This was one of those work trips where we stayed at locations that didn’t lend themselves to exploration, and the agenda and meal times were all preplanned. Sort of like a family vacation when you’re a teenager, where you are very much at the whim of the adults.
Mercifully, the planners were creative and ordered meals from Taste of India (a welcome departure from the standard conference fare), Inside the Box catering (good sandwiches and sides with a social justice mission), and a local chef for hire, who prepared a succulent ham that one of the attendees had raised. My limited exposure to the area revealed a lot of strip malls and the usual chain foodservice fare (Chipotle, Five Guys, Starbucks, etc.). But I was excited to see pelicans and plenty of shorebirds along abundant waterways. And palm trees!
After my last meeting, I had a free hour in downtown Tampa before I needed to return the rental car and submit to the TSA x-ray scanner. Downtown is crisp and pristine with beautifully preserved landmarks like the Tampa Theatre. I had lunch at Inside the Box, a cafe that serves sandwich and salad combinations. I tried a half Cuban and half tuna melt. Both were delicious and the right kind of gooey, warm, with perfectly crunchy bread. The cafe is affiliated with and helps support the work of Metropolitan Ministries, which helps families experiencing homelessness to get back to self-sufficiency. The staff completed culinary training through the organization.
Then I popped into the used bookstore next door, Old Tampa Book Company, in the hopes that I could find an out of print cookbook I’ve been looking for. Incredibly– they had it!– so I was satisfied with my travel mojo.
And finally, I stopped at Kahwa, a local coffee shop with a clean, well-lit interior. I had a perfect iced coffee. This would be one of my first stops if I return to Tampa for relaxation– there were listings for free local bike tours and the usual alternative weeklies to get you started.
Not nearly a full taste of Tampa, but an interesting intro!