We just got back from a trip to Tampa and since I got such great advice from previous threads on where to eat, I thought I'd post the results ... This wound up being long, so in case you can't read the whole thing let me say THANK YOU for having such a rich buffet of suggestions that I could refer to. You turned me on to places I would not have known about, or would have dismissed as too "themey" (Columbia). I owe you a debt of gratitude!
2 at the hotel (Crowne Plaza) because it was a package deal. Not bad for an in-hotel buffet, the bacon was cooked just right so it was crispy and still had a little chewiness. Waffles were made with pancake batter, I think, which is a crime. I would skip the hotel breakfast in the future so I could go to ...
Pach's Place in Tampa. Divine breakfast place. I had the breakfast special (eggs, bacon, home fries, pancakes) and DH got the Everything Skillet. Both were GREAT. I knew it would be good when we walked in and saw at least 5 policemen in there :). The creamers on the table were half-n-half, and the butter served with the pancakes was real butter. A great, cheap start to the day.
Nicki's Omelette - Fail. The omelets weren't bad, but ... They were not omelets. Not in my world. My definition of an omelette is that it's egg wrapped around a filling. These omelets had the filling mixed in with the egg, and it folded around some cheese. So an omelette with veggies had the eggs all mixed up with the veggies, instead of a tunnel of veggies wrapped in a loving blanket of egg. Pancakes were okay, but I think the batter was over mixed. They didn't have a tender crumb, my definition of a good pancake is that I can cut it with the edge of my fork. These were too "gluteny" ... Stretchy and not easy to cut without sawing through them with a knife. The kiss of death ... The little creamers on the table were Creamora (blech!) and the butter with the pancakes was a little packet/tub of Country Crock.
Busch Gardens - we ate at the white building across from Cheetah Hunt roller coaster. My broiled fish sandwich was okay, except they DROWN the roll in butter before grilling it. Mid-week right after thanksgiving the place is DEAD so you can ride coasters over and over again. A belly full of grease doesn't work well. But the fish was pretty good and service was very good. I skipped the roll and fries to save room for ...
Sultan's Sweets: Fabulous soft serve. A big chocolate and vanilla twist cone. Awesome, really great soft serve ice cream that tasted like ice cream (not fro-yo or ice milk).
Colombia in Ybor City - we ate a late lunch or early dinner here the last full day in Tampa and it was amazing. I am glad we ate here the last day because if we had eaten here first, we might not have tried anywhere else. The 2 of us shared 4 Tapas plates (the langoustine flatbread, empanadas, and 2 orders of the stuffed peppers). Why get the same thing twice? Because we first ordered 2 plates and DH loved the peppers (my pick) so much, he wanted another plate. These peppers were amazing ... very oily/greasy but in a GOOD way. Rich, fully flavored, skinless piquillo peppers that made me realize how crappy every other stuffed pepper in the world is.
Wamauma in Tampa - awesome. Great food. I wanted the kale salad but they were out so we got the salt and pepper fried okra. The cilantro and scallions and jalapeños totally made this for me. Oh, and I don't even LIKE cilantro. Except in this, apparently :). I got the pork loin with collard greens (beautifully seasoned with the perfect splash of vinegar hot sauce) and potato/parsnip thing. The potatoes surprised me, I first thought I tasted fennel in there and I wasn't sure I liked it. By the 3rd bite I knew I liked it and by the end of my ramekin I was sad it was all gone. The pork was good, not something I'd get again. Mainly because DH's fried chicken was so good. I don't know that a pork loin can compete with fried chicken, though. Dessert was great, I had the key lime pie and asked for all the other stuff that comes on it to be separate. I am GLAD I did. The pickled peach preserves with key lime = heaven. Ditto for the banana ice cream with the key lime pie. The basil chantilly wasn't my thing though. The key lime pie was very good, homemade graham cracker crust and slivers of lime zest throughout. DH had the caramel custard pie and liked it ... I can't say much, custard is too close to flan and flan is something I can't stand (texture).
Cafe European - funny thing, we were trying to go to Mise En Place but ...
1) as we walked by we realized everyone in there was dressed WAY nicer than us. We were in "tourist casual" clothes.
2) we could not figure out how to get into the building. Seriously, the door to the street for the building seemed to be locked and there isn't a direct street-to-restaurant entrance that we could find.
3) on the walk from the car to Mise En Place we saw Cafe European and the menu had sticky toffee pudding for dessert. So when Mise en Place was a bust ...
I had the trout and it was excellent, the right mix of lemon and butter and capers so that no one flavor overwhelmed the dish. The veggie was broccoli and cabbage, and the cabbage was wonderfully sweet. DH had Beef Wellington and I envied his plate. He was smarter than I and got mashed potatoes (I chose rice with my fish). The mashed potatoes were GREAT. And the Beef Wellington ... Oh Lord, that was good. I have seen that done poorly so many time with soggy pastry or undercooked beef bleeding all over the plate ... So I didn't even consider it. That was stupid on my part. BUT - my dessert (sticky toffee pudding) made up for it. It wasn't the best STP I have had (Freddy's Bistro in Limerick Ireland wins that award) but it was pretty darn wonderful. And a HUGE portion.
So, a very long message but a huge THank You to the contributors here. I had hoped to fit in a couple more great meals but a combination of late breakfasts or midday nap waylaid those plans (it was 3 days of vacation). Without your guidance I would have wound up at a Carrabas or Outback Steakhouse (perish the thought). You made the vacation so much better with your suggestions and tips!