Earlier this year in February I took my first trip to Tampa and I’m a big fan. Great food, warm weather, and numerous fun outdoor activities and beaches nearby. I was thrilled to find out that Tampa not only has some amazing Cuban food, but also several Japanese ramen restaurants with great Yelp reviews.
West Tampa Sandwich Shop– I decided to follow in Obama’s footsteps, who visited in 2012. It’s a very local place with loads of character, which was just what I was looking for. I ordered the honey cuban sandwich (large), stuffed potato, cup of garbanzo bean soup, coconut flan, and cafe con leche. I was excited for the sandwich but the stuffed potato stole the show. Wow. It’s stuffed with delicious ground beef and melts in your mouth! Everything else was very good, and despite the shop being busy, the waitstaff was quite friendly. Loved this place!
Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City– for a taste of old Tampa and great Cuban food, the original location in Ybor City is where you want to go. It’s the oldest continuously running restaurant in Florida and still has a lot of the original decor. It’s also a very happening spot on the weekends, so be sure to go early or make a reservation. I tried the chicken and yellow rice “Valenciana” – bone-in chicken with green peppers, onions, tomato, baked with rice. I was amazed at how much flavor could be packed in a chicken and rice dish.
Japanese Ramen at Dosunco– I will not miss an opportunity to have good ramen. My ramen belly needs it to function. 🙂 I was torn between Dosunco and another ramen spot, so I opted to go for Dosunco since it was closer and had spicy miso ramen. The iced barley tea was a refreshing treat and the ramen broth had great flavor, the noodles were perfect, so ramen belly was happy.
Mini Donut Factory– how can anyone resist mini donuts with Cotton Candy pop rocks? Party in my mouth! 6 mini donuts for $4.50 is a steal. Here are the flavors I went with.
Peanut Butter Cup- chocolate icing and reese’s drizzle
Sweet Pig- maple icing and bacon
Peanut Butter Crunch- peanut butter icing and crushed butterfinger
Boston Cream Pie- chocolate icing and bavarian cream
Camp Fire- chocolate icing, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallow drizzle
Cotton Candy- strawberry icing and cotton candy pop rocks (what?!?)
Swim With Manatees Tour- this was something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years and it turns out you can do this in Crystal River, which is approximately 1.25 hours from Tampa. I must say that this may be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in your life, however you will freeze your butt off. During the winter the manatees migrate to King’s Bay because the water temperature is always 72 degrees. My group was able to get up front and personal with several manatees, who are the most adorable creatures I have ever seen! It’s a little alarming to be next to such a massive animal but they are slow and not scary at all. I bought a waterproof disposable camera but the pictures did not turn out, so I definitely recommend purchasing a photo CD if available from your tour guide. We had awesome tour guides; for more info, check them out at riverventures.com.