Southwest Florida / Unique Eats

Tampa Buddhist temple: Sunday market for brunch in lovely outdoor setting

Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa)

Wat Mongkolratanaram — Wat Tampa for short — is located on the Palm River surrounded by live oak trees. Every Sunday, a market draws hundreds for a Thai brunch. (Photo:Bonnie Gross)

When visiting Tampa, one of the most intriguing experiences is an open-air Thai brunch at a gorgeous Buddhist temple — Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Tampa for short.

With high rankings in TripAdvisor and Yelp, visitors and Tampa-area residents flock to this weekly event.

The temple has been offering its Sunday market for almost 30 years. It started with two tables and today there are dozens of vendors selling all sorts of authentic Thai foods, orchids and more.

Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa)

At the Sunday market at the Buddhist Temple in Tampa, a variety of orchids are also for sale. (Photo: Anna Blasco)

The temple has created the perfect venue for this event, which can accommodate the hundreds of weekly visitors.

Vendors set up at tables on a covered porch and each sells items individually. Popular hot foods (fried bananas, pad thai, guiteow, a beef or pork noodle soup) each may have long lines. Other prepared items (mango sticky rice, spring rolls, various Thai desserts) may have no lines.

The temple's Thai brunch is eaten at shady picnic tables overlooking the water. (Photo: Anna Blasco)

The temple’s Thai brunch is eaten at shady picnic tables overlooking the water. (Photo: Anna Blasco)

Many groups split up to purchase items in various lines and then meet among the dozens of picnic tables in the shade of the live oak trees to share and eat out of take-out boxes with plastic forks.

Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa)

The Sunday market at the Tampa Buddhist temple includes booths selling vegetable and herbs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Items are reasonably priced. A $5 order of fried bananas and fried sweet potatoes was enough for two or three people. (We had no idea and bought one order for each person and ended up sharing ours with folks at adjoining tables.) Other items were priced at $1, $2, $3 or $5, making it easy to sample  a variety of foods for a dim sum experience.

Other food items include Thai papaya salad, various chicken curries, grilled pork or chicken on a stick plus beverages.

At nearby tables, you also can choose from a wide selection of orchids (at great prices) as well as fruit trees, plants and fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Decorative dragon on the grounds of the Buddhist Temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram or Wat Tampa.

Decorative dragon on the grounds of the Buddhist Temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram or Wat Tampa. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Beyond the tasty and exotic food at reasonable prices, what makes this experience so great is the setting.

With its multiple pointy roof tiers and its ornate gold trim, the temple immediately makes you feel like you are, if not in Thailand, at least someplace very special. This temple was built in 2007, though a temple has been on these grounds since 1983.

Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa)

The dock on the Palm River at the Buddhist temple in Tampa. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The grounds are shaded by large live oak trees. Nature decorated them with Spanish moss; the temple community added dozens of spectacular orchids.

The property is located on the Palm River, with a boat dock where visitors fed bits of bread to dozens of fish and where you can tie up if you arrive by boat.

Religious services are held in the temple on Sundays  from 1 to 2 p.m. The services include meditation  and chanting and a sermon in the Thai language of Pali.

Visitors can observe the services but should read up on etiquette tips in advance so as to understand how to be respectful. (For example,  you must remove your shoes and it is considered impolite to point your feet at other people or the Buddha.)

During the week, people come to the temple to enjoy the setting and meditate.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

5306 Palm River Rd. Tampa , Florida 33619-3746

813-621-1669

Unofficial but very informative website about temple

The Sunday Market is held every Sunday, rain or shine, from about 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. The best time to come is before 11 a.m. Note: The Sunday market is CASH only.

Temple hours: 9 a.m.  to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday

Please respect the following times for the monks:

  • 8 to 9 a.m.  – Chanting and meditation
  • 11 a.m. to noon  – lunch
  • 8 to 9 p.m. –  Chanting and meditation

Things to do in the Tampa area:

Camping near Tampa

Pinellas Trail: On the west side of Tampa Bay is one of the most progressive and appreciated rails-to-trails projects in all of Florida. The 37-mile Pinellas Trail starts in Tarpon Springs and runs south through downtowns and neighborhoods in Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Pasadena and into downtown St. Petersburg. Dunedin is a great starting point to go in either direction because of ample parking, great shops and cafes along the trail. There’s a spur north of Dunedin that goes out to beautiful Honeymoon Island. This is a multi-purpose trail for hikers, bikers and roller skaters. Read more in this Florida Rambler article: Treasured St. Pete bike trail

Busch Gardens: This is the Gulf Coast’s only theme park.

Ybor City: Once the cigar capital of the world, Ybor City retains much of Tampa’s old city charm and Latin flavor. Restaurants, art galleries, pubs and patio cafes are everywhere, and you can still see Tampa’s famous cigar-makers practicing their trade. Best way to explore is by foot.

Fort Desoto: Even if you don’t camp here, you’ll want to go to the beach here. Fort Desoto’s beaches consistently rank among the Top 10 beaches in America. Read more in this Florida Rambler article: Fort Desoto Park

Caladesi Island State Park: This island with an award-winning beach is great kayak destination. Read about kayaking to Caladesi Island.

Honeymoon Island  in Dunedin has a spectacular beach, a sweet name and one of those classic Florida-history stories. Read about Honeymoon Island State Park.

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4 Comments

  1. Love Florida Rambler!!! Thanks for this wonderful publication.

  2. I’d love to be able to read the text in this post but it overlies the photography.
    I love your postings, BTW

  3. Pingback: Visit Thailand, Without Leaving Florida’s West Coast | GlenLakes

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