Tampa Bay Essentials
Explore the area's favorite local eateries, shops and places to hang with the manatees.
Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...
Chain Stores. The major chains in this part of Florida are Publix and Winn-Dixie. The Publix store in Citrus Park, north of downtown Tampa, offers an Apron's cooking school, and a steady parade of celebrity chefs turns up here to flash knives and show you how to cook like, well, a celebrity chef.
- Whole Foods
1548 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 813-348-1200
3802 Northdale Blvd., Tampa (Carrollwood), 813-264-3600
You know what to expect: piles of gorgeous produce, museum-quality meats and fish, wide variety of cheeses and breads, eat-in and takeout food.
- Fresh Market
13147 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-964-8001
3722 Henderson Blvd., Tampa, 813-875-7400
25961 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater, 727-669-6111
2900 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-822-4913
Fresh Market offers more natural and organic offerings, from bread and cheese to meat and fish to fruits and vegetables.
- Publix GreenWise Market
2403 W. Azeele St., Tampa (Hyde Park), 813-250-0129
This offspring of the successful Publix chain of stores gives consumers a shopping alternative that offers a wider assortment of natural and organic foods and products.
2909 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg, 727-321-2400
The old Italian neighborhood is alive and well, and people drive from miles around to stock up here on what they can't get elsewhere. Pizzas and huge crusty loaves of bread bake in a brick oven. Sip a shot of inky espresso at the coffee bar (they roast their own beans), then go ladle up bulk olives from the barrels. Take a number and stand in line with the regulars for lunchtime sandwiches piled high with the cold cuts and cheeses you remember. (Take your order out to the covered piazza and relax at a table.)
Choose something to take home for dinner: lasagna, chicken or eggpplant parm, caprese stacks of rosy tomatoes and quivering mozzarella, fusilli salad with chicken livers and mushrooms. Did we mention the fresh pasta? (Can you resist the lobster cannelloni?) Step into the butcher shop at the back and weep over ruby-red Ahi tuna, red-white-and-green braciole, espresso-rubbed steaks and homemade sausage. Oh, and the wine room. And the cheese counter. Saturdays are packed; there are often wine tastings and samplings, but be warned: Mazzaro's closes at 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and is closed Sundays.
BUY FRESH BREAD
- Bread Artisans
4442 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, 727-548-1400
Massimo Maviglia, a native of Avezzano, Italy, lets his dough rise up to 36 hours using a natural starter. He makes natural sourdough, rosemary, olive, sun-dried tomato, roasted garlic and pane integrale -- that's Italian for whole wheat.
- Pane Rustica Bakery & Cafe
3225 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-902-8828
Stop by for crisp loaves and other baked goods. This is also a restaurant serving lunch and dinner in a big, noisy, slick setting that attracts a chic South Tampa clientele.
BUY ASIAN INGREDIENTS
- Oceanic Market
1609 N. Tampa St., 813-228-8110
A large, full-service market with great produce, seafood and a butcher shop, and ready-cooked barbecued duck and pork. Can't wait to take it all home to cook? Eat at the adjacent T.C. Choy's Asian Bistro.
BUY A BOTTLE OF WINE
- B21 Fine Wine Superstore
43380 U.S. 19 N, Tarpon Springs, 727-937-5049
Some say this is the best liquor store south of Atlanta, and it's hard to argue. Not much to look at from the outside, but inside, thousands of bottles, with both familiar and unfamiliar labels. This is the place to find that obscure wine you enjoyed on your last European trip. Terrific prices. Extremely knowledgeable staff who drink the wines, visit the vineyards, know the makers and obviously love what they do. Guests are also invited to grand tasting events highlighting specific countries of origin held throughout the year. The wine is well-cellared and stored. Wine accessories and hard liquor as well. The store's name reflects the fact that buyers must "B-21 or begone."
- The Saturday Morning Market
Downtown St. Petersburg in the parking lot of Al Lang Field, corner of 1st St. and 1st Ave. S.
Runs from early October through late May from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It attracts a crowd of families and foodies (and their dogs) eager for organic produce, freshly squeezed juice, fresh flowers (including orchid leis) and plants, herbs and spices, samples of honey and salsa, fish, pasta, soup, locally made chocolate, and swoon-worthy breads and pastries.
But wait, there's more! The barbecued-turkey-leg man is here today, and so are the breakfast vendors and the coffee wagons. Vendors remember their customers and know what you like. Cruise the stalls and buy breakfast or lunch, then sit down at the tables and listen to the live music. It's not unusual to see a local entertainer or the mayor of St. Pete strolling through the market. Often you'll get good buys around 2 p.m. as the market is closing up, and the vendors are happy to make a deal.
- Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
6942 W. Comanche, 813-887-4066
Spread over six acres of urban Tampa, Sweetwater Organic is open November through May. Visitors can shop from noon to 4 p.m., participate Sundays at its farmers market or become a member and pick up weekly or biweekly shares of fresh produce during growing season. The weekly market is family friendly, and there's music.
HAVE A LATTE OR TEA
Starbucks abounds on nearly every corner, but why drink the same coffee you can get anywhere?
- El Molino Gourmet Coffee Shop
2012 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 800-531-9587
This family-owned coffee-roasting business dates back to 1921. Smell the coffee being roasted. Watch it being packed. Sit down and sip something, and then buy more to take home. El Molino is in the heart of Ybor City, Tampa's original Latin neighborhood, established by Cubans, Spaniards and Italians.
475 Second St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-823-4700
This slick-looking Euro-style coffee bar and roastery on the ground floor of a sleek, modern low-rise condo is just one of several locations in the Bay area, including three in Tampa and two additional coffee bars in St. Pete. It can be the hub for mommy meet-ups and college study groups early in the day and by midafternoon, the laptop set is hard at work. Saturday mornings you may have to negotiate a tangle of strollers and dogs to get a table outside.
- Hooker Tea Company
300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, 727-894-4832
Does it have to be coffee? Hooker Tea offers more than 100 varieties of loose tea. Sip inside among 20-somethings staring at their laptop screens, or at outside tables beside families lapping up the treats they bought at the gelateria next door.