abundance of fresh local seafood to make the recipe their own. At Heights Seafood Co, the catch of the day is served in a poke bowl customers can personalise with garnishes like avocado, kimchi and jalapeños. Down the road, Poké Rose, a Hawaiian restaurant at The Hall on Franklin food hall, serves its namesake poke dish: jasmine rice topped with edamame, seaweed, spring onions and your choice of tuna, salmon or crab.