Ybor City: Where Culture Meets Tampa
October 28, 2016
by Cody Carter
Whenever Tampa is brought up into conversation, you will always hear the same question: “Have you been to Ybor City?” I moved to the Tampa Bay area about 3 and a half years ago, and I can understand why people are reluctant to not mention Ybor City when they talk about Tampa. This is the place where culture comes to life in Tampa. From the people, to the food, to the overall energy that can be felt throughout, Ybor City is a destination that everyone needs to experience at least one time in their life. The city can seem kind of overwhelming at first because of the tight, brick roads and the array of people that you can encounter while aimlessly walking. Something that I wish I would have had during my first trip to Ybor City is a tour guide or someone to kind of hold my hand while experiencing all of this. So, that is what I am going to do for you. I’ve compiled my list of favorite places in Ybor that range from popular restaurants to hole in the wall lounges that you can’t find anywhere else.
Here are some places to drop by during your stay in Ybor City:
The Columbia Restaurant
If you come to Ybor City and decide not to dine at The Columbia Restaurant, then you did yourself a major injustice. The Columbia Restaurant is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year for a reason. The place is absolutely a gem of Spanish restaurants. The inside of the restaurant encapsulates the Colombian aesthetic that other restaurants just can’t replicate. Start your meal off right with Columbia’s Original “1905” Salad that USA Today describes as “One of the 10 Great Places to Make a Meal Out of a Salad.” I wouldn’t consider myself to be a very big fan of salads, but this one in particular has me coming back to the restaurant frequently just for that. Besides the 1905 salad, I would recommend ordering a handmade mojito pitcher. (Yes, your drink is made right in front of you at the table.) With a refreshing and citrus flavor mixed with a silver rum, this mojito will take you on a cultural journey in itself. Other than these two items, the menu is chock full of beverages, meals, and desserts that you can’t find anywhere else unless you left the U.S. Stopping by for a sit-down meal at The Columbia Restaurant is a must when in Ybor City, Tampa.
The Lion’s Den Cigar Lounge
If you need to get away from the noise for a moment, The Lion’s Den Cigar Lounge is the perfect escape for a chill atmosphere. The lounge is located on the second floor above The Big Easy so the only thing between you and a relaxing drink is a flight of stairs. Guests have the option to both sit and enjoy their drinks and cigars near the bar or take a load off on a sofa near flat screen televisions that are showing the latest sports game. The best part about The Lion’s Den has to be the friendly bartenders. Every time I find myself at the bar wondering what in the world to order, they help me out by either suggesting something that I’ve had previously or having me try something completely new out. If it’s a tad slow in there, you might get the opportunity to see the bartenders mixing many different drinks and flavors like scientists performing experiments. (More often than not, you will get the chance to try those too.) Time seems to slip through my fingers when I’m at The Lion’s Den. After a few handcrafted drinks and a locally rolled cigar, the seconds turn to minutes and the minutes to hours. It is always a great experience at The Lion’s Den Cigar Lounge, and if you’re like me, you’ll more than likely need to have Uber downloaded on your phone ahead of time.
The Blind Tiger Café
The Blind Tiger is a great stop to kick your morning off. With an array of beverages to choose from, you will almost find it hard to choose. Their drinks range from chilled cold brews to espresso to refreshing glasses of Mother’s Kombucha (A personal favorite, for sure.) Whether you decide to get your drink to go or choose to sit in the lounge, you are bound to have a great experience here. The inside of the café has an eye-catching modern/minimalistic feel all while keeping the overall mood very welcoming. There are tables for writers and business professionals to work while enjoying their drink of choice. If you are going to relax a bit, you’re in luck because there are numerous chairs that are comfy enough to take a load off. I find myself wanting to go back every single day because it’s unlike any other café I have been to before. So, the Blind Tiger Café is a must if you are in the Ybor City area. Don’t forget to pick up a hat that supports the local Tampa/Seminole Heights area on the way out!
These are just a couple places that I found to be essential to your trip if you find yourself in Ybor City. Stay for the food and coffee, look around the shops/boutiques, or stay for the night life! Watch as the calm presence of the day takes a shift to party atmosphere when the sun sets so be aware of the crazies. You are bound to find a place that you would enjoy spending a couple hours at. The city is filled with energy that can’t be replicated anywhere else. I hope everyone gets a chance in their lifetime to walk down 7th Avenue to soak in all of the culture that Tampa has to offer. To learn more information about Ybor City, United States of America a simple Google search will bring up tons of things for you to do while you visit the area. The city may seem overwhelming, but it is a great place to fully immerse yourself in if you get the chance.