Don’t let the strip mall exterior of this perennial Zagat fave fool you. Chef Chris Ponte and his team of wizards consistently turn out some of the Bay area’s most sophisticated and delicious food. When I celebrated a special birthday here this year, a friend from NYC went crazy for the 24-hour braised short ribs. So I recently returned to check them out. WOW! The fork-tender beef with a creamy parsnip puree, tiny sweet carrots, sautéed baby spinach, and caramelized shallot red wine sauce will bring you to your knees. 13505 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, 727-538-5768, cafeponte.com.