Tampa Bay has stepped up its game over the last ten years rivaling nearby St. Petersburg in terms of shopping, arts, entertainment and dining. It is no doubt that it would take more than a weekend to unlock all that the destination has to offer a local or a tourist. Tampa’s nine distinct entertainment districts allow discerning visitors to explore and create a unique travel experience that best matches an individual’s personal style and needs.

My match was South Tampa’s SoHo (short for South Howard) and the Hyde Park area, a vibrant pedestrian and bike friendly neighborhood that comes alive after five.

Tampa’s SoHo/ Hyde Park district is upscale, urban and trendy. So much so, it has become a top residential pick for young professionals on the fast track. But the mansions along Bayshore Drive, a 4.5 mile stretch of uninterrupted sidewalk with spectacular panoramic water views, remind us old money and the establishment still dominate.

The Epicurean, part of the exclusive Marriott Autograph Collection, was my weekend home.

The luxury boutique property, featuring 137 rooms, is a culinary concept hotel created via a strategic partnership. The iconic Bern’s Steak House, best known for its aged steaks and 500,000+ wine collection, and Mainsail Lodging and Development Group joined forces and opened the hotel in December 2013 to rave reviews.

The reception area wows at first glance with a welcoming wall creation featuring over 500 wine crate panels.

Four unique food and wine art themes -Grow, Create, Imbibe and Indulge- prevail in the halls and the guest rooms. Cookbooks line the library bookshelves, vintage wine crates, railroad carts, a whiskey barrel  and whimsical kitchen collectibles grace the common areas and outrageous art works – like an 8-foot high knife and fork – add fanciful accents to the overall décor.

The hotel easily outshines any other property boasting its very own Bern’s Fine Wines and Spirit Shop. The shop features an impressive inventory with an entire room dedicated to rare wines like Chateau Margaux. For groups, the shop can coordinate special multi-course wine-paired dinners and tasting events.

As a self-proclaimed wine diva, the ability to purchase a great bottle of wine without leaving the lobby was tres magnifique!

Need I say more, from arrival to departure, my stay was truly… love at first tasting.

The Epicurean team successfully engages its guests with an array of delightful distractions designed to elevate the experience. The hotel creatively caters to “connoisseurs of life” – those who celebrate life with all the flavors it has to offer.

Hotel highlights include:

Complimentary Bike Cruisers:  Guests are encouraged to explore the adjacent tree-lined residential streets and beautiful Bayshore Boulevard.

Élevage:  An inviting intimate restaurant with rustic meets modern design elements. Executive Chef, Chad Johnson – a 2012 James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef in the South – offers a new spin on classic Southern dishes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

EDGE – “Social Drinkery”:  A rooftop lounge featuring wine, beer and handcrafted specialty cocktails. Snag a seat early to savor the artisanal drink/small plates menu and social scene at this late night hot spot.

Chocolate Pi:  A sweet indulgence shop with tantalizing treats ranging from salted caramel pops to heavenly homemade macaroons.

Evangeline: A delectable spa featuring signature services and products that are true to the hotel’s prevailing wine and food theme. Spa sommeliers pamper guests with custom facial, body wraps and massages featuring farm-fresh natural ingredients and essential oils. A favorite is the Dulce Delight, a sweet triple play spa service.  The dessert-inspired full body treatment starts with a caramel-coffee salt rub exfoliation followed by a warm butter brûlée /chocolate hydration scrub and finishes with a softening and soothing oil-infused massage. For pure perfection and the ultimate recipe for relaxation – pair with a few glasses of wine or champagne. The Spa’s sensational wall of 20,000 corks is sure to leave a lasting impression!

The Epicurean Theatre:  A state-of-the-art Viking demonstration kitchen complete with two 70-inch televisions and a 40 seat culinary theatre. Classes are far more exciting than the usual Home Economics course. Curriculum includes: Champagne 101, Craft Beer, Tea Blending, Sustainable Winemaking & Seafood, Food Pairing and much more.


Fast Facts: 

  • 4 Floors – 130 Rooms & 7 Suites ranging from 300 to 700 square feet
  • 3 Meeting Rooms/ 5200 square feet of total Meeting Space
  • Complimentary Hi-Speed Wireless Internet
  • Pool/Jacuzzi/Fitness Center
  • Roof Top Bar
  • Restaurant & Pâtisserie
  • Full Service Spa
  • Valet Parking
  • Concierge Services
  • Smoke-free/ No Pets

Rates: Seasonal.  $150-$325

For special promotions and reservations, call 855-U-AWAKEN or visit The Epicurean online.

Best Bets:

Hyde Park Village:  A quaint local outdoor shopping & entertainment center with boutiques, cafes, retail shops, bars and restaurants. Be sure to check out Cinébistro on Swann Avenue, an upscale dine-in cinema, offering first run flicks and a first class menu. Here you can enjoy a full bar and tasty bites ranging from popcorn to bistro fare in a luxe high back leather rocking chair. A special treat: the first Sunday of the month is the Hyde Park’s Farmer’s Market featuring food, live music and hand crafts.

Daily Eats: A top pick for the yuppie crowd serving up hearty eats and a casual dining experience. The robust menu offers tried-and-true diner dishes with a twist.  Basic… but sooo much better… from breakfast bowls to burgers.

The Harry Waugh Dessert Room c/o Bern’s Steak House: Named in honor of Bern’s dear friend, Harry Waugh, an internationally renowned wine connoisseur.  Reserve one of 48 private booths for an intimate and decadently rich experience. With over 50 dessert choices, 1000 dessert wines and spirits…and your very own stereo sound system, you have the ultimate recipe for a little sugared romance. Not playing your song, no worries. A wall phone will direct dial Bern’s dessert room pianist for a live music request.

Cigar City Brewing: An award-winning brewery that taps into Tampa’s colorful and flavorful history. Tours and tastings offered Wednesday through Sunday. A tasting of Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA is well worth the trip. Located on Spruce Street behind Target and Home Depot on North Dal Mabry Highway just a15 minute drive east of SoHo/Hyde Park.

CityPASS: Explore Tampa Bay’s Best Attractions. Sightseeing at a Savings! Each booklet saves travelers up to 38% off of combined admission price to Busch Gardens, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and more.