Ybor City Food Tour: Best Tour to Take in 2023
Want to do a Ybor City Food Tour?
Well, you’ve come to the right place, because my teenage son and I just enjoyed a historic Ybor City food tour, so I’m going to share everything you need to know to have a fantastic time. Just like we did!
☕️ Ready to book your Ybor City Food Tour Now?
I used Viator, and the tour we took was excellent! Our guide was knowledgeable and the food was delicious! 👉 BOOK NOW!!!!
Want to know more about the Ybor City Food Tour? Keep reading and I’ll share all the delicious stops as well as tips for making the most of your adventure.
Where is Ybor City?
Ybor City is a historic city in Tampa – just a bit Northeast of downtown. It’s a short 20-minute drive from the airport. Tampa is conveniently located on Florida’s west coast near many tourist attractions and amazing beaches.
What makes Ybor City a good place for a food tour?
Ybor City is an important part of Florida’s history
Ybor City is designated as a National Historic Landmark District, so in addition to enjoying great food, you’ll get to experience and learn a lot about the history of the area and Tampa in general.
Ybor City is a great place to walk
Ybor City is also a very walkable area of Tampa. A LOT is packed into a few beautiful and interesting blocks.
There are brick streets, lovingly restored historical buildings, and shops and restaurants on every corner!
Ybor City has a rich culinary history
Although founded in 1886 by Vicente Martinez Ybor from Cuba, there are actually four ethnic groups that originally immigrated to the area. Thanks to that mix of cultures, the food history in Ybor City is an amazing and unique mix of German, Cuban, Spanish, and Italian.
When is the best time to enjoy a Ybor City Food Tour?
Florida enjoys beautiful weather most of the year. It can get a little chilly in the winter (but luckily only for a day or so here and there), and the weather can get very hot and humid in the summer.
Late fall and early spring would be the most comfortable times of the year for a Ybor City Food Tour, but as long as you are prepared for pop-up showers in the summer or cooler temps in the winter, you could enjoy this tour any time of the year.
We did the tour in early December and the weather was perfect! We enjoyed the mid-70s with plenty of sunshine and a slight breeze!
Best Ybor City Food Tour
Don’t just take my word for it – there were dozens of excellent ratings like this one on Viator for the tour we enjoyed.
💁♀️Note: I was not paid by this company or Viator to write a review.
I paid full price for this tour out of my own pocket, and the opinions I give are not influenced in any way – they are 100% my own. In fact, neither Viator nor my tour guide knew I was planning on writing this article until after the tour was completed.
Historic Ybor City Food Tour Itinerary
Ready to get to the meat of this tour (pun intended!)? I’ll share an overview of the tour, some of the things we learned, and pictures of the food we enjoyed. Note that your tour may be slightly different, but the general outline should be the same.
We started by meeting our tour guide at 12:30 outside of one of the few fast food chain restaurants in Ybor City. She was easily recognizable in her bright orange Ybor City Food Tour shirt, and quite welcoming when we introduced ourselves.
Although there were a few other folks scheduled to join our food tour, they didn’t show up, so my son and I ended up with a private tour. Score!
The tour begins with a background of Ybor City
We began with a bit of background and history of Ybor City – visiting a building that housed one of the four original social clubs and enjoying a six-minute historical video at the Ybor City Visitors Center.
We walked and talked (learning so much about the beginnings of Ybor City), and before too long we ended up at our first food stop. The idea behind this Ybor City Food Tour is to enjoy a taste of food from each of the countries whose immigrants helped found it. It made for a fun variety of foods!
Ybor City Food Tour Stop – German Influence
Our first taste was a delicious (and filling) portion of shepherd’s pie at a local brewery, TBBC, or Tampa Bay Brewing Company. The idea was to get a feel for German food – probably the biggest stretch but my son loved it, so now I need to recreate it at home for him!
I did indulge in a small tasting of one of the brewery’s beers – but that was out of my own pocket (less than $5).
