Da'Shrine: An African Caribbean Restaurant

  T he building has been sitting for a while. Lets explore what finally took over.  Da'Shrine, 2023 L et me start this one off by stating that I am in no means an expert on Africa, their cuisine, or their culture. Da'Shrine claims to be a mixture of African and Caribbean cuisine. They are sporting a restaurant with a rooftop bar. If you had been to The Refinery prior to coming here, you'll know how the rooftop bar was set up. Unfortunately, the bar wasn't open when we went due to some maintenance that needed to be done before they could open. They did manage to use the space well, though, given how small the building actually is. They also have music playing from the TV, which is fine, but you can't hear the bartender over the bass. But that's not why you're here. Old Fashioned, 2023 T he bar is a square bar sitting against the back wall when you walk in. They have a decent selection with six beer taps as well. The bartender was telling us about some unique

Heights Public Market: Or Is It the Armature Building?

With the explosion of business in Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights was bound to be next.

Heights Public Market, 2018

Tampa has a small problem with demolishing every building with historical value that becomes vacant. For proof of this, look no further than Downtown. While most of Tampa's historic buildings have been stripped away and lost to time, the old Armature Building has continued to stand. The Armature Building dates back to 1910, when it was a maintenance and storage facility for Tampa's streetcar. Ybor City was founded in 1887. A few, short years later (1895), a man named Hugh Macfarlane decided that, if Ybor City could thrive off the back of cigar making, he could create his own cigar town too. And he wasn't wrong. West Tampa became another cigar hub in Tampa and the cigar workers from Ybor City were eager to work in the newer factories. Unfortunately, this was well before the average American could afford a car and Tampa was still known as a swamp, thus making horses impractical also. The solution was to build a streetcar that connected the three Tampa neighborhoods (Downtown, Ybor, and West Tampa). The streetcar ran for decades until cars became more affordable and the tracks were paved over in favor of suburban living. The Armature Building is one of the last relics to show just how powerful Ybor City and West Tampa were to Tampa's growth. But you didn't come here for that.

Outdoor Seating, 2018

Lets discuss exactly how this is set up. You walk into the main entrance and you can venture to your left or to your right. To your right there are quite a few restaurants, ending with a (very) small market at the end selling vegetables and other goodies. To your left, there are more restaurants until you hit the bar, then you can make a right and hit another bar, and a few more restaurants. If you venture straight ahead, you end up at this beautiful outdoor seating area. I'm not sure if the music is nightly, just on weekends, or during special events, but there was music when I was there. I'm also not sure if the bar outside is always there, but they did have a bar outside as well. If you head outside and make an immediate right, you will run into one of their eight venue halls. There was a wedding going on when we went, so I didn't get a chance to check it out, but it looked very nice through the window. If you venture outside and walk straight back, you will find a stair set that will lead you to the upstairs venues. There's also a rooftop venue which I have not had the chance to explore, yet! 

Union by Commune + Co 2018

When Stormy and I went, the plan was to eat a little something at every venue. Unfortunately, we were hungry, so we ate two big meals from two different places and weren't able to fit anymore. First up is Union by Commune + Co, who specializes in, well, coffee. More specifically, pressurized coffee. Sound interesting? Well, check it out then! It'll be the very first booth you run into when entering from the main entrance. Stormy had herself a cup of something I forgot to write down and I had myself a cup of a tea that I also forgot to write down. The tea was incredibly gingery, though. Can't particularly say that it was my favorite, but I can see how others would love it. They will, however, allow you to try anything that is already made before committing. I can say, for the record, that unless you're a hardcore coffee and/or tea snob, this place might not be up your alley. That said, Stormy loved her coffee. If you're looking for coffee or tea that you can't find anywhere else, or you have trouble finding just the right flavor, this may be your new favorite coffee place. 

BnB, 2018

So, Carlos posted about some brisket at the Heights Public Market, and I absolutely had to try it. The system they have set up to get your food works in just about every environment except for this one. You get a number, they call your number. The problem is that there really is no separation from the crowds and people waiting for their food. It will bottleneck really quickly. Another problem is that I just really didn't care for their food. It was also kind of expensive. $13 for a plate of brisket, one side, a tiny thing of coleslaw (and really, who eats that? Anybody?), and two sweet Hawaiian roles. It's important to note that I am not a BBQ guy, but I found the brisket to be really dry, the fries weren't particularly good, and the sauce (Texas Heat, for those wondering) was a weird, tangy sauce that didn't add anything to the meat. This might have something to do with us going on opening day, but I really wasn't impressed with this meal. As I said, though, I'm not a BBQ guy. Try it out for yourself and tell me what you think!

Empamama's, 2018

Let me take a minute to tell you that there are two ways to my heart: Spanish food and Cuban sandwiches. Even better if that Spanish food is of the Cuban variety. So, when I heard that someone took a Cuban sandwich and put it into an empanada, I was intrigued. This is something I hadn't heard of through all the reviews coming out about this place. Is it any good? Is it worth spending money on? The answer is an astounding yes. This is the unsung hero of the Heights Public Market. There are very few times that I will encourage people to mess with a Cuban sandwich, but this is one of them. The pork is perfect, the ham comes through just right, a little salami to remind you that they know what's in a real Cuban, pickles to round out the meat, Swiss cheese to round it all out, and then some "Tampa Girl" sauce. If you're ever looking for a Cuban sandwich that you can eat on the go, this is what you need. Actually, even if you have time to sit and enjoy a Cuban sandwich, this is what you need. 

Cru Cellars, 2018

Now that you've eaten, you're full, take some time to wander around the rest of the market. There's two bars in the Cru Cellars and Fine & Dandy, you can venture outside and sit at one of the tables to get an amazing view of the Hillsborough River, go inside and check out what the actual market is selling, grab some ice cream from Astro, or venture into A.W. Mercantile and check out what they're offering. The Heights Public Market is one of those places that you go to spend a few hours. It is definitely a destination. There are a ton of places to try.

Bar, 2018

Things to know before you go:
- The Heights Public Market has their own parking lot! And it's HUGE! You shouldn't struggle to find a spot.
- Come hungry and try a few small things from each vendor so you can check more of them out. 
- While the parking lot is huge, the seating area is not. Finding a place to eat might be a challenge, especially on the weekend. 
- This place gets busy. Prepare for a wait at the more popular restaurants. 

What is your favorite restaurant at the Heights Public Market? Do you enjoy the concept? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt. Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. If you'd like to meet other people who love Tampa, consider joining our Facebook Group. Thank you all and I will see you next time!