Tampa’s Ybor CityOctober 2022
By Tom Scherberger, Visit Florida
There are 2 sides to Tampa’s Ybor City, as opposite as night and day. After dark, it’s home to a boisterous restaurant and nightclub scene, with music pulsing from storefront bars and restaurants and crowds building past midnight.
By day the pace slows. Daytime visitors glimpse the past — the culture, customs, architecture and languages of Spanish, Cuban, Italian and Eastern European immigrants who helped turn Tampa into the Cigar City a century ago.
“The truth is there’s a number of different Ybors,’’ says Joe Howden, an artist and Ybor City activist who co-owns the Official Ghost Tour Ybor City.
There’s the history side, the arts/ design/creative side, the growing office and business presence and the nighttime entertainment carnival.
“This is also somebody’s neighborhood — mine,” says Howden, pointing to recent population growth after decades of decline.
How to pair all these Ybors with a single craft beer? Old Elephant Foot fits the bill. Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s American IPA evokes various aspects of the neighborhood it has called home since 1995. The bar has distinct daytime and nighttime crowds, its craft beers reflect the creative side of the neighborhood, and its central location offers a good place to begin or end a history-minded walking tour of Ybor City. The menu features dishes incorporating TBBC beer (featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”).
A short walk to the east from the brewery is the Ybor City State Museum, a good starting point to get an overview of the district. A gift shop is next door, along with three beautifully restored shotgun houses for cigar workers. Across the street is Centennial Park, site of a weekly outdoor market.
A few blocks to the west of the brewery are some of the most significant sites in the historic district: The Cuban Club, El Pasaje and The Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn, formerly the Gonzalez Clinic, where generations of Ybor City residents were born.
The massive brick Ybor Factory Building was the neighborhood’s first cigar factory. The building is now owned by the Church of Scientology. Across the street is tiny Jose Marti Park, where Cuban freedom fighter Jose Marti often stayed in a boarding house long since demolished. The park is owned by the government of Cuba, and is billed as the only slice of free Cuba in the world.
Of course, there’s history around every corner, a story to every building and state historical markers everywhere. There’s even some Tampa beer history — the Florida Brewing Company building founded in Ybor City in 1897, the tallest building in Ybor City, is now a law office.
Beer remains part of Ybor City’s present. Located just east of the historic district, Coppertail Brewing opened in 2014 at 2601 East 2nd Avenue with a small tasting room and big ambitions. Also opening in 2014 in the original site of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company is Cigar City Cider and Mead, an offshoot of the world-renowned Cigar City Brewing.