Before I was a mom who spends most Friday nights watching Shark Tank, I was an entertainment reporter for the Tampa Bay Times.
During my five-year stint, I logged a lot of late hours covering everything from concerts to Super Bowl parties to drag queen bingo. At the end of a long night, all I wanted was to wash off my makeup and snuggle into next to my fast-asleep husband.
But first, I needed sustenance.
These were some of favorite haunts. If you find yourself famished after a long night in Tampa, stop by one of these affordable late-night eateries.
Taco Bus: This restaurant -- which looks like a bus but is actually a building -- is the darling of late-night Tampa restaurants and no stranger to the press; BuzzFeed named it among the nation’s most popular food trucks of 2013. The menu is simple: made-to-order tacos featuring authentic Mexican-style meats and a considerate selection of vegetarian options. (Butternut squash taco? Surprisingly delish.) Taco Bus has five locations in Tampa Bay.
La Teresita: Coke or Pepsi? Boxers or briefs? At this Cuban eatery, you have two types of customers: those who prefer the dining room, and those who’d rather pull up a stool at the cafeteria counter. Both serve the same satisfying chicken with yellow rice, ropa vieja and fried sweet plantains. But after a late night of cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at nearby Raymond James Stadium, the cafeteria is the place to see and be seen.
The Market on 7th: During my days as an entertainment reporter, I often found myself in Ybor City, a neighborhood known for its rich history… and thriving night clubs. After a fun but exhausting night of covering Tampa’s party scene, I always looked forward to a slice of crispy, bubbly pizza from this Seventh Avenue restaurant and live music venue.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: This place is like the city-within-a-city that never sleeps. Its signature Hard Rock Cafe serves quality steaks, seafood, burgers and pasta. Other after-midnight dining options include the Hard Rock’s noodle bar and food court.
La Casa del Chimi: Food trucks aren’t just for daytime. This East Hillsborough County eatery is a fave of my friend Luis, a photographer who accompanied me on many of those late-night newspaper assignments. If you’re in the mood for good Dominican food, hit up Chimi’s.
Where’s your favorite late-night restaurant? Let’s trade tips on my Facebook page.