A Tampa Staycation, part 2, where to stay and eat. For part 1, things to do, click here.
Where to Stay:
Developed by the Laxer family , owners of landmark Bern’s Steak House, in conjunction with Mainsail Lodging & Development, the aptly named Epicurean Hotel is designed for foodies. It was named among the top 20 hotels in Florida by readers of Conde Nast Traveler. You know you’re at a wine lover’s hotel when you see the backdrop to the reception desk – wine crates for the wall covering which go hand in hand with a glass of wine upon check-in. An on site spa uses food based materials,
there’s a wine shop with a serious collection
guest rooms have a mini collection of wines for sale, and there are two happy hours daily. One is at EDGE Rooftop Cocktail Lounge, a happening place and favorite with locals.
A highlight is the Epicurean Theatre with classes in cooking, mixology and cultural topics . With seating for up to 40, the theatre is outfitted with the latest and greatest in kitchen equipment and two 70-inch televisions for optimal viewing Classes are recorded and shown in-room. They include the adventurous Cupcakes & Cocktails, Thai Hands on Cooking and the Napa Valley Wine Academy, as well as classes with well-known chefs.
Besides all that, there’s a very good restaurant, Élevage with a well curated menu. Rooms are smartly decorated and they feature the shower of all showers — written instructions and a diagram on how to use it and two rain shower heads, from the top and side!
The hotel is well located in the historic Hyde Park district and near scenic riverfront Bayshore Boulevard. Bikes are provided for biking along the river. They also offer a Steak-Cation that includes a coveted reservation for dinner at their sister restaurant, Bern’s.
Where to Eat:
Bern’s Steakhouse is considered one of Tampa Bay’s top landmarks. Unlike any other steakhouse, it offers diners the opportunity to customize their selection by cut, thickness, and doneness even with a Porterhouse (you can choose two levels of doneness – not sure how they do it).
Founded in 1956 Bern’s has the largest wine collection in the world. I knew about the steak, but the Dessert Room was a major surprise. Think 45 pages of desserts and your private room to enjoy them (see a separate post).
Haven: Like Bern’s, just a short walk from the Epicurean Hotel, Haven too is owned by the Laxer family. Its focus is on charcuterie with more than 125 types of cheese and a variety of meats. The bar is a totally happening, buzzy spot, with 300 varieties of bourbon and 40 different wines.
Ocean Prime: Excellent service, handsome indoor and outdoor settings, and delicious contemporary American cuisine, make this another top spot for your list. With a name like “Prime”, you’d expect the steaks to be top notch as indeed they are. But also, the fish from the nearby coast and shellfish is all super fresh and beautifully prepared. I ordered the blackened red snapper on a bed of vegetables that was the best I’ve ever had.
And oh those sides – 14 in all including smoked gouda tater tots and jalapeno au gratin, totally decadent. And don’t miss the OMG butter cake. It is pricked 32 times and then butter is poured into the holes. It’s topped with ice cream and berries. Excellent service, too.
Oxford Exchange; House in a historic building near the University of Tampa, the place defines cool. It’s a combo restaurant, coffee bar, bookstore and home décor shop. You can get an old fashioned shoe shine here too. Top spot for breakfast with unlimited coffee.
Heights Public Market at Armature Works: Housed in a restored former trolley barn, the Heights Public market brings together more than a dozen local restaurants including Hemingways. The owner was last year’s winner of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival (see earlier post). After, rent a paddleboard or hop the Pirate Water taxi for a trip downtown.
Columbia Restaurant: Florida’s oldest restaurant is a slice of Spain with gorgeous ceramic tile façade and elegant wooden balustrades. Traditional Spanish and Cuban cuisine rules and at night there’s flamenco dancing. Gift shop too.
La Segunda Bakery and Café: The place for a traditional Cuban sandwich, guava pastries, café con leche. The 100 year old bakery is in Ybor City with a modern sit down spot a few blocks away in the West Shore District.
There’s also Hemingways which won first prize at the International Cuban Sandwich Festival. To read about it (and see the sandwich), click here.
For more information, go to www.visittampabay.com and follow on instagram, @visittampabay.