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S Howard: Where fine dining abounds

From upscale spots to pizza joints, there's an eclectic flavor about the culture - and the appetizing cuisine - in Tampa's SoHo.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000

You don't have to go all the way to New York City to stroll down a Restaurant Row called SoHo.

We have our very own: S Howard Avenue. The north/south artery runs between the juicy demographics of Hyde Park and Palma Ceia and terminates where the Rollerbladers roll, the bicyclists cycle and the pedestrians ped: Bayshore Boulevard.

Tucked away on the southern end of Howard Avenue is a cornucopia of dining delights. Nine new places have sprouted in SoHo during the past year: McHale's Chophouse, J Ryans, Royal Palace, Evos, Bacchus, Hydeaways, Westshore Pizza, Cafe Heidelberg and, better late than never, Starbucks.

With some 35 restaurants ranging from pizzerias to elegant steak houses, Tampa's Restaurant Row has something for everyone. Regardless of the occasion, your budget, state of dress or political standing on the use of animals as food, Soho can accommodate. Bon appetit!

1. Antipasto's

  • 2202 W Platt St.; (813) 259-1168
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; dinner 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
  • Lofted ceiling and antique wine press accents cozy interior, which evokes a Tuscan farm house, with some outdoor tables. Italian staples with eclectic twists. $$

2. Bacchus

  • 720 S Howard Ave.; (813) 254-5540
  • 6 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Tues.; 6 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Wed.-Sat.
  • Most of the dishes are geared toward nibblers. White tablecloth dining tailored to yuppies who enjoy Asian dishes such as yakitori (pork tenderloin), negimaki (steak wrapped around green onions), and a myriad of sushi dishes. $$$

3. Bella's Italian Cafe

  • 1413 S Howard Ave.; (813) 254-3355
  • 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Tues.; 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Wed.-Thur.; 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.; 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sat.; 4 p.m.-midnight Sun.
  • Perennial favorite of SoHo night owls. Wood-fired pizzas, pasta. $$

4. Bern's Steak House

  • 1208 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-2421
  • 5-11 p.m. nightly
  • Tampa's first name in top-of-the-line steakhouses for four decades. World-renowned wine selection, popular second-floor dessert room, neo-bordello decor now in transition. $$$

5. Cafe by the Bay

  • 1350 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-6659
  • Dinner 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. Breakfast and lunch 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
  • Cozy, converted house gives you fresh light fare for lunch, sophisticated continental for dinner. Lunch $, dinner $$

6. Cafe Heidelberg

  • 2307 W Azeele St.; (813) 251-0999
  • 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Closed Mondays.
  • Wood-accented decor with Old World knickknacks. White doilies and tableclothes, small, intimate tables. Light alternatives to sauerkraut and bratwurst make it a great place for a bite while strolling around SoHo. $$

7. Cappy's Pizzeria

  • 309 S Howard Ave.; (813) 254-4948
  • Opens at 5 p.m. daily, with no set closing time (usually between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.) Dark, northern, urban atmosphere with a straightforward, come-as-you-are vibe. Crowds tend to skew on the younger side, but kid-friendly. Offering both Chicago and New York styles, the menu plainly states, "Eat Cappy's pizza. It's good!" $

8. Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant

  • 2109 Bayshore Blvd.; (813) 250-0203
  • 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Tues.-Thur.; 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
  • What are tapas? All together, for those who haven't heard: "They're the little dishes of Spain!" Authentic, appetizer-size dishes from Seville, Granada, Catalonia, Salamanca and other corners of the Iberian peninsula. Small, nightclubby room full of big flavors and popular pitchers of sangria. $$

9. Chatterbox Lounge

  • 709 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-3628
  • 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sun.
  • SoHo's saloon offering a full bar, pool tables and video games. $

10. Ciccio & Tony's

  • 1015 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-8406
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 12 p.m.-3 p.m. Sat.; Dinner 6-10 p.m. Mon.-Thur.; 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
  • A lively, bustling place where young professionals go to be seen. Menu has Mediterranean flavor with Italian, Asian and Polynesian dishes. $$

11. Circles South Tampa

  • 2500 W Azeele St.; (813) 879-5228
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun.; dinner 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
  • They call it "casual metropolitan dining": Thai spice-rubbed steak, shrimp diane, tournedos au poivre, Hunan chicken with peanuts, 120 wines. Set inside a refurbished 1920s bungalow. $$

