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  • Last Updated: 10th May 2012

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Tampa - Food and Drink

Florida’s sunshine state is home to some of the best produce grown in the States. Its farmers’ markets, every Saturday in Sarasota, and Ybor City, is well worth a look - and it’s the perfect place to stock up on picnic or self catering essentials: fresh fruit, organic meats and cheeses are all excellent.

Elsewhere, seafood abounds at the coast, with red snapper, mahi mahi, sea bass and grouper are all good and relatively inexpensive, while stuffed crab, lobster tails and mixed seafood grills are for hearty appetites only.

Steaks are humongous and usually enough for two, while the ethnic eateries of Ybor offer family-owned Spanish, Portuguese, Cuban and Caribbean eateries, serving paella, black bean stews, tapas and pork’n’plantain (a starchy banana, often served in place of potatoes) dishes, often washed down with colourful cocktails and a riotous floorshow.

Tampa’s Hyde Park village is a vibrant neighbourhood of colourful cafes, restaurants and bars - with a good sprinkling of ‘British’ and ‘Irish’ themed establishments, offering fish’n’chips, chops, pasta restaurants and buffets.

At the coast, the resorts of Bradenton, Clearwater and St Pete Beach go all out to offer something for everyone, whether that’s platter-filling surf and turf specials, creole chicken, fresh and filling salads, Pacific Rim fusion with delicate tempura and sushi, or good old all-American burgers and fries.

In general, the waterside restaurants, and those clustered around the piers, shopping villages and entertainment complexes favour huge portions, kids’ menus, lots of sticky sauces to add flavour to your barbecued chicken or flame grilled steak, and huge and daunting desserts. Another big buzz at the moment, Teppanyaki offers show-cooking, with chefs juggling prawns, and doing ‘don’t try this at home’ moves with razor sharp kitchen knives. It doesn’t particularly add to the flavour of the finished product, but it’s good fun.

For a touch more style, Tampa's trendiest dining scene is along South Howard Avenue, in the area known as SoHo, between West Kennedy Boulevard and the bay in affluent Hyde Park. Here you’ll find fine dining, French style haute cuisine and the freshest, just landed seafood, served simply with a Florida salad, or lightly smoked. Be brave, and sample smoked alligator, or a blackbean ‘gator chili - it’s quite snappy.

If Florida was to have a ‘national’ fruit, it would be the juicy guava - related to the pomegranate. It’s delicious raw, but is increasingly being used to add a smoky sweet flavour to barbecued steaks.