Images (not) from New York, downtown Tampa edition.

The historic Tampa theater

When M had to spend most of a week in Tampa back in August, I decided to tag along because airfares were reasonable–it helps to live near a Southwest hub–and my only prior experience of Tampa was when I spent the day at Busch Gardens when I was fifteen on a school trip. I was definitely curious to experience the city for myself, especially since I’m a fan of Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA and I never had a Cuban sandwich where they originated. Armed with a map of fun, I was ready with plenty of options for us to do while we were there.

Our hotel was located smack in the downtown area, not far from the Riverwalk as well as the terminus for the free streetcar that takes you all the way to Ybor City. (More on that later.) Once we arrived and were checked into the hotel, I had it in my head that we should try walking over to the downtown Cigar City taproom, as it wasn’t far from where we were staying. First up, though, we wanted to have a nice happy hour cocktail at one of the most clever concepts for a bar I’ve seen in a while.

The classic Tequila Sunrise at Hotel Bar

While our Hilton did have its own hotel bar, we actually preferred going across the street to Hotel Bar, a small place that features famous cocktails that originated in hotel bars all over the world. From Tequila Sunrises to the Vieux Carre, I love that they put that kind of research and detail on the menu. I will write about them more at length in a future post, so consider this a tease.

The “Shake and Bake” wings at Hattricks Tavern

Following a drink or two we made our way to the downtown Cigar City location…only there was one problem: it was right by Amalie Arena (home to the Tampa Bay Lightning) and only operational when there was an arena event. D’oh! After some fruitless wandering to try to find an alternative, we ended up at Hattricks Tavern which was a really fun hockey bar that had a lovely beer selection (including, yes, Jai Alai) and delicious wings. Evening salvaged, I started feeling optimistic about the rest of our time here.

The next day I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and spent the morning swimming at the rooftop pool, grabbed a low-key late lunch, and then we met up with one of M’s colleagues to take a rideshare to go to the actual Cigar City Brewing taproom, and it was worth the trip–it was great to try some specialty versions of Jai Alai that I couldn’t get anywhere else, and the food was delicious, including the pork belly chicharrones. 

In Cigar City’s main taproom

Wednesday turned out to be the day I did the most in terms of exploring. After a quick row in the morning during a rainstorm, I had a late light breakfast of Galician chickpea soup and a tomato and serrano ham sandwich at Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar, picked in part because I heard good things and that I thought it was going to start pouring on me at any second. The rain never came, though, so I did some more walking around and decided to see what the streetcar was like….and ended up in Ybor City, but that deserves its own post.

Later that evening, when meeting up with M for dinner, we initially thought we would try this upscale Italian place that was off the streetcar line in the Channelside neighborhood, but by the time we got there, the bar was completely full and the wait for a table was painful, so we walked over to Jotoro for some decent Mexican food.

Once M was done with work on Thursday afternoon and everything that had to be sent via FedEx was dispatched, we decided to go out to celebrate his birthday a day early, and so we made our way back to Ybor City.

Seriously, though, that part of town requires its own post.

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