Ulele [Tampa, Florida]

I really want this place to be discussed, as it is probably the most celebrated new restaurant in Tampa of the last couple of years. I have mixed feelings, but I am most interested in hearing everyone else’s experiences.

I’ve eaten dinner here once, attended a private event here once, and hosted a very large party here a few weeks ago where I chose the food, apps, bar selections, etc. For those not familiar, it’s a restaurant that was built as an anchor of the major redevelopment in a long-abandoned area of central Tampa. It’s on the edge of the newest, shiniest public park in Tampa, and has gorgeous views of the Hillsborough River. It is a cavernous, exposed-brick building atop an old natural spring that had been closed/abandoned. A prominent restaurant group/family, put a lot of money into the project, and built a beautiful building and a brewery on site.

It hits all the right notes in 2015 America: re-purposed old building/area, casual upscale interior design, “local” cuisine, and even gets in on the brewery craze.

The place is all the rage in Tampa. Anyone who is anyone goes (or tries to) and talks about it. It’s the kind of place where they will tell you with a straight face the wait is 2.25 hours. This has happened to us at least twice, then we decided not to try anymore. (They take reservations, but after our dinner experience, I never really considered it a destination place, so I only popped in before because we were already at the park. )

It’s always swarming with people, and it really is a lovely space. I don’t begrudge them their success. God knows there are places with worse food in Tampa with similarly stellar reputations. Nothing has every blown me away, including the beer, and I just don’t think at that high price point there’s sufficient tastiness to be had. That’s my beef.

What has your experience been? Am I missing something?

Was just there today with friends and about 3 weeks ago with just my wife. For me to want to eat some where soon after visiting is not the norm. The fish dishes are done well. Fresh and cooked correctly. It has a good vibe and I’ve not found it pretentious. The bar and drinks are nice and the bartenders engaging. All personnel have been friendly and with reservations we have been seated within minutes of our reservation. The price point of mid $20s for a fish dish is pretty average and the portions more than adequate. I’d like to see other beers like porters, stouts and more ales. As you said the space is nice and the grounds spacious for hanging out for drinks with friends

Great, thanks for posting. Based on what you’re saying, I think I’ll make a reservation soon and check it out again.

I agree with you on the beers. When the brewmaster gave me a tour (a heckuva nice guy with a long pedigree of beer-making) he asked what kind of beer I most enjoyed, and I responded, “Belgian ales”. He admitted he didn’t have anything like that, but gave me something “close”.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr