Wat Mongkolratanram Tampa is a Buddhist temple in the heart of Hillsborough County, near downtown Tampa. Every Sunday, it’s open to the public for a Thai food market. It’s an amazing and fun experience! Here are things to know about visiting Wat Tampa before you go:
1. Wat Tampa has an amazing Thai brunch/lunch every Sunday
If you’re here, it’s probably because you were looking for things to do in Tampa, saw the lunch/brunch at the Thai Temple, and wanted to know more details! It’s true, and every Sunday there is a Thai market at Wat Mongkolratanram.
From what I saw from pre-pandemic things, there was a whole market with flowers, orchids, and more alongside the food options. Then, during the pandemic they switched to a drive-thru market. Now, things are back to a walk-up market – but there were only food options.
2. You should plan to go eat at Wat Tampa with a group of friends
There are a LOT of food options – and the portions are generous! You’re going to want to try it all, and there’s no way you can eat it all yourself! So take a group of good friends, and plan to get some of many things and share. It’s really fun to approach this as a sampler buffet.
3. Consider bringing your own dishes and utensils – and a reusable grocery bag
When we saw the people who seemed to be pros at Wat Tampa, they brought their own pho bowls as well as reusable utensils. You can get plastic utensils there (free), but I will say our group did realize there is a LOT of plastic and styrofoam.
So it’s nice to bring some reusable stuff to try to cut down on some waste. They’ve got plastic grocery bags to use, but a reusable one would carry more and more easily!
4. You can also think about bringing your own (non-alcoholic) beverages
They have a station that sells drinks – and you should absolutely try the Thai Tea and Thai Coffee – and the water and soda are very reasonable. But if you’re just getting water, consider saving the world another single use plastic and bring your own water in a reusable bottle.
Also – there are numerous signs around that say no alcohol. So yes – could you hide it in a Yeti? Sure. Should you? Absolutely not – this is a temple and worthy of respect.
5. Plan to divide and conquer getting your Thai food
When you first get there, it’s a bit confusing because it seems like there is one line. There is not one line – there are a few. There are stations for appetizers, desserts, curries, pho, drinks, and pad thai, and each one is separate. The appetizers, curry, pho and pad thai lines tend to be the longest, so consider sending one person from your group to each line to get what you want and then join back. You pay for food at each station at the station you get it from.
Also note when you get there that each place you see a price sign is a different line (AND there are a couple of lines that aren’t marked with signs.) So if you see one long line, it’s probably that most people are new and don’t realize there are multiple lines.
6. You must have cash at Wat Tampa!
This is a cash-only operation. There is no ATM anywhere nearby. They do not take Venmo, Square, or other types of payment. CASH! In general, our group of four probably spent just under $100. We tried a lot. The curries and pad thai are generally about $10 – $12 each, the apps and salads are $5 – 7 each, the desserts are also about $4 – $8 each. Drinks were $2 for the Thai tea or Thai coffee, and $1 for sodas and water. It really depends on how much you want to try how much to bring. You could be VERY well-fed for under $20.
7. Dress for the weather
Everything is outside, and it is Tampa. So it could be rainy, or muggy, or hot, or glorious. Make sure you dress for it. One thing I was concerned about was dressing for a temple. Our group did not go in the temple, and it does seem that if you’re staying outside they do not care what you’re wearing. So shorts are fine, sandals are fine, and no need to worry about covered shoulders/knees/etc. If you do want to go in and tour the temple, that might change. We did not so I don’t know the specifics there.
But as far as picnicking on the grounds, it was pretty much anything-goes attire wise.
8. Honestly, don’t plan on boating there
I’d read some reviews that they have a dock you can tie a boat up at – which is true. But it’s not a great place to tie up. There are no cleats on the dock, so make sure you’re good with tying up to pilings. Additionally – the pilings had some significant barnacle/oyster growth when we were there. Pack lots of fenders. And finally, the dock is fairly high and not a floating dock. There’s a ladder to get up if needed. But with all of that, it’s honestly not an ideal place to tie up a boat.
9. There’s no reason to leave the kids at home
This is a kid-friendly brunch in Tampa. It’s all outside at picnic tables and along the river, so it’s a great place for kids to explore. We saw a few kids having a blast piling palm fronds up, and others who were enjoying weaving in and out of the tables. It seemed to be a very kid-friendly kind of place!
10. Be prepared for “Thai Narnia in Tampa”
One of my friends put it well – she was like “Oh my gosh this is like Thai Narnia!” It truly feels like you’re transported away from Tampa for a morning of great food and camaraderie with friends.
11. Parking and Seating is fairly plentiful and easy
We went early, but the signs for visitor parking are very clear, and it seemed like there was no trouble for anyone getting a spot. There are definitely lots of crowds, but they seem to have lots of space. Also parking was free.
To sit and eat your food, there are a LOT of picnic tables alongside the river. When we were there, it seemed like there were plenty of tables for the people who turned out! There were always open and empty tables, so it wasn’t hard to snag one.
12. Admission to the Thai market at the Tampa Temple is free
There is not entrance fee to come. The food costs money, and there were money trees to make donations to modernize their fire systems. But in general, admission is free.
13. Different foods come out at different times, and some foods run out
Many foods are being freshly prepared right before they bring them out for sale, so some things come out at different times. It’s also a popular market, so things can sell out. Come with an open mind and desire to try many things and you’ll be good to go. I read a ton of advice to go early, so we got there about 9:30 and there was a pretty good crowd. But it didn’t seem like the crowd was that much different at 11:30am when we left. So I don’t know that it’s as necessary to go early as other things online say.
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