Like last year’s award-winning Food Issue, which addressed the daily conundrum of “Where are we going for lunch?”, this year’s issue was also inspired by a question — or rather, questions.
“What’s up with the Vietnamese places along U.S. 19?” “Where’s the most authentic Italian?” “All those Colombian and Peruvian and Spanish restaurants along Armenia — which ones are best?”
In the popular imagination, Florida cuisine is a homogeneous thing: orange juice, Cuban sandwiches, fried grouper, early-bird specials. Add chain restaurants — many of them born and raised right here — and you get Tampa Bay, or at least the stereotype thereof.
It’s easy even for Tampa Bay residents to buy into the stereotype — that when it comes to adventures in world cuisine, the best option is a trip to Epcot. But do a little exploring, and the truth comes out. We identified what we colloquially called “hot pockets” — neighborhoods where there’s an unusual concentration of a single ethnic cuisine. We also looked for alternate restaurant choices in popular cuisines like Chinese, Italian and Thai. Even our high school intern got into the act, bringing us suggestions about eating well on the cheap.
I know we’ve probably missed your favorite out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall outpost of, say, Mongolian/Brazilian fusion. And if that’s the case, please let us know. This week we’re introducing two new members of our food team: restaurant critic Jon Palmer Claridge and assistant editor Arielle Stevenson, so you should definitely drop them a line with any additions, corrections or inspirations. This week we also introduced them to each other, more or less; read on to find out about their joint excursions into cuisines that each found foreign — and expanded their horizons in the process.
Mangia! (Or whatever language you like to eat in.)