Tampa Bay Downs is a place that’s very close to my heart: I worked there before starting my job with America’s Best Racing, and it was an incredibly happy time in my life. The track itself is so much fun, and the food there is incredible: my favorite by far is the Cuban sandwich on the second floor of the Clubhouse, but I also have a serious soft spot for their carved sandwiches on the first floor of the Grandstand.
If you’re heading to Tampa Bay Downs for this weekend’s Tampa Bay Derby, a 50-point prep race for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, here are some places in town that I recommend for grabbing food and cocktails.
Bern’s is famous well beyond the borders of Tampa, and with great reason. Their steaks are insanely delicious; the come with sides that are pretty much guaranteed to split the seams of your clothes; and, you guys, there’s a whole room dedicated to dessert. Bern’s certainly isn’t cheap, but if you cash a big ticket at the track, it’s a must-visit destination in Tampa. For the grown-up grape juice lovers out there, be sure to ask about getting a tour of Bern's incredible wine cellar.
Literally on the beach in Clearwater, Florida, Shor offers fresh, sustainable seafood with a view that’s unparalleled. It’s an amazing destination for both dinner or Sunday brunch, but be sure to make a reservation as it’s a very popular dining spot.
Ulele’s menu is a wonderful representation of Tampa’s cultural heritage: it offers fresh, local seafood, Cuban-inspired offerings, and Florida cuisine staples like frogs’ legs and alligator-and-wild-boar chili. Ulele also has its own in-house brewery and beer garden, so it’s a perfect spot to grab a drink in the great outdoors.
Salt Rock has fantastic American munchies with fun fusion twists: French onion soup dumplings, anyone? It also has an extensive beer and cocktail menu, plus it’s located very close to Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.
From start to finish, Haven’s extensive and eclectic menu offers something for everyone. While some of the offerings can be expensive, Haven offers pork tacos for $5 and she-crab linguini for $14. You can get an incredible meal for an affordable price with ease at Haven. Plus, for the whiskey fans out there, they have over 300 varieties on hand for you to sample.
Rumba offers delicious and affordable Caribbean fare very near the track. Enjoy the local food, then have a drink and enjoy some live music in the tiki bar. It’s a perfect way to finish a day at a Florida track!
I loved this place when I lived in Tampa. The bar-b-que is unbelievably delectable and affordable; and the restaurant is located in South Tampa very close to the famed Bayshore Drive, where historic and beautiful houses line Tampa Bay.
Located in Dunedin, Casa Tina offers amazing, authentic Mexican food in a seriously charming setting. The margaritas are delightful and best enjoyed on the porch. As a bonus, Dunedin neighbors Honeymoon Island; which is, in my opinion, the best beach in Tampa; so if you’re looking for a day trip while you’re in town for the races, I recommend checking out Casa Tina and the surrounding area.