Tampa nightlife is oftentimes synonymous with Channelside or Ybor City. Channelside, the upbeat, outdoor mall on the bay with its awe-inducing view and its wilder, Mardi Gras inspired older sister Ybor, have been staples of the Tampa scene for years. Looking for something new? Check out South Howard Street, also known as Soho.
SoHo is the spot young Floridians congregate these days; a strip packed with many of the best restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Tampa. For dinner, head to Bern’s Steakhouse. Started in 1956 by Bern Laxer, this restaurant once had a mere twelve tables. Now, it seats upwards of 500 people, has a separate upstairs dessert room, and can boast about having the largest private wine collection in the world, touting one million bottles.
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Enter the dimly lit restaurant and head to the bar, decorated in red with bronze statues and funky wall hangings. Relax and have a drink, or opt to sit in the bar for your meal where you can take advantage of the full menu. Regardless of where you eat, come hungry, because every steak (including cuts of Japanese Kobe beef) or entrée comes with their homemade French Onion soup, house salad, baked potato, onion rings and vegetables.
After dinner, make sure to take your server up on his offer to tour the enormous kitchen and wine cellar. Bern’s is a staple of Tampa cuisine, and this author and her sister even caught a glimpse of a celebrity in the area upon leaving the restaurant: Derek Jeter enjoys going out in SoHo, too!
After dinner, you’ll want to dance off some of those calories. A great place to do this is upstairs at Mangrove’s Seafood Grille. The restaurant has delicious seafood downstairs, but upstairs offers black banquettes and a funky, multi-colored bartop where a DJ spins until close. It’s a great meeting spot, or even somewhere you can grab a cocktail and hang out in a lounge setting.
Toward the end of South Howard, you’ll find The Dubliner and MacDinton’s, a duet of authentic Irish pubs. These bars are located conveniently close to one another and are great for more bar-hopping. The Dubliner, whose address is actually on Azeele Street, is walking distance from Howard, offers food and many beers on tap. Its biggest selling point is the tables outside on the spacious wrap-around wooden porch. On occasion, local bands perform under the aesthetically pleasing icicle lights.
You can see MacDinton’s from the Dubliner’s porch, and if you enjoy ‘fratty’ bars, MacDinton’s is your place. Everywhere you look young, single men and women flirt, talk loudly and drink heavily. It offers three separate rooms and a bar with a large selection including over thirty beers on tap and in bottles. This venue also showcases local bands on weekend nights. Overall, it’s a great place to drink cheap beer, enjoy a very casual atmosphere, and a great place to meet people.
If you’re hungry for a late-night snack, grab a hot dog, hamburger or grilled cheese from the vendor who pulls right up to the lawn of the bar. For a more serious late-night feast, head across the street to Taqueria Cantina and Burrito Joint. Open late, order at the counter, and have your food in no time. Try a basic taco, burrito or enchilada, or go for something more fun such as the “Gringo Quesadilla,” a spin on the usual, with jalepenos and barbeque sauce. There’s a question of the day written on a chalkboard in the front, and if you answer correctly, they’ll give you free chips and salsa. Another bonus: they sell beer and champagne if you want to keep drinking!
All in all, Tampa has much to offer in the way of nightlife. While perhaps not the most well-known part of the city, SoHo is definitely the hippest, most fun and up-and-coming.
What & Where:
Bern’s Steakhouse (1208 S Howard Ave; 813-251-2421)
Mangroves (208 S Howard Ave; 813-258-3302)
The Dubliner (2307 W Azeele St; 813-258-2257)
MacDinton’s (405 S Howard Ave; 813-251-8999)
Taqueria Cantina and Burrito Joint (402 S Howard Ave; 813-259-9982)
While drinks are not expensive in SoHo, and almost nowhere has a cover charge, bring some cash. Many of the places mentioned in the article have a $5 charge for valet parking, and they only accept bills.
The SoHo area of Tampa is also referred to as the Hyde Park Area. This includes a large oudoor shopping center, and most of the area of South Howard Avenue.
Another area of interest is Bayshore Blvd, just a short drive from South Howard. This is the longest continuous sidewalk in the country, and has a breathtaking view of Hillsborough Bay and downtown Tampa-if you get a chance to run, walk or even drive along Bayshore, go!