28 classic Tampa Bay restaurants that've been around for more than 35 years

They say some things get better with age. Case in point, these Tampa Bay restaurants that have been dishing out everything from classic Italian fare, pizza, deli food, Thai treats, and simply delicious all-American bar food for over 35 years. After all local eateries went through this past year, now seemed like an appropriate time to celebrate the restaurants that've seen it all. Though a few selections have nearly shuttered and moved locations, these must-eat-at spots are still standing and, better yet, still serving.

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Columbia
2025 E 7th Ave., Ybor City
As for Tampa’s oldest restaurant, the Columbia Restaurant is by far the winner. It was actually the first air-conditioned dining room in the city, and it's the oldest restaurant in Florida. The restaurant originally opened in Ybor City as a 60-seat corner cafe with Cuban coffee and sandwiches. Local cigar workers were the first regulars, until their homes gave way to blight in the ‘60s. Even then as Ybor City dwindled, the third-generation owner, Cesar Gonzmart, opened the Siboney Room, a large showroom, in 1956 for performers. At the Ybor City location, Spanish flamenco dancers still perform every night except Sunday. And to this day, the 115-year-old restaurant is run by the same family.
Photo via Columbia/Website

Columbia

2025 E 7th Ave., Ybor City
As for Tampa’s oldest restaurant, the Columbia Restaurant is by far the winner. It was actually the first air-conditioned dining room in the city, and it's the oldest restaurant in Florida. The restaurant originally opened in Ybor City as a 60-seat corner cafe with Cuban coffee and sandwiches. Local cigar workers were the first regulars, until their homes gave way to blight in the ‘60s. Even then as Ybor City dwindled, the third-generation owner, Cesar Gonzmart, opened the Siboney Room, a large showroom, in 1956 for performers. At the Ybor City location, Spanish flamenco dancers still perform every night except Sunday. And to this day, the 115-year-old restaurant is run by the same family.
Photo via Columbia/Website
Alessi Bakery
2909 W Cypress St., Tampa
At the Alessi Bakery, 109-year-old deli goods, cakes and pastries are on the market. The founder Nicolo Alessi migrated from Italy to Tampa and began the bakery with his family’s recipes. Back when Tampa was all fields and wide open, he delivered Italian and Cuban bread to customers on horse and wagon. Today, the bakery is at the same location and has expanded to Northwest Tampa with a manufacturing facility. The cake designer, Melissa Maggiore, has whipped up and iced cakes at Alessi since 2000.
Photo via Alessi Bakery/Facebook

Alessi Bakery

2909 W Cypress St., Tampa
At the Alessi Bakery, 109-year-old deli goods, cakes and pastries are on the market. The founder Nicolo Alessi migrated from Italy to Tampa and began the bakery with his family’s recipes. Back when Tampa was all fields and wide open, he delivered Italian and Cuban bread to customers on horse and wagon. Today, the bakery is at the same location and has expanded to Northwest Tampa with a manufacturing facility. The cake designer, Melissa Maggiore, has whipped up and iced cakes at Alessi since 2000.
Photo via Alessi Bakery/Facebook
Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber
447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach
Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber opened in 1948, and in 1959 the restaurant was rebuilt after a fire. Back in 1962, "Adventures in Good Eating" said you could find “back-to-the-farm” fried chicken dinners, seafood and NY cut sirloin steaks for up to $3. Now, the decor is still old with Brutalist trim and barrel chairs, and it still serves the fried chicken meals. Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber is also known for its relish tray with cottage cheese and fresh chives, apple butter, beet relish and corn relish.
Photo via Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber/Facebook

Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber

447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach
Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber opened in 1948, and in 1959 the restaurant was rebuilt after a fire. Back in 1962, "Adventures in Good Eating" said you could find “back-to-the-farm” fried chicken dinners, seafood and NY cut sirloin steaks for up to $3. Now, the decor is still old with Brutalist trim and barrel chairs, and it still serves the fried chicken meals. Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber is also known for its relish tray with cottage cheese and fresh chives, apple butter, beet relish and corn relish.
Photo via Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber/Facebook
Bern’s Steak House
1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa
At Bern’s Steak House, the meals are indeed an experience. Almost like a theme park, the 65-year-old restaurant offers tours with no videos permitted. Gold-trimmed frames adorn the brick walls, chandeliers dangle from the ceiling and an impressive collection of half a million bottles and 6,500 labels line the wine cellars. What started as a small luncheonette serving orange juice and cold sandwiches expanded with hot breakfasts and homemade doughnuts. Eventually Bern’s was founded in 1956, Haven was opened, seven dining rooms and a dessert room were added all while Bern’s grew to be internationally recognized. The restaurant serves premium aged steaks and vegetables grown on Bern's farm.
Photo via Bern’s Steak House/Google

Bern’s Steak House

1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa
At Bern’s Steak House, the meals are indeed an experience. Almost like a theme park, the 65-year-old restaurant offers tours with no videos permitted. Gold-trimmed frames adorn the brick walls, chandeliers dangle from the ceiling and an impressive collection of half a million bottles and 6,500 labels line the wine cellars. What started as a small luncheonette serving orange juice and cold sandwiches expanded with hot breakfasts and homemade doughnuts. Eventually Bern’s was founded in 1956, Haven was opened, seven dining rooms and a dessert room were added all while Bern’s grew to be internationally recognized. The restaurant serves premium aged steaks and vegetables grown on Bern's farm.
Photo via Bern’s Steak House/Google
Biff-Burgers
3939 49th St. N near 38th Ave., St. Petersburg
Biff-Burgers’ parent company, National Biff-Burger System, and hundreds of other Biff-Burger Drive-Ins across the country closed in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but the St. Pete Biff-Burgers, which opened in 1956, is alive and running. The drive-in still has the original name, yellow sign and building. Biff-Burgers is known for its classic burgers, 14 charbroiled gourmet burgers, tater-tots and motorcyclists. Every Friday for decades, old cars and hot rods visit the spot.
Photo via Biff-Burgers/Website

Biff-Burgers

3939 49th St. N near 38th Ave., St. Petersburg
Biff-Burgers’ parent company, National Biff-Burger System, and hundreds of other Biff-Burger Drive-Ins across the country closed in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but the St. Pete Biff-Burgers, which opened in 1956, is alive and running. The drive-in still has the original name, yellow sign and building. Biff-Burgers is known for its classic burgers, 14 charbroiled gourmet burgers, tater-tots and motorcyclists. Every Friday for decades, old cars and hot rods visit the spot.
Photo via Biff-Burgers/Website

Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future.