Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Secret Tampa Bay Bonus Content: Niche Markets

This is another chapter that didn't make it into the final version of the book. I would have very much liked to include it, but for one thing it's hard to condense all of the unique and unusual markets in the Tampa Bay Area into just one chapter and still do them all justice. Secondly, once COVID-19 hit, many of these markets suspended their activities. Some have returned now while others have not. I'm sharing it with you here though, so that as we emerge eventually from the global pandemic, you will one day be able to enjoy them.

Niche Markets


Where and when can you find the freshest ethnic foods and local crafts?


From craft fairs and makers markets to fresh local produce and food trucks, whatever you’re craving you can probably find at one of the many markets throughout Tampa Bay. Some occur weekly like the St. Pete Sunday Farmers Market and the Ybor City Saturday Market. Others like the Fresh Market at Hyde Park and the North Tampa Market are held monthly. But among the ever-growing list of indie and farmers markets, some stand out as being truly unique and exceptional.

In lieu of having its own Little Italy, St. Petersburg has Mazzaro’s Italian Market. Occupying a full city block, it a labyrinth of European specialty shops under one roof where you’ll find a butcher, bakery, cafĂ© an impressive selection of wines and cheeses. What started as a mom and pop coffee roasting business has continually expanded over more than 20 years to include indoor and outdoor dining, catering and most recently a separate building for kitchen and home goods.

If it’s Thai food you’re hankering for, visit the local Buddhist temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (better known as Wat Tampa) on Sunday mornings. Starting around 8:30 AM, booths begin filling up with a variety of offerings including chicken satay, phat that, curry dishes, Som Dow, Guiteow, egg rolls, Thai tea and more. With a full plate in hand, you can make your way to the picnic tables along the river to meditate on the connection between culinary ecstasy and spiritual enlightenment.

More recently Coppertail Brewery began hosting its own night market on the second Friday of each month from 6 to 10 pm. Weather and temperatures permitting, the market is held outside behind the brewery and features a wide variety of local artists, artisans and boutiques with clothing, jewelry, vintage and repurposed goods.

There are dozens of regular, local farmers markets and craft fairs. If you want to see what’s happening when and where, is a good place to start.

Shop Local

What: Numerous specialty markets

Where: All throughout Tampa Bay

Cost: Free to browse, vendor pricing varies

Pro Tip: Visit Mazzaro’s on a weekday if you can to avoid the crowd. Similarly, at Wat Tampa demand for both food and parking spaces often exceeds supply – it’s best to arrive no later than 11 am. 


Monday, January 4, 2021

The Music Tree

 (The piece below was previously published on Atlas Obscura. You can see it here.)

A hurricane-stricken oak tree has been reborn as a beautiful chainsaw artwork.

Not to be confused with the nearby Singing Oak tree in New Orleans’ City Park, the “Music Tree” does not make any music but rather pays tribute to it. This dead oak at the south end of Bayou St. John has been reborn as beautiful chainsaw artwork. 

The tree survived the water and wind of Hurricane Katrina only to be struck and killed by a bolt of lightning in 2012 during Hurricane Isaac. At the behest of the organizers of New Orleans’ annual Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, master chainsaw artist Marlin Miller set about transforming the tree after its unfortunate fate. 

Miller carved snakes, a fleur de lis, a phoenix-like eagle, guitars, a piano keyboard, and a pelican into the trunk of the tree. The gnarled branches became birds in flight. He drew from the area’s history for inspiration, specifically when the bayou served as the entryway for the French founding fathers of the city some 300 years ago—a passage likely witnessed by the old oak tree.

Know Before You Go
The tree is easily visible most of the year. It stands alone by the intersection of Orleans Avenue and Bayou St. John. For one weekend each year, however, the shores are packed with visitors to the city's music festival.