Gasparilla Guide 2023: Everything You Need To Know

  I t's that time of year! Gasparilla season. The pirates have taken over.  Me and another pirate, 2017 Another year has come and that means it's time for another season of Gasparilla. Lets get some of the more important questions out of the way real quick: How much does it cost? Nothing. Gasparilla is a free event. They do offer paid upgrades, but the parade itself is free. Where is it? The Children's parade and Day parade are off of Bayshore Ave in South Tampa into the Channel District in Downtown Tampa. The Knight Parade is on 7th Ave in Ybor City. Where do we park? I've found that the easiest place to park is the parking garages in Ybor. They offer parking + a bus into Downtown for a reasonable price (note: This has not been announced for 2023 as of now. This will change as the event draws nearer.).  You can also park on neighborhood streets. You'll get a few individuals who will try to scare you away. Keep in mind that they do not own the road and you are free

CLOSED: Mortar & Pestle: Coffee, Food, Alcohol? Sounds Like a Good Time!

There are a lot of opinions about this restaurant. Lets see what the Exploring Tampa crew thinks!

Mortar & Pestle, 2019

Coming from the ashes of a popular food truck, Mortar & Pestle is a concept that thrives to bring back the old timey pharmacies. You know the ones... You go to get a soda from the fountain, you wander the aisles, make your way to the lunch counter, then leave with your prescriptions. Located on the same block as local favorites Angry Chair Brewing and Trip's Diner, there's no lack of business to be had. This is also one of the few places in Seminole Heights with a real parking lot. Had you never read a review of this place and had you not heard about their filing for bankruptcy, you'd be impressed. The inside of the building is a hipster's paradise, with the industrial looking tables and chairs, the high ceiling, the steampunk-esque inspired decor. The inside of this building is cool. Next door is also a fully functional pharmacy that I wasn't aware was there until well after I left. There's also a rooftop bar, which would've been cool to check out had it not been so cold. But that's not why you came here.

Inside, 2019

If I had to describe this place in one word, inconsistent would be that word. I had read multiple angry reviews, and I've read the reviews praising this place, and I can see exactly where both are coming from. I do want to take a minute to point out that the picture above was a Saturday around lunch. We were three of seven costumers. I wasn't even sure the place was open until I pulled on the door. We had two waitresses (I guess because it was so slow?), one of which was incredibly rude and the other who was a sweetheart, but had absolutely no knowledge on what was on the menu. On the bright side, I was tipped off that their smoothies contained absolutely no fruit and they charged premium pricing for them, so thank you for that. There was a lot of waiting around for a server during our visit. I can't say for sure that this is a common occurrence, but I can say that everyone I've brought this issue up to has agreed that the service is severely lacking.

Beer, 2019

You're going to notice the weird quirks more than anything. Stormy ordered herself an iced coffee and they brought her a hot coffee. When she mentioned it was supposed to be iced, they brought her a cup of ice. I'm no expert on the nuances of iced coffee, but according to her, you're supposed to brew it with ice. She was incredibly unhappy with the coffee. I, myself, decided to order a beer from their modest list of Florida beer. I don't remember what I ordered, but it came I got this ridiculous measuring cup (pictured above). I inquired about this and was told that people were complaining that they were being shorted on beer (what?), so they started putting their beer in a measuring cup (this is just a taste of what you can experience, service wise). I asked if I could get a pint glass instead and was given a dirty glass. I brought it to the server's attention and asked for another... And received another dirty glass. I tried one more time, was given a third dirty glass, and decided to just drink it out of this stupid measuring cup. Stormy had asked the server about two different meals, then settled on one. When the food came out, the server brought Stormy both meals. The napkins and utensils came out covered in coffee grounds. The bathrooms have a full sized window in them. There are a lot of little quirks that you have to deal with.

Pork Sandwich, 2019

While this review may seem incredibly negative, lets get to the one highlight: The food. I didn't necessarily come here to be wowed by the waitress or to figure out where to put windows in my bathroom, so the food was the important thing. And the pork on this sandwich was absolutely amazing. I usually smother my pulled pork in bbq sauce to make it edible, but this pork was so tender I didn't have to do that. The coleslaw added just the right touch to the sandwich, and the bread complimented everything nicely. The real upside was the size of the dish. I'm a big dude and this was more than enough to fill me. The fries were also really good, had I had more room to finish them. If only they managed the rest of the restaurant like they did their food, they may not be in bankruptcy right now.

Chicken & Waffles, 2019

Stormy settled on the Chicken & Waffles and, as you can see from the picture, she was more than full by the time she was finished. The waffle was easily the best waffle I've ever eaten, with a nice crunch and just the right sweetness. The whipped cream was also fruit loop whipped cream which, according to Stormy, was "cool.". The chicken used was a nice cut of chicken breast, fried to perfection. The potatoes good, but the veggies they put into the potatoes gave off a little kick, which Stormy wasn't into. She did state that the potatoes were decent, though she wishes they had sour cream because she's a heathen. 

Inside, 2019

Things to know before you go:
- They do have a parking lot.
- There is no "typical" experience here. Inconsistency is key.
- The service is easily some of the worst you'll get in Tampa, much less Seminole Heights.
- Patience is a virtue.
- The food will make up for any other negative experience you may have.

What restaurant would you say has the best service in Tampa? Do you drink your coffee with ice? 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 (we have new designs!).  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!