The historic Latin quarter and former center of cigar manufacturing wears two hats today: a creamy Panama for daytime lunching, shopping, cigar smoking and coffee sipping, and a black fedora for the high-spirited playground it becomes at night.
Centro Ybor encompasses restaurants, bars, retail and a cocktail-serving movie theater as well as video gaming at GameTime and performances by the top-notch comics at Tampa Improv. The Ybor City Museum Society offers an overview of the area's history via two institutions that should be part of every Ybor sightseeing tour. Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House celebrates Tampa's role in baseball history while Ybor City Museum State Park looks at the district's cultural heritage and how it earned its reputation as the “Cigar Capital of the World.”
America's two oldest cigar-making families, Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman, are rooted in Ybor City: The former via Tampa Sweethearts Cigars, a shop housed in a bright yellow casita, and the latter, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., via the factory, rehabbed in 2002. Cuban food is an Ybor City must, and La Tropicana Café serves breakfast (cheesy Cuban toast) and lunch (Cuban sandwiches) six days a week. Another Ybor dining tradition but with a more upscale ambiance, Columbia Restaurant, has been serving exceptional Cuban-Spanish food for more than a century. Also while in Ybor, sample the devil crabs at Carmine's and the Free Dive Gulf Coast IPA at Coppertail Brewing Co.
The transformation begins when the 7th Avenue nightclubs open--LGBT havens (Liquid, G Bar, The Honey Pot), hipster haunts (Orpheum), chic dance hideaways (Prana, Amphitheatre) and college zones (Coyote Ugly, Gaspar's Grotto, Green Iguana) keep the party going. The Ritz Ybor plays host to national concert tours, while its resident nightclub Czar draws ample crowds with raging dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Those who prefer to be a spectator of Ybor's nighttime high-jinks can do it from two very different perches in Centro Ybor. Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille is a friendly burger joint with a patio overlooking 7th Avenue, while on the ground floor across the way is Carne Chophouse. Try house specialty Pork Shoulder Pot Pie while gazing at the passersby.