Photo Credit: Dr Jamaris Glen, Co-Owner of Madame Fortune's Speakeasy
This Speakeasy Welcomes Travelers To Learn About Tampa's Black History
Speakeasies come in all shapes and sizes—from quaint bars to lavish clubs—with culture at the heart of each one. Located within a secret passage of Roast Deli+Bakery, Madame Fortune is a Black-owned speakeasy that’s intimate and charming.
Nestled in the heart of Historic Ybor City is Madame Fortune’s Dessert + HiFi Parlour. It’s a beautifully modernized Black-owned speakeasy with delectable cuisine, classic cocktails and a fine-dining vibe glowing with Black excellence. Jamaris Glen and Khalilah McDuffie are the visionary restauranteurs and co-owners behind this upscale venture. As an influential figure in Tampa, Madame Fortune’s legacy inspired this speakeasy.
Madame Fortune and her husband came to Hillsborough County after the Civil War. They were former slaves who became pioneers with over 30 acres of land. They grew citrus, guava and peaches near downtown Tampa. After her husband passed away, Fortune got a homestead grant for the property. There were few opportunities available for Black women at the time. Madame Fortune built her success in business and civic affairs from the ground up.
Travel Noire spoke with Glen about the Black woman behind the inspiration for Madame Fortune’s speakeasy, what dishes he recommends to first-time guests and how they keep Black history alive in Tampa, Florida.
Travel Noire: What inspired you to create this Speakeasy in Tampa, Florida?
Jamaris Glen: I’ve always been fascinated by the history of speakeasies. The intimate space creates community among locals and travelers. I wanted to bring that high-end exclusivity and creative cocktail-forward experience to Tampa. The idea of offering something special about the culture that isn’t diluted by the masses.
TN: What is your favorite dish at Madame Fortune’s for dinner, cocktails, and brunch?
JG: Having a Guyanese background, I’m fond of dishes that reflect the culinary traditions of the West Indies. For a first-time guest, the oxtail pepper pot is perfect for dinner. The dish has large oxtails soaked in jus sauce, served with pigeon peas and rice, and a soft buttery roti on the side. I highly recommend trying our Old Fashioned cocktail with an island twist. It’s a plantain-smoked liquor mixed with bitters and whiskey, garnished with fried plantain. For brunch, our sweet potato pancakes are topped with plantains for a delightful not-too-sweet, not-too-savory combination.
TN: As a Black-owned speakeasy, how do you create a unique and culturally enriching experience for travelers visiting the Tampa Bay area?
JG: Tampa’s culture is based on our history. It’s why we made Madame Fortune’s Speakeasy. Our establishment proudly showcases the contributions of Black women to Tampa’s history. We’ve named our menu items after towns some have tried to erase from our history. Guests scan the QR codes on the menu and take a piece of our town’s history and people with them. Sharing stories about forgotten Black neighborhoods, like The Scrubs, we create space to engage in deeper conversations.
TN: How has the history of Madame Fortune in Tampa impacted you, and how does your Speakeasy pay homage to it?
JG: Madame Fortune’s name holds historical significance, as she was an influential figure in Tampa. Her legacy inspired us to create a business representing strength and resilience. We share Madame Fortune’s often untold story to promote a positive forward movement in our community.
TN: In what ways has travel inspired your life?
JG: Travel has shown me the interconnectedness of people and cultures. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate to explore various parts of the world, from Africa to Europe. No matter where I go, there’s a common thread that binds us all. Every place I’ve visited, there’s a Black woman at the center of the narrative. That strengthened my connection to my people and how much I wanted to share our stories.
TN: How has this speakeasy provided a space for cultural exchange, artistic expression and community engagement?
JG: Madame Fortune’s Speakeasy is a gathering place where diverse individuals come together to celebrate Tampa’s history and cultural diversity. We’ve had women-led groups, like Athena Society, book our space to feel more connected to local culture.
TN: As a Black entrepreneur, how has your business impacted the visibility and representation of underrepresented groups in the local area?
JG: Madame Fortune’s Speakeasy has given visibility to erased Black neighborhoods and individuals who contributed to Tampa’s development. By naming our establishment after Madame Fortune, we’ve brought her story into the spotlight and engaged in conversations about underrepresented history. We have young people of color pursuing their passions in hospitality on our staff. We want to set the stage for future Black entrepreneurs in the area.
TN: How do you engage travelers who want to immerse themselves in the authentic spirit of Tampa’s cultural identity?
JG: Travelers are naturally curious and open to trying new things. It makes it easy for us to introduce them to the rich cultural identity of Tampa Bay. Exploring the history behind our dishes, drinks, and the hidden corners of the city creates a bridge between their journey and our cultural heritage.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.