Ybor City Food Tour Stop – Spanish Inspired
After a bit more exploring, we ended up at food stop number two, a really cool pirate-themed restaurant/bar where we indulged in some amazing Spanish-inspired rice and beans. They were topped with a decadent sauce and a bit of fresh jalapeno. YUM! By far my favorite stop on the tour.
The restaurant, called Gaspar’s Grotto is named after a blood-thirsty Spanish pirate. We enjoyed hearing stories about the early pirates as well as all the fun parades Ybor City has every year.
With tons of seating indoors and outside and a very lively vibe, it would be a fantastic place to just hang out for a lazy afternoon.
Cuban-Influenced Ybor City Food Tour Stop
On the way to our next historic Ybor City Food Tour stop, we checked out a few gorgeous murals.
Then, we stopped for an award-winning Cuban Sandwich at The Stone Soup Company. The Cuban was actually created in Ybor City, so many restaurants have their own version. There is even a Cuban Sandwich Festival every year.
The Cuban at The Stone Soup Company was excellent – it won best Cuban four years in a row!
Have fun on the Ybor City Streetcar!
The streetcar system is FREE in Ybor City, so if you don’t feel like walking it’s a unique way to get around Ybor City. On our way to the next food stop, we hopped on to check it out.
There are eleven different stops for the Streetcar and they run between stops about every fifteen minutes. For a kid like my son who’s never experienced a streetcar, it was an interesting opportunity.
Ybor City Food Tour – Italian-Inspired Stop
Our last full food sample stop was at a delicious Italian restaurant that’s been around Ybor City for years. Here we enjoyed hearty meatballs with red sauce and a delicious garlic knot.
This particular restaurant is also well known for its New York-style pizza – and it certainly smelled yummy!
Ending the tour with a cigar and cafe con Leche
As Ybor City is known for its cigar making and history of cigar factories (at one time there were over 200 cigar factories), it only made sense to end our tour at one of the many cigar shops.
We got to see a cigar being hand-rolled and enjoyed an out-of-this-world good cafe con Leche. The store was a bit smoky (which makes sense), so we didn’t stay for long, but it was quite interesting and pulled the entire tour together nicely.
What to bring for a Ybor City Food Tour
The most important thing to help you enjoy your Ybor City Food Tour is a good pair of walking shoes.
Related post: If you want my advice for the best walking shoes, check out this article with info on the two pairs I wear to every theme park. If you can spend all day walking in these shoes in a theme park, you know they will be comfortable on a food tour!
Although we stopped often, we probably walked around three miles – the tour itself took us about three hours, but our guide mentioned that we were moving quickly – probably because there were just three of us.
The only other things you’ll need are a good camera and an appetite. Even though each stop was a fairly small portion, it still added up to a lot of food! I ended up taking home most of my Cuban and half of the meatballs.
Related post: The best way to see a city is a walking tour!
Insider tip: you’ll receive water at each food stop, but if you’d like to order another drink it will be on your dime, so you might add that to your budget. We also tipped our tour guide, so I’d suggest having a bit of cash on hand to do that also.
Group Tours vs. Private Tours: Which is better?
As long as there aren’t more than half a dozen people on your tour, I think either option would be fun.
Ybor City Group Food Tour
The tour I booked was a group food tour, and there were supposed to be four people (including us) on the tour.
Our guide mentioned that she enjoyed the smaller tours as she could ensure everyone was involved and could easily hear her, so her preference was less than eight participants.
👉 Book your group Ybor City Food Tour today!
The sidewalks are wide enough in most spots for 2 people to walk comfortably, but if you are part of a group tour, I suspect you’ll stop more often to listen to your guide.
Ybor City Private Food Tour
Even though I booked a group tour, we were lucky enough to end up on a private food tour and it was lovely.
Our tour guide was very attentive, answered all of our questions and I think showed us a bit more of the things we seemed interested in. Because there were only two of us it was easy to hear her at all times and we could go at our own pace.
The only downsides I could envision to a normal private food tour are the cost (more expensive) and that you wouldn’t get to meet new people.