12. Evos

  • 609 S Howard Ave.; (813) 258-3867
  • 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. daily
  • Fast food gone healthy. No cattle have been slaughtered to keep this healthful place up and running. Soy burgers, soy tacos and even soy chili are on the menu in addition to oven-roasted chicken breast, salmon patties and "air fries." Drink a fresh fruit smoothie to wash the health down. $

13. 42nd Street Bistro

  • 516 S Howard Ave.; (813) 253-0042
  • 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun.; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.; 11:30 a.m.-midnight Tues.-Wed.; 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.
  • New York-style '40s bistro, with smoke-free side cafe and live entertainment three nights a week. Traditional fare with a non-traditional twist. $$

14. Gourmet Pizza Company

  • 610 S Armenia Ave.; (813) 258-1999
  • 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
  • Red cabbage, center-cut ribeye and crawfish tails -- on your pizza? $

15. Ho Ho Windows

  • 533 S Howard Ave.; (813) 254-9557
  • 11:30 a.m.-9:45 p.m. Mon.-Thur.; 11:30 a.m.-10:45 p.m. Fri.; 4 p.m.-10:45 p.m. Sat.; 4 p.m.-9:45 a.m. Sun.
  • The SoHo staple has moved south a few blocks, occupying the old Howard's spot. The atmosphere is now more contemporary, but you can expect the old staples: Cantonese, Mandarin and Szechuan familiars, lunch buffet. $

16. Hugo's Spanish Restaurant

  • 931 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-2842
  • 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat.
  • SoHo's enduring outpost for Cuban sandwiches, beans and rice, and other Spanish/Cuban/Italian comfort foods more common in West Tampa and Ybor City. Serves a variety of wine. $

17. Hydeaways

  • 720 S Howard Ave.;(813) 254-5540
  • 3:30 p.m.- 3 a.m. Mon.- Sat.
  • A quirky little bar adjacent to Bacchus. Has a red tiger pattern pool table, dart board and plenty of alcohol. $

18. J Ryans on the Grill

  • 717 S Howard Ave.; (813) 250-1661
  • 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thur. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
  • A newcomer to the Howard strip, with a varied menu, baby-back to chicken liver mousse and seared tuna. Amenities include an airy modern atmosphere, an ample bar and a respectable wine selection. $$

19. Le Bordeaux and Left Bank

  • 1502 S Howard Ave.; (813) 254-4387
  • 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. daily
  • SoHo perennial with a country French menu that changes nightly on the chalk board. This converted low-slung house comes complete with a patio and adjoining jazz lounge. Romantic. Expect your waiter to have an accent. $$$

20. Lenny and Vinny's New York Pizzeria and Bakery

  • 533 S Howard Ave.; (813) 253-3929.
  • 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs; 11-11 Fri.-Sat.
  • Done up like a Noo Yawk subway, this pizzeria/bakery makes liberal use of the word "Yo!" in its flyers and, in spite of its name, doesn't serve textbook New York style pizza. With creations like "Pablo's Westside Chicken Dijon" and "Vinny's Garbage Pie," they're clearly not trying to bore your taste buds. Subs, pasta, and calzones, too. $

21. Mangroves Bar & Grill

  • 208 S Howard Ave.; (813) 258-3302
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues.-Fri. Dinner and bar 5 p.m.-3 a.m. daily
  • Works on two levels. Upstairs: white tablecloth dining. Downstairs: bar equipped with plenty of alcoholic beverages. But just the decor will give you an eyeful: a challenging, art-deco-meets-old-Tampa mishmash, plus lighted terrazzo bar. $$

22. McHale's Chophouse

  • 808 S Howard Ave.; (813) 250-9809
  • Lunch 11:15 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Thur.; noon-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Dinner 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sat.; 12 p.m.- 10 p.m. Sun.
  • Opened less than a year ago, the restaurant shares kitchen and owner (Tom McHale) with Tuscan Oven, but don't expect a Tuscan Oven II. The menu offers barbecue styles ranging from St. Louis pork ribs to duck chili. All sides are made from scratch. $$

