Foodie Road Trip: Exuberant Ybor

Stay on the west coast and head up to the National Historic Landmark District that brings the flavors of Cuba, Spain, and Italy to Tampa Bay

Oxford Exchange in Tampa
Oxford Exchange

Locals’ Favorite

Given Tampa’s youthful population (bolstered by two universities), there’s no shortage of hip brunch spots. Two of the best are Oxford Exchange—an Instagram-famous boutique/resto with playful bites like poppy seed pancakes and whipped feta with toasted pistachios—and Steelbach, a haven for Southern delicacies in the über-popular Armature Works food hall.

Casa Santo Stefano Spaghetti con Polpette, courtesy Santo Stefano
Spaghetti con Polpette. Image courtesy Santo Stefano

Hot Spot

For a taste of Italian home cooking, head to Casa Santo Stefano, where family portraits line the walls and the menu brims with comforting Sicilian classics. Although it only debuted last year, Casa Santo Stefano has already earned a devoted following. Make a reservation to savor dishes like Insalata d’Arance (layered with divine blood oranges) or Bucatini con le Sarde (featuring one of Italy’s favorite fishes: sardines). After dinner, head up to the roof for a digestif overlooking the city.

Ybor City Historic Walking Tour
Ybor City Historic Walking Tour


Get to know Ybor with Ybor City Historic Walking Tours. In Hyde Park Village, hone your senses by mixing a custom scent at The Candle Pour, offering food-inspired aromas like baked bread, coffee bean, and Meyer lemon.

Hotel Haya, Flor Fina Painkiller Cocktail, Photo by Amy Pezzicara
Flor Fina Painkiller Cocktail, Photo by Amy Pezzicara

Where to Stay

Hotel Haya, Photo by Amy Pezzicara
Hotel Haya, Photo by Amy Pezzicara

The boutique Hotel Haya embodies the best of new and old Ybor. The boutique property, opened last fall, spans two historic buildings: one that formerly housed Tampa’s oldest restaurant and another believed to have been a haunt of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.

Tampa-based Alfonso Architects is responsible for the mid-century-meets-global-casita decor. Throughout, you’ll spot creations by local makers, including cigars by J.C. Newman Cigars (a nod to Ybor’s tobacco-steeped past) and glass works by artists from the Morean Art Center, the most impressive of which is a chandelier in flagship restaurant Flor Fina.

Helmed by executive chef Douglas Rodriguez—lauded as the godfather of nuevo Latino cuisine—Flor Fina is the heart of Hotel Haya. A Top Chef Masters alum, Rodriguez marries Gulf Coast bounty with influences from Latin America, the Mediterranean, and Cuba. Ceviche is a top draw, so sample creative concoctions like the Amarillo Mixto with octopus, shrimp, calamari, passion fruit pulp, and blue sweet potato; desserts like the quatro leches (sponge cake, dulce de leche, and toffee brittle) tell the sweeter side of Ybor’s culinary story.

Grab ’n’ Go

Start your day at Hotel Haya’s Café Quiquiriqui. Pair a cup of Made Coffee (small-batch roasters with a home base in Clearwater) with a breakfast empanada or freshly baked guava pastelito.

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