How to Best Enjoy Your Ybor City Food Tour
The best way to enjoy your historic Ybor City food tour is to stay open to new experiences, be willing to try new things, and ask plenty of questions.
The more interested you are in the knowledge of your tour guide, the more you’ll learn and the more you’ll get out of the tour.
Also, be flexible – it’s possible that the itinerary may change a bit, but the tour guides want you to have a wonderful experience so they will do their best to make it a great tour.
Can you enjoy a food tour if you have an allergy?
I have a severe nut allergy, so this is a particular concern of mine. I noted this on the form when I purchased the tour and mentioned that I was fine with skipping food at a stop if it was a concern.
Our tour guide did a great job of dealing with my allergy. She called ahead to each stop and double-checked that nothing I ate came in contact with my allergens.
It was wonderful to enjoy a food tour without worrying about a potential allergic reaction. Of course, I had my EpiPen and Benadryl with me just in case as there is always a risk of cross-contamination, but luckily the foods we ate were not ones that commonly had nuts in them and I ended up being just fine.
How can a vegetarian enjoy a food tour?
I asked this question on the food tour and was encouraged to hear that every stop has a vegetarian option. Our tour guide described them to me and they all sounded delicious, so for this Ybor City Food Tour, a vegetarian would not be disappointed!
Best place to stay in Ybor City
Right now there are only three hotels actually in Ybor City, so if you want to stay right in the district your choices are fairly limited. There are also VRBO options and dozens of hotels in Tampa proper.
We walked through the newest hotel, a boutique hotel called The Hotel Haya. This hotel is named after Haya y Sanchez, who is famous for rolling the first cigar in Tampa. As a cigar factory owner, he (along with Vicente Ybor) was a big part of the creation of Ybor City.
The hotel is absolutely gorgeous! Exactly what a boutique hotel should be. Even if you choose not to stay there, it would be lovely to enjoy a cocktail at the bar in the evening.
👉 Book your stay at The Hotel Haya
Where to park in Ybor City
Parking can be a bit tricky in Ybor City. At first glance, there are a lot of parking lots, but when attempting to park in a few we discovered they are for employees only.
Your best option is the Centro Ybor Garage on 5th Avenue. It’s an easy walk to where we met our tour guide and it’s super affordable. Only $1 for 1-3 hours and $3 for 3-4 hours. City parking under $10, crazy, right?
Is Ybor City Safe?
Ybor City is a district in downtown Tampa, so it’s as safe as any downtown area of a larger Florida city would be. Use common sense and normal safety measures and you should be fine.
🤔 Is Ybor City safe at night?
Although Ybor City is fairly busy during the day with visitors, locals, and college students wandering the streets, at night it turns into a restaurant and night-club district.
It’s still considered fairly safe, but as with any nightclub area, don’t walk around alone and stay on the main streets.
Why are there so many chickens in Ybor City?
The chickens in Ybor City cracked me up. They are everywhere! And they roam free. We asked our tour guide about them and their story is fascinating.
The chickens roaming the streets of Ybor City are direct descendants of the original chickens of the Ybor City immigrants. Today there are about 29 roosters, plenty of hens, and often chicks. They are protected by the city, and many of them have names.
What is the weather like in Ybor City?
Weather in Ybor City varies from hot and humid in the summer (with frequent afternoon thunderstorms) to mild and sunny in the winter. The shoulder seasons tend to be the most comfortable for walking outside.
Just like other Florida cities, Ybor City can be in the path of tropical storms and hurricanes during the fall hurricane season, so keep your eye on the weather if you are planning a trip in those months.
Conclusion: Ybor City Food Tours
A Ybor City food tour is a great way to sample some of the best food in Ybor City, learn a lot about the history of the area, and have some fun at the same time!
This was our first food tour and I guarantee it won’t be our last. I especially loved that my teenage son enjoyed it so much. Apparently, a food tour is a great way to engage and spend time with teenage boys while on vacation – a big win in my book!