Ybor City, the historic Cuban district in Tampa, is one of my favorite places to visit. Mr. R. and I spent last St. Patrick’s Day there and we had a blast. I know what you’re thinking, St. Patrick’s Day, Cuban district…??? But go with me on this.
I feel the same way about hotels that I do about restaurants, which is to say, I prefer to avoid big box chains and stay in smaller, funky, boutique places. Which brought us to the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn in Ybor City.
This hotel is absolutely beautiful, inside and out. Its sixteen guest rooms, all located on the second floor, are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and accessories, as is the lobby and the other common areas. The inn is remarkably affordable and because there are so few rooms, the place did not feel crowded. It is, ahem, supposedly haunted, but we can report that we had no disturbances during our stay.
I found our corner king size room breathtaking. We had windows on two walls, making for lots of natural light. One of the french doors on the front of the hotel opened onto a Juliet balcony overlooking the street.
Again, it was St. Patrick’s Day, so we went in search of an Irish bar, and found a terrific one within staggering distance of the hotel, The James Joyce Irish Pub. It looks just like an Irish pub should, all dark wood and bookcases, and being a holiday, it was packed, but we managed to snag a high top table right in the front window. We parked ourselves there for the next five or six hours, enjoying live music and libations, before stumbling back to our splendid room at the Don Vicente.
The problem with the Don Vicente is that it is an extremely popular wedding venue, making it difficult to secure lodging on weekends, especially Saturday nights. Which is why, on our recent trip to Tampa Bay Comic Con, we ended up at the Hampton Inn in Ybor City (eyeroll, whatever). There was nothing at all wrong with the hotel, it was just crowded and corporate.
On Saturday night, Mr. R. and I had planned to attend Comic Con after party at The Castle, a dance club in Ybor City. The party started at 10:00 and required costumes. Alas, after a somewhat strenuous day, I was not feeling it. So instead, we set out to find a bit of dinner.
We ended up at a place called Hamburger Mary’s, because after a long day, doesn’t a hamburger sound great? Who knew they had a drag show? Certainly not the family with small children that abruptly got up and left the restaurant. I had to switch to Mr. R.’s side of the table to watch the show and I ended up digging all the singles out of my purse so he could give some to the performers. We had a blast!
After the show, I made Mr. R. take me back to the James Joyce one more time so we could catch Kirk, the guy who plays there on Fridays and Saturdays. Interestingly enough, we got the same table we’d had on St. Patrick’s Day (or maybe they just keep that table for us, that’s probably it) and settled in to enjoy. Kirk plays all kinds of songs on his acoustic guitar, but after he played Galway Girl, Mr. R. used some of my singles to request Dirty Old Town, my love’s favorite Irish song (you can find it on YouTube by The Pogues or The Prodigals).
It was before 10:00 when we staggered back to the Hampton (eyeroll, whatever) and we knew we’d made the right decision about skipping the party. Ybor City is a really cool town. Next time you head to Tampa, try this little district.