Welcome to The Short List. Each week we'll pick a topic and share our favorite – or, in some cases, maybe our least favorite – things about the Bay area.
Perhaps you’re working the graveyard shift. Could be that you need fuel for a marathon study session. Maybe you’ve had a great night out on the town, and you’re not quite ready to go home. They’re all good reasons for needing late-night eats, but the point is: You’re hungry, and hunger doesn’t wait until morning.
Here are our five favorite places open late in Tampa:
Taco Bus, 913 E. Hillsborough Ave. -- The original location on Hillsborough Avenue is as much a Tampa landmark as any non-wheeled structure in the city. It’s always open, and the traditional, Mexican food is always fresh and delicious. The conchita pibil (shredded pork marinated in achiote and bitter orange) tacos are a must-try. Don’t be surprised to find a long line at 2 a.m.
Three Coins Diner, 7410 N. Nebraska Ave. – This classic greasy spoon serves up an extensive menu of blue-collar diner staples 24 hours a day in Seminole Heights. Slide into one of the ancient-looking booths, or saddle up to the long counter with the other night owls and enjoy the best breakfast you can get before you’ve been to bed. The best part: You usually can find enough money in your couch cushions to pay for a meal.
The Rack, 1809 W. Platt St. – It’s a high-energy, high-volume pool hall, dressed up as a trendy Hyde Park bar, offering a variety of tasty sushi (which, by the way, is very hard to come by in Tampa – tasty or otherwise – after 11 p.m.). You can satisfy your craving for a Hawaii 5-0 roll (tempura shrimp, avocado, pineapple and cucumber topped with coconut) every night until 3 a.m.
New York, New York Pizza Bar and Grill, 1512 E. Seventh Ave. – Is this the best pizza in Tampa? No. Will it burn the roof of your mouth with flaming hot mozzarella? Probably. Do either of those things matter? No, because the slices are huge, greasy and cheap; the crust is foldable; and you’re watching a parade of Ybor City drunks, goths and hipsters who are more entertaining than any dinner theater. And it stays open until 4 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
La Teresita, 3248 W. Columbus Drive – Cuban food is a Tampa tradition, no matter what hour it is. La Teresita’s menu has a lot of solid classics to choose from, like the puerco asado (roast pork) or the rabo encendido (oxtail), but it’s their basic yellow rice that is the best around. Suck down a "cortadito," a strong Cuban espresso topped with steamed milk, and you’ll be wide awake for the drive home. They’re open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday.