Tampa restaurants may not have been as swarmed with RNC traffic as some had hoped, but there have been celeb sightings nonetheless. The 800-pound gorilla, Bern's Steak House, has nabbed loads of national praise this week, as well as an enviable reservation book, but as public relations director Brooke Palmer explains, "(Owner) David (Laxer) has asked us to not release names until post convention. We have had a lot of big names through, but we still have more to come tonight and tomorrow."
Waiting for those, here are some of the other highlights:
Boca Kitchen Bar Market, Ted Dorsey, chef: "Matt Lauer was here Monday night. … He had the spear-caught black grouper, and one of his guests was a huge key lime pie fan, so she had that. Also, NBC News journalist Andrea Mitchell was here with the mayor of Los Angeles (Antonio Villaraigosa). And Nikki Haley (South Carolina governor) was here Sunday night. Anderson Cooper was here, I think that was Sunday night. And Chris Christie (New Jersey governor) made reservations for (tonight)."
Ocean Prime, Matt Goldstein, general manager: "Nikki Haley spent the whole morning here (Wednesday), breakfast and lunch. If she'd stayed for dinner, it would have been a triple. She and her husband had the kobe burger, if I'm not mistaken. We had John Kasich, governor of Ohio, here (Tuesday night). (Wednesday night) we have Joe Scarborough from Morning Joe. We've also had (journalist and author) Cokie Roberts in, as well as Chuck Todd from NBC."
The Refinery, Michelle Baker, co-owner: "We had one large group come in from Google, and a British lord. We Googled his name and he's a big deal. … Frank Bruni (New York Times columnist and former restaurant critic) was here on Monday night. He's going to be back in tonight (Wednesday), which is a huge compliment."
Columbia, Angela Geml, marketing and public relations manager: "Diane Sawyer and some of her news team were in on Sunday for an interview to learn how to make a Cuban sandwich."
Mise en Place, Maryann Ferenc, co-owner: "We've seen Charlie Rose, Al Hunt, Judy Woodruff, Chris Matthews, and the whole NPR crew filled up the lounge one night."
The Palm, Keri Larson, account executive: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and 22 other guests from his delegation dined at The Palm in Tampa's WestShore Plaza Tuesday night before he delivered his address at the convention. He had a Caesar salad to start, his entree was a 9-ounce filet, medium rare, and he had mixed berries to finish. Michele Bachmann also dined at the restaurant for lunch on Monday. She had broiled salmon and a side of linguine marinara."
Datz, Suzanne Perry, co-owner: "You can't get any bigger than (Speaker of the House) John Boehner (with Perry's son Matt, above). Nobody outranks him. The bomb dogs and snipers and capital police all over the place were plenty exciting." Datz has done three private Boehner parties, the last of which was to take place Wednesday evening. The big hits at the parties so far have been the chicken and waffle bar (and why not: sugar cones filled with fried chicken tenders and jalapeño syrup), deep-fried mac 'n' cheese bites (says Perry, "doesn't matter who you are, you like mac 'n' cheese"). "I've heard rumors other people are in, but I don't recognize them. I could never make a living as a nightclub doorman."