The don't-miss list

Thirty top draws in South-Tampa-by-the-bay.

 

Events

1. Gasparilla Pirate Festival (aka Gasparilla Day Parade). Tampa's biggest annual event, which was first held in 1904, takes place in late January and attracts some 400,000 party people. Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa host this beer and bead-tossing celebration of mythical swashbuckler Jose Gaspar. The floats proceed down Bayshore Boulevard before snaking through downtown.

2. Hyde Park Village Art Festival. This biannual event features more than 200 artists displaying works in a wide array of media on the closed-off streets and sidewalks of Hyde Park Village. Sept. 27-28.

3. Bern's Winefest. Tampa Bay's most famous restaurant (and wine cellar) hosts a four-day celebration of wine and food that includes tastings, educational seminars and winemaker dinners. April 11-14.

Attractions

4. Bayshore Linear Park Trail. This is the 4.5-mile continuous sidewalk that parallels Bayshore Boulevard, overlooks Hillsborough Bay and is where the Gasparilla day parade takes place. When the proposed Hillsborough River Greenway is completed, it will add 2.25 miles to the Linear Park Trail, according to the City of Tampa website.

5. Henry B. Plant Museum. Named after the builder of the Tampa Bay Hotel, which opened in 1891, the museum features exhibits and artifacts that transport visitors back to the early years of Tampa. It's housed in the former resort along with the University of Tampa. W. Kennedy Blvd., 813-254-1891, plantmuseum.com.

Food & drink

6. Bella's Italian Café. South Tampans have been coming here for authentic Italian dishes — and pizzas cooked in an oak-burning stone oven crafted in Milan — for more than two decades. The bar also makes for a nice happy-hour destination. 1413 S. Howard Ave., 813-254-3355, bellasitaliancafe.com.

7. Bern's Steak House/SideBern's. Founded in 1956, Tampa's premier steak house features a world-renowned wine cellar that includes bottles from the 18th century. President Bush has reportedly dined twice at this pricey eatery known for attracting politicians and celebrities. Its more experimental sister restaurant, SideBern's, which advertises "One World Under Food," is located a few blocks north on the corner of Morrison and Howard. 1208 S. Howard Ave., 813-251-2421, bernssteakhouse.com.

8. Ceviche. The original, locally owned tapas bar and restaurant of the burgeoning Florida franchise opened at the corner of Bayshore and Howard in 1997, on the first floor of the 10-story Bayshore Royal condo building. The eatery, which is also popular for its homemade sangria, recently relocated down the street to the larger, former location of St. Bart's Island House. 1502 S. Howard Ave., 813-250-0203, cevichetapas.com.

9. Ciccio & Tony's. Originally specializing in Italian dishes, the restaurant now features California cuisine marked by nicely priced sushi plates, delicious crispy salads and entrées like Pollo Ricotta ($14.95). 1015 S. Howard Ave., 813-251-8406, ciccioandtonys.com.

10. The Colonnade. Operating since 1935, this seafood restaurant on Bayshore faces the bay and remains a fashionable dining destination — especially with the local AARP set. 3401 Bayshore Blvd., 813-839—7558.

11. The Dubliner. Irish bar popular with young professionals serves a fine selection of beer and wine (no liquor), pub grub and at night often features cover bands performing on the large wooden deck. 2307 W. Azeele St., 813—258—2257.

12. Four Green Fields. With its thatched roof, lack of TV sets, perfectly poured Guinness, servers with thick brogues, trad music performances and Sinn Fein posters on the wall, this is by far the best and most authentic Irish pub in the region. The food is excellent, too. 205 W. Platt St., 813-254-4444, fourgreenfields.com.

13. Gourmet Pizza Company. Pizzas that live up to the name, especially the one with the chicken and artichokes. 610 S. Armenia Ave., 813-258-1999, gourmetpizza-company.com.

14. Hugo's Spanish Restaurant. It's been in South Tampa since the 1970s, serving one of the best, priced-to-move pressed Cuban sandwiches in town. 931 S. Howard Ave., 813-251-2842.

15. Hyde Park Café. The spot to sip Grey Goose martinis while putting the techno-fueled dance moves on the micro-skirt-wearing coeds — or to look for Jeter holding court in the VIP section. Just watch out for flying cocktail glasses if you find yourself in the company of fallen American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra, the coked-up celebutard who got busted here last year for dotting a dude above the eye with a drink she hurled. 1806 Platt St., 813-254-2542233, thehydeparkcafe.com.

16. The Kennedy. The new Tommy Ortiz-owned nightclub on Kennedy Boulevard in the former Bahasa space is the heir apparent to his Whiskey SoHo, which closed in February to make room for apartments. Sure to be another popular spot for the young, restless and irresponsible to bump, grind and get loaded. 2408 W. Kennedy Blvd.

