Favorite South Tampa Spots

I’ve lived away from “home” since I was 18, and I know myself well enough by now to know that I have to go back to Tampa every six months or so. Otherwise I start to get too homesick. Garrett, Teddy, and I were in Tampa back in February and I figure we’ll be back around the holidays this winter. So what’s a girl to do? Book a trip for the Fourth of July. (Plus, the Fourth in NYC is insane. Best to flee the city!!!)
I’m excited to be back home. It’s always wonderful to see my family and to stay at my parent’s house. But it’s also fun to take advantage of some of my old favorite spots. Living away from Tampa makes me appreciate it so much more when I return. I get an email or two a week asking for Tampa recommendations and I thought I’d put together a comprehensive list of my go-to places.
(Just a note: Tampa is huge, but I kept the list centered around South Tampa which is where I grew up. I also haven’t spent that much time in the area since high school so I’m sure new places have popped up that I haven’t had a chance to try yet!)

Pane Rustica | Hands down my favorite restaurant. If you find yourself in South Tampa, put this on the top of your list. The Pane Rustica pasta (or salad if you want a healthier version) is the best. It tends to get a little busy, but that’s half the fun.

Oxford Exchange | This may be the spot that puts South Tampa on the map. It’s a newer addition to the city and one that shouldn’t be missed. Do a little shopping in an amazing gift shop, sit down for a meal, grab a tea or coffee, or pick up a book to read over the weekend.

Buddy Brew Coffee | Another new spot in the area and honestly so good. Wish it had been around when I lived there!! The coffee is served around town, but swing by the restaurant for a delicious breakfast. The peanut butter toast, y’all.

Palma Ceia | If you have a friend who’s a member of Palma Ceia, it’s worth going. The restaurant was recently renovated, but my family always likes to sit outside for brunch on the weekends when my dad finishes golfing.

PDQ | A better (!!!) version of Chick-Fil-A. So. Good.

Columbia Restaurant | The 1905 salad alone makes the Columbia Restaurant worth it. There are a few locations around Florida and one opened a “cafe” on the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa.

Datz | You’ll find a little bit of everything with a slightly modern touch here. It’s a good option for lunch with friends.

Miguel’s | One of my family’s favorite date night spots. A great spot if you’re craving Mexican food!

Bern’s | Bern’s is an institution in Tampa! This is the place where you go for super fancy celebrations with your family. Don’t forget to make a reservation for the dessert room after dinner!

Perk’s Donuts | Made to order doughnuts that you will simply not be able to resist.

Pinky’s Diner | It seems like the entire town makes it way to tiny Pinky’s for breakfast and brunch on the weekend– for a reason! The coffee is great and the food hits the spot.

Bella’s | A super popular spot for Italian. Great for girl’s night out or a not-too-stuffy date with your significant other.

Wright’s | The sandwiches. The cakes. It was a big deal if your mom dropped off Wright’s for your lunch at school!!

Boca | My mom introduced this restaurant to me and it’s not your typical Tampa meal, in a good way. Very fresh and healthy without compromising on flavor.

Cappy’s | I spent so many Friday nights at Cappy’s for dinner. The pizza is my favorite and their tossed salad is something I still crave to this day. It’s a fun little bungalow-turned-pizza-spot.

Royal Tea Room | If you’re in the mood for an afternoon tea, you have to make a reservation here! We love making it a girls’ afternoon here, sipping tea and catching up.

Ulele | I’ve yet to go here yet, but apparently it is the restaurant to eat at right now. I have only heard great things!!!
To See:
The Riverwalk
University of Tampa
Davis Islands
Bayshore Boulevard 
International Mall
Kate McKenzie
KT Janes
Pink Palm
Hyde Park Village
Downtown St. Pete
Don CeSar
Busch Gardens

Have you been to South Tampa before?

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YES to the Columbia Restaurant and 1905 Salad! I'm not even a really big salad fan, and I could eat that every day! They publish the recipe for it (on their matchbooks, and I'm sure it's floating around the internet) – have you tried making it yourself?

One of the best things on the St. Petersburg waterfront is the museum of Dale Chihuly glass art. STUNNING.


Living in Miami, you'd think I'd venture up to explore Tampa more often but I haven't! I've only passed by on my way somewhere else but I should definitely change that. I'm dying to visit The Oxford Exchange!

xo jen
skyscrapers & palm trees

Katie M

Seems like a ton to do in Tampa! We have a few PDQs here in NC and they're yummy (I don't know if I can compare them to Chick-fil-a though!)


Amanda Hubbard

I live right by South Tampa and this list is pretty much spot on. I would add Ducky's or the Bungalow to the list. Bungalow has a great brunch on the weekends with live music (most weekends). Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Ivana & Kalina

That is certainly a list you have there! All of the food sounds great. Thanks for sharing! (:

Kalina & Ivana
Simply Semisweet

Rachel Gault

These are great! I've been to a lot of these but there are a few I haven't been to, so I'll have to add them to my list. Thanks for sharing!

Darian Graivshark

Soooo looking forward to Oxford when I go! And Ulele 🙂 if those other places have an Instagram you should definitely add that because I'd love to check them out on there.

White Cabana

I'll be in Madeira Beach (on the beach…doing nothing!) next month, so I'm definitely bringing this list with me. I've always wanted to explore Tampa, but I never know where to go. Thanks for the direction, Carly!

White Cabana

I'm just following up on my earlier comment…I had a chance to go to Oxford Exchange & Buddy Brew coffee (yesterday!), and both were top notch. We had lunch (I had the pear/blue cheese flatbread with side salad, and my friend had the chicken burger). Our meal was delicious, service was good, and the surroundings were so incredibly beautiful. We ate in the covered patio area…stunning! We then made our way to Buddy Brew for some coffee, and again, service was great, and the coffee was delicious. Thanks for these recommendations, Carly!


I know this post is old but Ulele is soo good! Hopefully you’ve had it by now. I still have yet been to Wright’s or Cappy’s which I need to go to!