Page 4 of 5
An enormous by-the-glass wine list, giant raw bar, menu loaded with seafood dishes laced with Asian and American touches, and an exquisite dining room located on Clearwater Beach is a tough formula to beat. Spend a night upstairs at the Sandpearl and you can call it a weekend. 500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater, 727-674-4171.
Floridian [READERS' CHOICE]
Harold Seltzer -- the man formerly behind the Sam Seltzer's chain -- recently partnered with the decade-old Floridian to begin bringing Cuban sandwiches to the world. The first expansion location serves great pressed sandwiches and fries in Tampa, and garnered enough votes to be a Readers' Choice pick. 4424 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-287-6662; 230 Treasure Island Causeway, Treasure Island, 727-367-6662; floridianrestaurant.com.
Greektown Grille is the kind of place that makes it difficult to justify driving all the way to Hellenic spots up in Tarpon Springs. The menu features all those typical treats that Americans expect at lesser Greek spots, along with more traditional items that will expand a novice's Mediterranean palate. 1222 Cleveland St., Clearwater, 727-443-0520, greektown-grille.com.
Guppy's on the Beach
Chef Scott Bebell's Indian Rocks restaurant serves some of the best seafood on the beaches, much of it at prices that are well below the quality of the dishes. He doesn't play with his food, just lets the fresh ingredients express their flavor with little fuss beyond perfect preparation. 1701 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, 727-593-2032, 3bestchefs.com.
Kelly's For Just About... Anything
It's difficult to categorize a place that uses the tagline "for just about... anything," especially a place like Kelly's where you can eat a burger at one of the several bars, or sit down to a more refined dinner in the dining room. Wherever and whatever you eat, though, you'll find that Kelly's food reflects the always vibrant, occasionally chaotic, atmosphere of this Dunedin standard. 319 Main St., Dunedin, 727-736-5284, kellyschicaboom.com.
Don Cesar's flagship restaurant lives up to the promise of a grand hotel eatery while simultaneously reflecting the Florida and Cuban culture that surrounds it. There aren't many surprises on the menu, but Maritana does classic very, very well. 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-360-1881.
Savant Fine Dining
Chef David Miller has his hands full with a chocolate shop, a restaurant opening in the Caribbean and his new Cities restaurant just opened next door to Savant, but he's talented enough to pull it off. Savant's prix fixe menu reflects his style -- exquisite presentation, powerful but balanced flavors, and dessert creations that can surprise and delight the most jaded diners. 2551 Drew St., Clearwater, 727-421-9975, savantfinedining.com.
For many Bay area diners, China Yuan is the only place for traditional Chinese cuisine. Barbecued whole ducks and sections of pig hang in the back, the skins stained in shades of honey and mahogany by heat and five-spice powder, while the menu offers hot pots and Cantonese seafood. You can pick your own fish straight from the aquarium. 8502 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-936-7388, chinayuanrestaurant.com.
Although Bern's is the most well-known Bay area steakhouse, Council Oak may be the best. The beef -- on display behind a giant glass wall in the entry, often with a butcher hacking away -- is exquisite, but the extras on this menu are just as accomplished as the meat. The place looks spectacular, too, although you will have to walk through the Hard Rock's jangling symphony to get there. 5223 Orient Rd., Tampa, 813-627-7625, seminolehardrock.com.
First Choice Southern BBQ
Walk in to this strip mall spot and your clothes will be imbued with hardwood smoke for days. Considering how good the barbecue is at First Choice, you'll be happy for the reminder. 10113 Adamo Dr., Tampa, 813-621-7434, firstchoicebbq.com.
Grass Root Organic Restaurant
One of the only vegetarian/vegan/raw restaurants in the Bay area, Grass Root's food is tasty enough to convert meat-eaters to some of their refined and thoughtful dishes. The miso soup, when it's available, can compete with the finest bowls at any Tampa restaurant. 2702 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-221-7668, thegrassrootlife.com.
Part of Oystercatchers' appeal is the fresh, expertly prepared seafood and great weekend brunch spread, but the biggest draw is the locale. Inside, it looks like a fancy lighthouse suitable for a billionaire's getaway, while the outside deck has one of Tampa's most spectacular waterfront views. 2900 Bayport Blvd., Tampa, 813-207-6815, oystercatchersrestaurant.com.
Pho Quyen may have a humble appearance, but it's the spot people flock to for traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is great here, but it's best to branch out and try items like the intense roast duck broken rice, or the best seafood congee in town. 8404 Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, 813-885-9424, phoquyen.com.
Rice Korean Restaurant
There are several fine Korean restaurants in Tampa, but Rice offers a little extra on the formula. There's the usual astounding array of powerful pickles and condiments -- including excellent fresh kimchi -- served with dishes like fiery tripe stew. Rice is also the only spot in town for tableside BBQ. 7525 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, 813-889-7766, ricekoreanrest.com.
Not one for beer, I'll vouch for Eric the cook. I tend to get the…
Awesome job B.T.G.. Can't wait to get out to Florida to try it. I'm down…
My Happier Son!
Congrats Eric!!! BTW the beer is really good!