What's fueling Tampa's restaurant Renaissance?

Tampa, Florida -- It may be yet another sign of an economic turn around in Tampa.

In the past few months, dozens of restaurants have opened, and the area's appetite for new eateries shows no signs of slowing down. And seasoned restaurateurs and newcomers apparently think the timing is a recipe for success.

On Monday, Bob Buckhorn was taking place in what has become a ritual for the Tampa mayor: cutting the ribbon on yet another new restaurant. This time it was Yoeman's Cask and Lion, a British-themed eatery in downtown Tampa.

Buckhorn says he's far from tired of taking part in the openings, "although my waistline is warning me I should stop eating at them," he jokes, "this tells me that everything we are doing is working."

It's all part of the restaurant Renaissance going on in Tampa. Dozens of new dining spots have recently opening, and more on the way.

Small investors like restaurant owners Gary and Diana Stanis, who opened Wayl's Fresh Cafe on Morgan Street in May, have decided to put their money where people's mouths are.

"Tampa is becoming an area where people want to walk around, and they are becoming foodies," said Diana.

"The economy is in full swing," added Gary, "and we are right in the heart of it right now."

Apparently, restaurant royalty also finds the timing to be tasty.

At Hyde Park Village, they are making room for an upscale restaurant owned by former Outback executives, called On Swann.

In the same shopping plaza, the Gonzmart family, known for its Columbia restaurants, is bringing back a taste of nostalgia with Tampa's classic burger joint called Goody Goody.

So, is there a concern that with so many eateries emerging that there may be a gastronomic glut?

"Downtown Tampa is really coming alive," said Marc Brown, who operates Yoeman's Cask and Lion. "We feel like the more business and restaurants and retail and everything, the better for everyone."

In fact, city officials hope it's a trend that feeds - on itself.

"It tells me the downtown is booming as we know, and all that residential and retail space is starting to fill in, which is exactly what we need," said Mayor Buckhorn.


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