Great Society: Touring the Nightlife on Soho

Of all the advantages of living in South Tampa, social life is high on the list. Everyone’s happy to see some buzz finally cropping up downtown, and Ybor City still has a few worthwhile destinations, but the SoHodistrict is the real sweet spot for bars, nightclubs, pubs, lounges, and every other possible combinations of people, drinking, and music.  Here’s a quick overview of some of the best and most interesting spots on South Howard.

MacDinton’s, 405 South Howard Avenue ( What most of us are looking for in a bar is a comfortable place to unwind after work, hang out with our friends, and maybe make some new ones before heading home.  A place like MacDinton’s fits the bill, with a homey Irish pub atmosphere and a neighborly culture including frequent charity events and fun runs (Jogging and Guinness – a mysterious match).  It’s also the place to be in Tampa if you’re a soccer fan.

World of BeerSoHo, 402 South Howard Avenue (link: It’s a chain among one-of-a-kind neighborhood joints, but you can’t fault World of Beer’s comfortable atmosphere or its seemingly infinite variety of tap and bottled beers.  The South Tampa location features what is clearly more important to a bar even than beer – Trivia, starting at 7pm.  Watch out, though, as Wednesday’s discounts for University faculty and students might attract undesirable characters, like UT philosophy professors looking to talk Nietzche over a goblet of Tripel.  THE HORROR.

The Dubliner, 2307 West Azeele Street(link: It’s not as if you can have too many comfortable Irish pubs with great food. Like MacDinton’s, the Dubliner’s menu features Irish classics like Sheperd’s Pie and Fish and Chips. But the Dubliner claims the distinction of featuring an Irish Nacho Pizza, which is . . . well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

The Green Lemon,915 South Howard Avenue–( – Formerly The Lime (see what they did there?) this is mostly a restaurant, with a sprawling Mexican menu.  But they also have a huge, and surprisingly reasonably priced, tequila list.

The Kennedy (2408 West Kennedy Blvd.) andHyde Park Café (1801 W. Platt Street) (links: and – Okay, in all likelihood you’re happy that your days of Jello shots, Red Bull and vodka, and sweaty dancing with multiple anonymous partners is behind you.  But sometimes even the best grown-ups get the urge to cut loose and relive the worst/best nights of college.  With throbbing dancefloors, celebrity appearances from the likes of Lady Gaga, and parties with names like “Menage Mondays,” thesetwo clubs have your arrested development covered.  Just don’t blame me if the music sounds like robots going to the bathroom, or if that’s where you end up at the end of the night, curled into the fetal position and longing for your couch.

Mangroves, 208 South Howard Avenue ( Luckily, catching up on the nightclub scene doesn’t have to be synonymous with a barrage of cheap booze and brain-melting music. If you’ve got a yin for partying but don’t mind being able to hear yourself think, Mangroves offers a more refined nightclub/lounge experience, including some amazing food.  Whether you’re a real high roller, or just want to play one for the night, their VIP bottle service will let you keep an eye on the action from a comfy private booth.  Oh, and ladies, hopefully the classy atmosphere will help you use your better judgment on Friday nights, when you can drink all you like between 9 and 11pm for just $10.

Get Your Kid a Great Education from International Baccalaureate Programs in South Tampa

All parents want the absolute best for their kids, which is why families looking for a place to live often put quality schooling at the top of their Needs list.  In South Tampa, there are several excellent private schools providing top-notch experiences for students at all levels.  But when planning for the future, it’s also worth considering International Baccalaureate programs, which offer a more challenging course of study within the public school system.

The idea for the International Baccalaureate (or IB) was born just after World War II, and its goal has always been to educate globally conscious citizens as a way to foster cooperation and peace.  In practice, this means not just encouraging awareness of other cultures, but fostering critical thinking, research, and writing skills – which are great for promoting world peace and excelling in the 21st century job market.  The programs tend to attract gifted and ambitious students with engaged parents, giving kids who join them a great social advantage on top of a good education.

IB has been established in Tampa high schools for years, but have recently expanded at the elementary and middle school levels (  South Tampa is home to IB programs at MacFarlane Elementary (1721 North MacDill Avenue), Roland Park K-8 (1510 North Manhattan Avenue), and Robinson High School (6311 South Lois Avenue).  The IB programs for Elementary and Middle School Students are what’s known as the Early Years and Middle Years programs, and include things like early language training (most often Spanish or French) and an array of arts programs that are, sadly, less available than they used to be in more typical public school programs.

After all that preparation, High School is where the IB program really comes into full force.  Earning an IB diploma requires an array of tests and projects, including 200 hours of extracurricular work and community service, special courses in logic, and an extended essay. Robinson High is already regularly listed as one of the best high schools in the nation, so you can imagine that adding the IB program gives students an educational experience above and beyond what you can expect almost anywhere else.

Because these programs are designated Magnet schools, they’re accessible to students who live outside of their regular feeder areas.  But those living within those areas have priority, as do students already in magnet programs For example, if your kid’s in a magnet elementary school, they’ll have priority in getting into a magnet middle – so living in South Tampa and starting early are important to getting into MacFarlane, Roland, and Robinson.  The application process, through the School Choice program of the Hillsborough Public Schools, is about as complicated as you’d expect (link  Still, to get a private-school quality education without those hefty tuition bills, a little paperwork seems worth it to me.

