Welcome to the Yborhood, Creative Loafing

click to enlarge BACK TO THE FUTURE: CL'S new offices are located in the converted cigar factory complex at Ybor Square. - Joran Oppelt
Joran Oppelt
BACK TO THE FUTURE: CL'S new offices are located in the converted cigar factory complex at Ybor Square.

With this issue, Creative Loafing is celebrating a homecoming of sorts: Five years after leaving Ybor, we've returned to our roots. We now occupy a suite of offices in Ybor Square across the street from our old stomping grounds at El Pasaje — where (I am told — this all happened before my time), the CL/Weekly Planet staffers spent many happy years (1998-2004) making journalism and damaging livers.

In Mitch Perry's story, he takes stock of our old/new neighborhood. Among the positive changes, he cites an influx of creative industries, including Creative Loafing. (Hey, Creative is our first name.) Publisher Sharry Smith told Mitch that she likes the location because it puts us in a walkable neighborhood of "mixed-use, residential, retail, entertainment and a college," and that being in the heart of one of the city's entertainment districts "seemed like a natural for CL."

As indeed it does. And she's not alone in lauding its walkability. On my second day of work, I was pretty damn near ecstatic about it, as I told readers of the Daily Loaf in the following post:

Oct. 27: Our second day in CL's new offices in Ybor Square — but first day I got to what I'd been dreaming of: actually get out of the office and just WALK AROUND.

That may not sound like much, but after five (!) years cooped up in a former fruit warehouse where you had to get in your car to do anything outside the office, this was, literally, a dream.

And I'll try to keep the Philly references to a minimum, but having come here from a town where I could walk out my office door into a plethora of pedestrian-friendly possibilities for lunch, for shopping, for people-watching — hell, for merely walking — and after working there in a building with brick and history and character — it is a revelation and a relief to find myself in similar quarters, with history and walkability and multiple alternatives for lunch, etcetera, and to find it in, of all places, Tampa.

Of course I'd been to Ybor many times before this. Who living in Tampa Bay or even just passing through hasn't made it to Ybor? But that's mostly what people do, isn't it — pass through? On the way to a club or dinner or a show. Usually at night.

But today I got to experience a little bit of what Ybor's like when you're not just passing through — when you're based here, not just parked here. Hard to say why it was different — maybe the opportunity to go any number of directions, not just find something close to the car, or the club. To pause and consider the daytime, daily Ybor. The trolley stop at 8th. The riot of Halloweenery in the windows of MC Film and La France. The decrepit old guys sitting outside Crowbar a little ways from the Life Energy Renewal Center or whatever it is the Scientology office calls itself. People lunching in the Green Iguana, La Terrazza, Streetcar Charlie's. And at Mema's Alaskan Tacos, where I wound up having grouper tacos and talking with Nicolle Azar and Collin Thompson who, besides serving up Mexican cuisine with a Yukon touch, are working together on a video history of Ybor since the 1980s.

I hope to be walking around the Yborhood every day I can from now on, to see and smell and discover the Ybor I didn't know, to meet people like Nicolle and Collin — and, hell, just to walk.

Hey, feet — nice to use you again.

And one more thing: I'm loving the train whistle.

Since that post, I've tested the Philly cheesesteaks at Fresh Mouth (great ingredients, though the bread could be crustier); the slices at New York New York (fresh cheese and sausage added to order); and re-introduced myself to the best bar snack around, the pecan-crusted chicken fingers at Streetcar Charlie's. And I have discovered the joys of having a bar with good beer and a convivial courtyard right out our back door at New World Brewery.

We held a vote at the Daily Loaf to see what readers would recommend as CL's new Friday-night hangout: New World and Charlie's placed first and second, but a late surge has taken Gaspar's Grotto into the top spot. All the other options seem pretty tempting, too. Drop me a line at [email protected] and tell me your favorite Ybor hangout; I feel the need for additional research.

PS: Our new address is 1911 N. 13th Street, Suite-W200, in Ybor City, Tampa. We're on the 2nd floor above Malcolm Pirnie, an enviromental engineering firm. (The phone numbers remain the same.)

Come visit.

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