23. Off the Eaten Path

  • 410 N Howard Ave.; (813) 251-6244
  • 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.
  • Also off the beaten path, being hard to see from the road. A deli that specializes in New Jersey style subs and pork rolls. $

24. Old Meeting House

  • 901 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-1754
  • Breakfast 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Mon.-Sat.; 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun.; lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Thur.; 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 1:30-10:30 p.m. Sun.
  • Truman was president when this South Tampa landmark first served homemade ice cream, malts from the fountain and thick, honest burgers. Though recently refurbished, little has changed the Rockwellian atmosphere of this diner or its proud notion that your buck will go farther here than most places on Restaurant Row. $

25. Penalty Box

  • 405 S Howard Ave.; (813) 258-0501
  • 2:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (last call) Mon.-Sun.
  • Typical sports bar includes two big-screen TVs with games always on, dartboard, Foosball. The menu offers chicken wings, burgers and oysters on the half-shell. $

26. Primadonna Trattoria Restaurant

  • 915 S Howard Ave.; (813) 258-3358
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. daily; dinner 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. nightly.
  • Designed like a provincial country home with vines over head. You will feel like you're in Italy. Elegant, pan-Italian menu. $$

27. Royal Palace Thai Restaurant

  • 811 S Howard Ave.; (813) 258-5893
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Brunch 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun.; Dinner 4:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Sun.
  • Traditional Thai cuisine served in a royal setting. If you did not get enough of frog legs in high school, they are served here in red curry sauce instead of formaldehyde. This is the first and only Thai restaurant to debut on Howard Avenue. $$

28. Sally O'Neal's Pizza Hotline

  • 1009 S Rome Ave.; (813) 251-0220
  • 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Mon.
  • Bakery style pizza. Small tables for a quick dining experience. They also deliver. $

29. SideBern's

  • 2208 W Morrison Ave.; (813) 258-2233
  • 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun., Tues.-Thur.; 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; closed Monday.
  • Don't show up just for dessert. Chef Jeanie Pierola, once the creative force at Ybor's defunct nuevo Latino outpost Boca, has revamped this former dessert-oriented Bern's adjunct into a full-fledged bistro. The highly eclectic menu will disorient your taste buds before the food arrives. Pierola calls it "one world cuisine." $$$

30. Smoothie King

  • 2205 Swann Ave.; (813) 250-3888
  • 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Sat.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
  • Vitamins, supplements and fruit smoothies. GNC meets Orange Julius.$

31. Starbucks

  • 711 S Howard Ave.; (813) 250-9223
  • 6a.m.-11p.m. Mon.-Thur.; 7 a.m.-12 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.
  • The corporate coffee mogul has moved in on SoHo. Eloquently marketed through strategic in-store displays, the menu offers pastries, teas, and, of course, a wide selection of coffee. $

32. Taqueria Quetzalcoatl

  • 402 S Howard Ave.; (813) 259-9982
  • 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
  • Hyde Park hipsters wear this small taco stand well. Creatively spiced American-Mexican hybrids offered with standards, like giant burritos that are "big as your head." $

33. Tiny Tap Tavern

  • 2105 Morrison Ave. W.; (813) 258-5212
  • 7 a.m.-3 a.m. everyday.
  • Gas station turned bar about 40 years ago offers an eclectic crew and plenty to do. Foosball, an over-stocked jukebox, $2 import bottles and pool tables with a path worn through the tile surrounding them. Every walk of life congregates at this tiny watering hole.$

34. Tuscan Oven

  • 808 S Howard Ave.; (813) 251-0619
  • Lunch 11:15 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.; 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
  • Hearty Italian fare, with Tuscan farmhouse decor. Stare at the farmer's bedroom vignette over the fire-belching grills, and you can envision Aldo turning in after a hard day in the vineyard. $$

35. Westshore Pizza

  • 927 S Howard Ave., (813) 251-2020
  • 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thur.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
  • Bring Philadelphia-style pizza home without going to Pennsylvania. Offers casual family dining in the restaurant or at home via delivery. The menu also offers calzones, stromboli, sandwiches and grinders. $

Times staff writers MICHAEL CANNING and AMY ABBOTT contributed to this report.

Price guide

  • $ Inexpensive, less than $25
  • $$ Moderate, $25-$50
  • $$$ Expensive, $50 and up
  • Prices are based on a meal for two.

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