A South Tampa Renaissance: WS Development’s Plans for Hyde Park Village

There was big news for South Tampa just a few weeks ago when the Boston-based firm WS Development confirmed that it was buying Hyde Park Village for $45 million (link:  It’s great news for South Tampa for a lot of reasons, showing a huge vote of confidence in the area and opening up even more exciting possibilities.

It’s no secret that Hyde Park Village ( has been struggling a bit, with a number of empty storefronts and buildings that are beginning to show their age (most of the current structures date from the 1980s).  WS has said they’ll be investing heavily to spruce up the place physically, as well as lining up incentives to attract new tenants, and pursuing new ideas for making Hyde Park Village more of a destination. If you’re wondering about the extent of their ambition, the new developers have taken to referring to the project as “South Tampa’s Downtown.”

Just as important as the new energy is what the purchase represents for South Tampa going forward. The $45 million purchase price represents huge growth over the $31 Million paid by MW Hyde Park LLC in 2005.  That shows that investors have tagged South Tampa, and to some extent the city as a whole, as good bets.  It’s the kind of purchase that could very well trigger other investors to follow with similar or connected projects.

The concrete details of Hyde Park Village’s future will be worked out in collaboration between the developers and current tenants, who will get a say in what they want to see.  One intriguing possibility would be resurrecting plans for condos within the development – space was cleared for them years ago, but they were put on hold during the downturn (  If those condos get built, they could be a really great place to live, within a few minute’s walk of great shopping at Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, and Pottery Barn – not to mention all the other great offerings of South Tampa.

South Tampa Inventory

South Tampa’s inventory includes an array of vernacular styles. Mid-Century Modern, Spanish Revival, Coastal to Bungalow in over a dozen neighborhoods.

South Tampa Housing Market Heats Up

Bit by bit, around Florida and around the country, the tender shoots of a recovery in the housing market are pushing tentatively towards the light.  But in Tampa Bay, those shoots are already beefing up and putting down roots – and in strongholds of value including South Tampa, things are looking a little bit like Jack and the Beanstalk.

The summer has been hot in more ways than one.  Stats from Florida Realtors show that in July, single family home sales were up around 20%, while average sale prices were up 18% and inventory has plummeted 17%.  Those numbers are even more dramatic in Tampa Bay, where July saw a year-over-year price bump of 27% on average, with volume up 20%.

But as anyone moving in this market knows, the biggest impacts of the bounce are clustering in South Tampa and a few other areas just outside of downtown.  Developers are scrambling to grab land in the area south of Kennedy Blvd, and if you’re a sports fan, you might have heard that Rob Gronkowski stands to make a tidy profit off the South Tampa property he bought just a year ago.  Some guys have all the luck, huh?

Of course, these areas never lost as much value in the first place as some of the less stable areas of Tampa Bay.  I’d say there are a few factors in both the area’s stability, and its popularity as a destination for money on the rebound.  Access is an obvious one – most South Tampa addresses put you within 15 minutes of downtown.

But I’d say the root of the area’s value is more subtle.  With an abundance of lifestyle amenities on the main thoroughfares and well-tended homes in the neighborhood, South Tampa marries access with a small-town feel.  You won’t find that in the uplanned, chain-store dominated sprawl of Clearwater or Temple Terrace.  The variety – from business networking at Buddy Brew Coffee to downing a Guinness at MacDinton’s – means South Tampa has a lot to offer both young singles and professionals with growing families.  And ultimately, whatever the ups and downs of the giant, confusing financial machine that has so much sway over the real estate market, that’s what really matters – you want a great house in a place where it’s great to live.  South Tampa definitely qualifies.

Hyde Park Village Fresh Market

Aaaaaaaah, fall in Florida.  In some parts of the country, chilly denizens dream of summer all year round – but in here, fall is the real golden time, when the weather becomes friendlier and the tourists pack up, leaving the still-warm beaches to the locals.  As if we weren’t already spoiled, fall is also a great season for locally-grown produce, with cooler weather making way for broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and an array of fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, and fennel.


If your mouth is watering at the thought of fresh, locally-grown produce, there’s a great place in Hyde Park to scratch your itch. Now in its third year, the Hyde Park Village Fresh Market expertly serves the resurgence of food-consciousness over the last ten years, and the first Market of the Fall is coming October 6th.  The Market returns the first Sunday of every month from 10am to 3pm, with more than a hundred vendors, local food, handicrafts, live music, and some consistently great people-watching.

Everything old, it seems, is new again.  Many methods of handcrafting food and household goods fell out of favor when our grandparents’ generation happily adopted convenience foods and manufactured goods.  But in the U.S. and elsewhere, a movement for more local and organic food has formed around activists like Michael Pollan, whose book The Omnivore’s Dilemma became the bible for a food movement pushing for more local, healthy food.


Vendors will bring herbs and plants from Lakeland, hydroponic produce, eggs from Seffner, locally-made chicken coops, organic fertilizer, and more.  The Fresh Market also offer a unique Kid’s Market where sprouting foodies and crafters can sell goods they helped create.  With 10 to 15 booths each month, the Kid’s Market aims to foster an entrepreneurial drive in kids, and also, hopefully, teach them something about the value of creating something with their own hands.

You could say that the Hyde Park Fresh Market offers just what every omnivore needs to solve their dilemma.  Head out to Hyde Park Village on October 6th to get a taste of the creative eclecticism of one of Tampa’s most exciting neighborhoods!

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