As a coastal city on the Gulf coast, Tampa is the kind of place where you’d expect to see fresh seafood. If you hit the right seafood spots, you won’t be disappointed.
In and around the Florida waters, oysters are harvested year-round. In the fall, when the water temperatures begin to drop, the oyster harvesting reaches its peak.
Tampa, situated on the western coast of the state, isn’t a massive oyster farming center, but it does benefit from the bivalves harvested in Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County and the oyster industries in Levy County and Wakulla County.
The vast majority of oysters harvested in Florida come from Apalachicola Bay. This is because it is one of the most nutrient rich estuaries in the state. Here, oysters can reach market size much faster than in the northern states.
Tampa Bay does have one oyster farm, the Lost Coast Oyster Farm. They grow and harvest the signature LoCo oyster, which is only found in Tampa Bay.
While Tampa might not have huge oyster farms, it is in a great location to receive fresh oysters from all over Florida as well as the West coast states. When you hit the Tampa oyster bars, you’ll find a huge variety of oysters with interesting and diverse flavor profiles.
Let’s take a closer look at the best oyster spots in Tampa.
Boat Run Oyster Co.
615 Channelside Drive, Suite 5, Tampa, Florida, 33602
877 793 7526
The Boat Run Oyster Company started out as an oyster cart, selling the oysters that the company harvested from the Suwannee River.
Today, the Boat Run Oyster Co has a permanent home on Sparkman Wharf. The oyster bar is housed in a bright blue shipping container. It’s more of a walk-up hole in the wall situation meaning you can just grab some oysters and carry on with your day.
If you do want to hang at the wharf, there are a few standing tables around the unit. You can enjoy your food and soak up the bustling, hip atmosphere in this beautiful waterfront location.
Boat Run Oyster Co. offers a rotating selection of east and west coast oysters including their own Cedar Key bivalves. Other oysters include the briny Warrens Cove oysters from Plymouth, Massachusetts and the milder, herby oysters of New Brunswick, Canada.
If you prefer your oysters cooked, you can have them char grilled on the half shell and covered in umami butter or pecorino and herbs.
This casual oyster bar is an absolute gem. The food is incredible, and you can’t beat the Sparkman Wharf atmosphere.
What we love about the Boat Run Oyster Co. is that they are making oysters a more accessible and appreciated food.
They don’t hold with the stuffy, formal, over-expensive image that oysters have acquired over the last few decades. Instead, they serve them up as street food full of soul and heart.
If you want to bring the wonderful taste of Boat Run Oyster Co oysters to your private event, you absolutely can. True to their heritage, Boat Run Oyster Co offers private oyster carts and shuckers for parties and events.
202 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, Florida, 33609
813 875 3467
Established way back in 1985 by a Swiss gourmet chef, Shells has prospered with it’s no frills, no fuss atmosphere. It wanted to move away from stuffy, uptight seafood restaurants that seemed to be flooding the Tampa area.
Instead of focusing on airs and graces, Shell’s focuses on high quality service and food. The restaurant has been voted as the #1 seafood restaurant in Tampa for 15 years in a row. That is incredible!
Shell’s has restaurants all over the state, but it’s the Tampa location that we are interested in.
With its foam tiled ceiling and rather garish sea life mural on the back wall, the interior sure doesn’t look like much. However, the food will make you forget the dated décor. Heck, it’ll make you forget your own name!
First, let’s talk about oysters. The oysters served here are enormous! They are honestly some of the largest and juiciest oysters we have seen. They are super fresh, served steamed or raw and accompanied by horseradish, hot sauce, lemon, and seafood sauce.
Not only are the oysters enormous, fresh, juicy, and delicious, but they are also incredibly cheap! You can get a dozen of these massive bivalves for only $15.99! An absolute steal!
There are thousands of happy customers who are adamant that Shell’s is still the best seafood place in Tampa. Its reputation is golden. You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant that is as highly regarded as shells.
2900 Bayport Dr, Tampa, Florida, 33607
813 207 6815
If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, then Oystercatchers could be the place for you. Located near the Grand Hyatt hotel, Oystercatchers overlooks Old Tampa Bay.
You can sit out on the dockside lounge that overlooks the private beach while you slurp cocktails and oysters, or you can sit in the large and airy restaurant. Wherever you sit, you’ll be surrounded by class and beauty.
The restaurant is famed for its brunch, which has been voted the best brunch in Tampa multiple times. Though the menu changes each week, you can always rely on the raw bar which features an incredible selection of oysters.
Their raw bar offers ‘premium market oysters’ and ‘super-premium oysters.’ These vary from day to day, but you can always ask your server for more details. The premium oysters will set you back $3 while the super-premium oysters cost $3.75.
Oysters are also served grilled with confit garlic, Parmesan, and brown butter panko. This dish is a firm favorite with guests.
The rest of the menu is filled with wonderfully crafted and beautifully cooked seafood dishes. The lobster and crab bisque is particularly popular along with the grilled seafood trio. The trio features a lemon garlic butter sauce that is to die for.
The refined culinary experience and premium location does come with a fairly hefty price tag. Make no mistake, this is a pricey place. However, it is, in our opinion, well worth the cost. Thousands of well-fed guests agree.
1810 N Highland Ave, Tampa, Florida, 33602
813 999 4152
Located in a beautiful red brick building, Ulele is a ‘native inspired’ restaurant. It serves foods made from native Floridian ingredients using traditional barbacoa techniques.
The restaurant is named for Princess Ulele who was said to be a native Tocobaga princess who lived in Tampa Bay during the 1500s. She is somewhat of a Tampa icon.
On the menu you’ll find a lot of seafood dishes including scallops, shrimp, ‘n’ grits, seafood risotto, and calamari. You’ll also find a number of alligator dishes including alligator hush puppies and ‘Native chili’ which features alligator and wild boar.
As for the oysters, you can get local gulf oysters in a half dozen or a baker’s dozen. They are great value, costing only $12 for the half dozen and $24 for the baker’s dozen.
If you prefer cooked oysters, you can have charbroiled oysters which are barbacoa grilled with garlic butter, grated Parmesan, and Romano cheeses. These are absolutely heavenly.
The restaurant is large, bright, and welcoming. It has a wonderfully welcoming vibe that makes you feel like you’re visiting a friend. You can sit at one of the tables or sit at the oyster bar and watch them wash and shuck the oysters you’re about to slurp down!
Ulele sits somewhere in the middle in terms of prices. It’s not an upscale restaurant, but it’s also not a casual bistro. It’s a great place to take the family and enjoy a wonderfully cooked and prepared meal.
2208 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, Florida, 33606
813 258 2233
Haven is a suave and sophisticated restaurant that opts for a small plates dining style. It has an enormous selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and accompaniments that can be enjoyed by your group.
If you’d prefer a larger meal to yourself, you have plenty to choose from including steak, fish, pasta, and salad.
As far as oysters go, you can have them raw with gochujang and dill mignonette or barbecued in chipotle, brown sugar, and bourbon. Both are incredibly delicious and great value.
The small plates dining experience is a bit like a tapas bar. What we love about it is the fact that the staff are so knowledgeable about the food and the drinks. They can suggest perfect pairings for the food you order.
If you’re up for trying out new flavors and experiencing a new dining style, then get a group of friends together to try out Haven. It’s an experience we are sure you’ll love.
Tampa is full to the brim with excellent seafood restaurants and dining options. We’ve given you some places to start, but make sure you explore and take advantage of all the city has to offer.