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Four years just flew by, your student who seemed to be a freshman yesterday has completed all those courses, gotten through all the tests and is now ready for the cap and gown. It’s hard to believe that graduation is just around the corner, but it is, and it’s time to make reservations for your victory celebration. After you’ve booked your hotel rooms (for suggestions, check out our Hotels blog), you’ll need to make restaurant reservations and plans ahead of time. You know that USF holds Commencement three times per year, with May being the largest and busiest. So you’ll want to reserve a place for your graduate and family as soon as you can, as all restaurants will get extremely busy. Get this done soon and the rest will be easy. You’ll have plenty more to organize with moving out, dealing with travel requests, and tears, etc… so be sure you get the plans all set for graduation.
Here are our USF parent-tested recommendations for a lovely dinner listed below. Many may require a deposit to hold your spot or at the least, a credit card number. Obviously, this is not our full list so please check out our blog on Restaurants, which is more comprehensive and we are always updating as needed. We suggest that you make your plans early, especially for Fall and Spring Graduation weekends. It’s a time to celebrate, without last-minute worries about where to eat a nice dinner.
All these local restaurants are now taking reservations!
Bahama Breeze – Laid-back chain eatery featuring Caribbean entrees & tropical cocktails amid beachy decor.
Bern’s Steakhouse – This very upscale restaurant is truly an experience. You can’t beat the steaks, seafood, and the wines. You must ask for a tour where you will see their wine cellar holding over a half-million bottles, as well as the kitchen where you can see your future fish dish swimming in the tanks. There is also an amazing Dessert Room that has 48 private rooms with a menu like no other. Bern’s is located in South Tampa and has a dress code. It is business casual to semi-formal with jackets and ties recommended, but not required. Be prepared because no flip-flops, t-shirts, or jeans are allowed.
Brio Tuscan Grill – Warm, relaxed Italian eatery serving Tuscan-inspired grill fare, wine & cocktails. Located in International Plaza and Bay Street
Charley’s Steak House – Upscale, long-standing restaurant known for delivering wood-fired, aged steaks & seafood classics.
Cooper’s Hawk –Upscale chain serving New American fare paired with house-label wines in a contemporary setting.
Ocean Prime – This is our favorite! Although it is a chain restaurant, the Tampa location is awesome. You never know who will be there, and the sides are to die for. Whether you sit at the bar, or at a table, your experience will be very satisfying. It is a great place to people watch, sit by a fire pit, or have a smoking, bubbling cocktail (It’s called Berries & Bubbles). They have a couple of private rooms which can be used for graduation or birthday dinners. Trust me, you will love this place.
Noble Crust– Modern spot for Italian & Southern Fare
Oak and Ola – Located near Armature Works. A modern European restaurant with seasonal changes to the menu.
Oxford Exchange – Oxford Exchange has a menu of fresh, simple meals that feature the best seasonal, local and organic ingredients. They serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and weekend brunch.
Oystercatchers – Warm, relaxed Italian eatery serving Tuscan-inspired grill fare, wine & cocktails. Located in the Grand Hyatt Hotel
Rocco’s Tacos– A true taste of Mexico within a fun casual environment. Hundreds of tequila options, authentic Mexican specialties and our famous tableside guac made to order.
Stonewood Grill & Tavern –Located in Tampa Palms, Stonewood has great steaks and sides. Make a reservation to avoid a wait.
Texas de Brazil – Upscale Brazilian eatery featuring all-you-can-eat grilled meat carved tableside & a salad bar.
The Columbia – The oldest restaurant in Florida founded in Ybor City in 1905.Award-winning Spanish/Cuban cuisine & internationally acclaimed wine list. Flamenco dance performances nightly Mon.-Sat. Open daily for lunch & dinner.
The Rusty Pelican -Sophisticated bar & grill offering classic American fare in a formal dining room with water views.
The Refinery – Down-to-earth setting featuring an inspired menu of farm-to-table American dishes.
Ulele – Please call. Located downtown on Highland Ave, this unique restaurant on the Hillsborough River is popular. It has native-inspired dishes and a ten- foot diameter barbacoa grill. It is on Tampa’s Riverwalk, so a stroll along the river is worth the trip.