17. La Casa Dolce. With free wireless, tasty panini and terrific gelato, plus good coffee, Dolce offers a serene antidote to the craziness of South Howard and an alternative to the McLatté being offered down the street. 406 S. Howard Ave., 813-259-0002, lacasadolcecafe.com.

18. MacDinton's. South Tampa's largest pub attracts 20somethings and students, who pack the place Thursday through Saturday nights. Liquor is served along with a full menu. There's a stage inside for karaoke and cover bands. A tiki bar on the sprawling patio overlooks Howard Avenue. 405 S. Howard Ave., 813—251—8999.

19. Mangroves. On Friday and Saturday nights, this decade-plus-running SoHo seafood grill transforms into a dance club in the loft while the downstairs area, with its quasi-private booths, bars and patio, is the place to drink a cocktail in style with the other stylish patrons, who skew a bit older and classier than the weekend clientele at nearby MacDinton's. 208 S. Howard Ave., 813-258-3302, mangrovesseafoodgrille.com.

20. The Rack. Perhaps the only Tampa sports bar/pool hall that features a full, recommendable sushi menu, this is the place to gobble Cali rolls, shoot a game of 8-ball and socialize with the well-tended regulars. Just be careful when ordering a cocktail — "doubles" are a potent blast served in a pint glass. 1809 W. Platt St., Tampa, 813-250-1595, hittherack.com.

21. Pane Rustica. Fantastic sandwiches on crusty homemade bread at lunchtime (including a Best of the Bay-winning fishwich and seriously good burgers) and an inventive, always tempting menu at dinnertime is why CL's food critic summed up this place as, simply, "damn good." 3225 S. MacDill Ave, 813-902-8828.

22. Restaurant BT. Another Best of the Bay winner for its mix of quiet chic and deliciously precise French-Vietnamese cuisine from famed local restaurateur BT Nguyen-Batley. 1633 W. Snow Ave., 813-258-1916, restaurantbt.com.

23. Starbucks. Twenty-four-hour outpost of the corporate coffee behemoth is located in the heart of SoHo, drawing a steady crowd of students, hipsters and the city's hottest MILFs. 715 S. Howard Ave., 813-250-9223.

24. T.C. Choy's Asian Bistro. "Excellent Pan-Asian restaurant featuring sophisticated decor; unusual dishes, such as whole steamed fish and elegant lychee pudding; and a dynamite sushi bar," reads the CL dining guide. 301 S. Howard Ave., 813-251-1191, 813-251-2291.

25. Tiny Tap Tavern. One of Tampa's oldest watering holes, this former gas station features a couple of pool tables, a judiciously handpicked jukebox and a friendly clientele that ranges from gruff retirees to fresh-faced college students. Stop by during happy hour and join the regulars in blurting out answers during Jeopardy! Only beer and wine are served, but killer deals like $2.50 16-ounce bottles of Budweiser can't be beat in SoHo. 2105 W. Morrison Ave.

26. The Wine Exchange Bistro. This nearly two-decade-old establishment in Old Hyde Park Village closed for about three weeks last May, then reopened after an outcry of public support. A deal was struck with developers that found the bistro relocating a few hundred feet away to a glamorous new glass-walled space in the former Cactus Club building off Snow Circle. 1609 Snow Ave., 813-254-9463.

Cool shops

27. Art Tarts. Despite the name, this is neither bakery nor brothel but a smartly curated shop with one-of-a-kind jewelry and artworks, and proprietors whose sense of humor and imagination show through in their selection of merchandise. 4109 S. Macdill Ave., 813-832-5665, thearttarts.com.

28. Blue Moon Trading Co. Since 1997, this shop has been a haven for antique-seekers. Their one-of-a-kind finds include "furniture, period chandeliers, lamps, architectural fittings, textiles, pottery and garden statuary." 4129 S. MacDill Ave., 813-839-2056.

29. Inkwood Books. Housed in a 1920s bungalow, this cherished independent bookstore calls itself "full-service" and lives up to the name, with personal attention to customers and lively literary events. 216 S. Armenia Ave., 813-253-2638, inkwoodbooks.com.

30. Squaresville. Located in the heart of SoHo, this shop features funky, vintage clothing (plus threads designed to look vintage) and funky retro furniture for every price range — there's a sales rack often placed outside offering $10 T's or a set of reduced-price chairs that look as if they've been swiped from the set of Good Times. Another bonus: no cell phone conversations allowed inside, which are a major annoyance at most South Tampa stores. 508 S. Howard Ave., 813-259-9944.

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