My Favorite Restaurants in Tampa Bay & Beyond

As you can imagine, I love dining out; and have hundreds of favorites which will be passed on to you in the months and years ahead. Please know that I am not trying to be a restaurant critic here, for I will only be posting “positive” comments from places that I actually visit. If I don’t like the food or experience, I won’t even mention the restaurant. You see, everyone gets enough crap thrown at them on a daily basis – life is tough enough, so if a restaurant is not serving good food or providing quality service, the marketplace will decide if they will close or not.

That said, I have one very important standard – a restaurant must be busy. I’m not talking about busy at the moment. I’m talking about consistently busy, for if busy, it can then be somewhat assumed that food is not sitting around the kitchen getting old.

We have all seen the restaurant with no customers at noon or 7pm on a Friday. While my heart goes out to them, it is probably not a place which will be visited by me. For food must be fresh. I like fresh. I can taste fresh immediately. It is ok if a cook or chef does not prepare something to my liking, but old? – no way I’m eating there…but you won’t hear about those restaurants from me. Please let me know which places you like in Tampa Bay and beyond – and why.

RECENTLY VISITED

June 7, 2017

FLORIDA CRACKER KITCHEN

Last week while visiting Frazier Farms in Brooksville foraging for fresh corn, we decided to have lunch at a local favorite which is only opened for breakfast and lunch, the Florida Cracker Kitchen – and we were not disappointed.

My shrimp and sausage gumbo had the rich roux flavor I look for and it was “loaded” with andouille sausage and okra…signs of a great gumbo for my taste.  My shrimp and grits were perfectly seasoned. Because my dad taught me how to fry shrimp (remember Palios on MacDill – OMG the best fried shrimp in town before Bailey’s) I love fried shrimp so I had an order thrown in to see how they were prepared as well.  Research ya’ know.  They were very good…big shrimp and not too much breading.

By the way, their grits are the only ones I have ever had at a restaurant that needed no salt or butter…they were very good. Most restaurant grits are made with just water thinking that the patron can add their own salt and butter.  Big mistake.  And some even put sugar in them which is a Yankee thing and a big no-no.  Horrible idea.  We at Bailey’s, make ours with lots of cream, butter, and salt – but we cook the grits with these ingredients as opposed to adding them after the grits are cooked.  Makes for better tasting grits.

The table next to me was having breakfast – and I was dying to reach over and fork her plate.  I needed one of those extension forks.  The omelet was huge and she said was incredible. I started to cry.  Her slab bacon looked so good I got an order.  I’m going to take a drive with some friends some morning for breakfast – because the dishes I saw are still on my mind.  I need to go with lots of friends, so I can do a tasting.  Want to join me?

Florida Cracker Kitchen 966 East Jefferson Street
Brooksville, Florida 34601
(352) 754-8787
www.FloridaCrackerKitchen.com
OPEN 6 Days-A-Week: 7:00am – 2:30pm
Closed Monday’s


Mexican


  • Red Mesa

    4912 4th Street North
    St. Petersburg, FL 33703
    (727) 527-8782

  • Miguel’s

    3035 West Kennedy Blvd
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 876-2587

  • Miguelitos Taqueria y Tequilas

    2702 West Kennedy Blvd
    Tampa, FL 33609
    (813) 872-5600


Spanish / Latin


  • Columbia

    2117 East 7th Ave
    Tampa, FL 33605
    (813) 248-4961

  • Arco Iris

    3328 West Columbus
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 879-1357

  • Cacciatore & Sons

    3614 North Armenia Ave
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 872-7255

  • La Segunda Central Bakery

    2512 North 15th Street
    Tampa, FL 33605
    (813) 248-1531


Cuban Sandwich


  • Wright’s Gourmet
    (4 time winner of Tampa Tribune’s Cuban Sandwich Award)

    1200 South Dale Mabry
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 253-3838

  • Faedo

    5150 North Florida 33606
    Tampa, FL 33603
    (813) 237-2377

  • West Tampa Sandwich Shop

    3904 North Armenia
    Tampa, 33607
    (813) 873-7106


Steak


  • Bern’s Steak House

    1208 South Howard Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 251-2421

  • Ruth’s Chris

    1700 North Westshore Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 282-1118

  • The Capital Grille

    2223 North Westshore – International Plaza
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 830-9433

  • Council Oak

    5223 Orient Road – Hard Rock Hotel
    Tampa, FL 33610
    (813) 627-7600

  • Brazilian Steak House

    Texas de Brazil
    4119 West Boy Scout Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 871-1400


Italian


  • Trattoria Pasquale

    4334 South Manhattan Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33611
    (813) 831-9572

  • Iavarones

    3617 West Humprey Street
    Tampa, FL 33614
    (813) 932-521

  • Bella’s

    1413 South Howard
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 254-3355

  • Ravioli Company

    3413 South Manhattan
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 254-2051

  • Mazzaro’s Italian Cafe

    2909 22nd Avenue North
    St. Petersburg, FL 33713
    (727) 321-2400

  • Ava

    718 South Howard Ave
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 512-3030


"I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called 'Mother and Child Reunion'. It's chicken and eggs. And I said, I gotta use that one."
- Paul Simon (True Story)


American


  • Pane Rustica

    3225 West MacDill Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 902-8828

  • Mise En Place

    442 West Kennedy Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 254-5373

  • Wright’s Gourmet

    1200 South Dale Mabry Hwy
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 253-3838

  • Datz

    2616 South MacDill Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 831-7000

  • Café Ponte

    13505 Icot Boulevard
    Clearwater, FL 33760
    (727) 538-5768

  • Oxford Exchange

    420 West Kennedy
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 253-0222

  • Edison Food + Drink Lab

    902 West Kennedy
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 254-7111

  • The Refinery

    5137 North Florida
    Tampa, FL 33603
    (813) 237-2000

  • 717 South

    717 South Howard
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 250-1661

  • Elevage @ Epicurean Hotel

    1207 South Howard Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 999-8700

  • Indigenous

    239 South Links
    Sarasota, FL
    (941) 706-4740

  • Mel’s Hot Dogs

    4136 East Busch Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33617
    (813) 985-8000

  • Buddy Brew

    2020 West Kennedy
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 258-2739

  • Chocolate Pi

    1205 South Howard (Epicurean Hotel)
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 237-3838

  • Doormet

    1155 South Dale Mabry
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 287-3667

  • Xtreme Juice Smoothies

    619 South Dale Mabry
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 879-6033

  • The Vine restaurant & Wine Bar American with Italian Influences

    17667 Dale Mabry Hwy
    Lutz, Fl 33548
    (813) 964-8463

  • Ulele

    1819 North Highland Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33602
    (813) 999-4952

  • Roux

    4205 South MacDill Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33611
    (813) 443-5255

  • Carmel

    Carrollwood
    14306 North Dale Mabry Highway
    Carrollwood, FL 33618
    (813) 265-1415

    South Tampa
    3601 West Swann Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33609
    (813) 964-6889


Greek / Mediteranean


  • Little Greek

    1155 South Dale Mabry Hwy
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 443-4594

  • Byblos

    2832 South MacDill
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 805-7977


"I went to a restaurant that 'serves breakfast at any time'. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance."
- Steven Wright


Sunday Food Market


  • Wat Mongkolratanaram – Thai Temple
    Warning – Arrive by 9am to get a parking space

    5306 Palm River Road
    Tampa, FL 33619
    (813) 621-1668


Barbeque


  • Hungry Harry’s

    2006 South Parsons
    Seffner, FL
    (813) 643-0063

  • Holy Hog on Armenia

    3501 North Armenia
    Tampa, FL 33607
    (813) 879-4647

  • Kojaks

    2808 West Gandy
    Tampa, FL 33611
    (813) 837-3774

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse

    Carrollwood
    14330 North Dale Mabry Highway
    Tampa, FL 33618
    1-844-4RIVERS (1-844-474-8377)

    South Tampa
    623 South MacDill Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33609
    1-844-4RIVERS (1-844-474-8377)


Indian


  • Bombay Masala

    4023 West Waters
    Tampa, FL 33614
    (813) 880-7511

  • India's Grill

    3437 West Kennedy Boulevard
    Tampa, Florida 33609
    (813) 872-8222


Asian


  • Sa Ri One
    (between Dale Mabry and Lois near I-275)

    3940 West Cypress Street
    Tampa, FL 33607
    Phone: (813) 874-2911

  • Restaurant BT

    2507 South MacDill
    Tampa, FL 33629
    (813) 258-1916

  • THAI ISLAND

    210 East Davis Boulevard
    Tampa, FL 33606
    (813) 251-9111

  • Yummy House

    2202 West Waters (original)
    Tampa, FL 33610
    (813) 915-2828

    2620 East Hillsborough Avenue
    Tampa, FL 33610
    (813) 237-3838


One Bite Favorites


The following are restaurants I will go to just to have these single items

  • Favorite Samosa’s – Roy’s

    4342 Boy Scout Boulevard
    Tampa, FL
    (813) 873-7697

  • Favorite Lobster Taco – Eddie V’s

    4400 Boy Scout Boulevard
    Tampa, FL
    (813) 877-7290

  • Favorite Hushpuppies – Jimbo’s

    4103 West Kennedy
    Tampa, FL
    (813) 289-9724

  • Favorite Deal – Flemmings

    $25 Prime Rib Dinner, Sunday Nights
    4322 Boy Scout Blvd, Tampa, FL
    (813) 874-9463