BURGER KINGS: Burger Showdown
Chefs from area restaurants fire up their grills for a burger battle to win bragging rights for the "Best Burger in Tampa Bay" Saturday at Burger Showdown. Marc Murphy's new restaurant Grey Salt at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will join the competition this year with its signature lamb burger, as James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor works to defend its crown. Among the categories awarded by a panel of judges are Best Burger in Tampa Bay, Best "Where's the beef?" Burger, Best Use of Bacon and Bring the Heat. But attendees get a say in the People's Choice Award. There will be music by Clemons Road and Easy Posse, and proceeds benefit the Culinary Operations Academy. $20 burger sampling, $7 beers. 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. (813) 251-3378. burgershowdown.org.
BEER FOR A CAUSE: Red, White & Craft Brews Fest
Celebrate Armed Forces Day and help the Armed Forces History Museum raise money for its educational programs at the Red, White & Craft Brews Fest with more than 75 craft and specialty brews. There will also be cheese and beer pairings, and limited rare-beer sampling, with live music, a photo booth, military dressup, food trucks, museum tours and a raffle. Tickets are $26. The party is 5-9 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 2050 34th Way N, Largo. (727) 539-8371. armedforcesmuseum.com.
On our list
Most entrees less than $10
The little box that has harbored chocolate cake makers, barbecue impresarios and other culinary schemers and dreamers recently became a hip, fun, affordable little Cuban bodega. Its insides lined in shiny white subway tile, the tidy box was charmingly redesigned with great use of outdoor space: Five metal cafe tables reach across the wide sidewalk, their lemon-yellow plastic chairs cheery and comfortable. Order at the counter and simple dishes (black beans, ropa vieja) are packed in eco-friendly brown cardboard boxes, the Cubans and other pressed sandwiches wrapped tight in the kind of waxed paper that starts to get a little grease-splotchy, which adds to the anticipation. 1120 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 623-0942. bodegaoncentral.com
Proino Breakfast Club
Cuisine: American casual, Breakfast or brunch, Coffee shops/diners.
In a building in Largo that was formerly a Crispers, it's vast, sporting a huge number of seats indoors and on a covered patio. With red walls and cheery multicolored pendant lamps, it has a friendly vibe. Altogether, it reads like a chain, which it should because the owner has nine such breakfast places in Montreal called l'Eggsoeufs. The kitchen seems to have a real knack with fruit-oriented things, from simple yogurts topped with fresh fruit to smoothies, including a charmer that is half kiwi, half strawberry packed festively in layers into a tall glass. Look around the dining room and you'll see people tucking into waffles, French toasts and crepes topped with berries and custard and whipped cream. 201 West Bay Drive, Largo. (727) 444-0937. proinobreakfastclub.com
Most entrees $10 to $20
Casa Tina Gourmet Mexican & Vegetarian
Cuisine: Breakfast or brunch, Mexican, Vegetarian.
After a move from a smaller space, Casa Tina already looks like it has been there forever, with a long fuchsia wall packed to capacity with old photos and funky mirrors, the opposite weathered brick wall tattooed with a Day of the Dead skeleton mariachi band painting. Doors are flung wide to the front patio and maximum Main Street viewing. The food is still casual, affordable, fun and Mexican, with a special emphasis on vegetarian and vegan versions of most dishes. Veracruz-style fish tacos and sizzling fajitas are also crowd-pleasers. 365 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 734-9226. casatinas.com
Cuisine: American upscale, Italian, Steak house, Sushi.
It's not Tampa's MacDinton's/South Howard level of mayhem, but it's no small feat to get so many folks in southwest Pasco out on a Saturday night. What's the draw? Sushi. Oh, and steaks. And Italian food. There's also seafood, raw bar items and a lot of dishes from the wood grill. It's a menu with a more-is-more aesthetic. This is risky behavior. Few kitchens can handle such a vast menu, especially across several cuisines. By and large, though, Grille 54 pulls things off. One person can be in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, another for a tempura shrimp Mexican roll and still another for a Long Island "Mini Skirt," with its tasty gin-tequila roundhouse. 10900 State Road 54, New Port Richey. (727) 376-0254. grille54.com
Salt Rock Tavern
Cuisine: American casual, Pub.
Combined with adjacent Rumba (also Baystar Restaurant Group), Salt Rock Tavern is making Oldsmar something of a party scene. You'll want to focus on the beer list, a jubilant paean to Tampa Bay's thriving suds scene with Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing and most of the other big names represented. A short list of house cocktails precludes any easy choices — a blackberry bourbon lemonade is a real charmer with its slight cardamom infusion. The menu hits some contemporary notes: a kale salad heavy on sweet peanut butter flavor; and French onion soup dumplings, a dish borrowed from Baystar's Marlin Darlin, is like a richly flavored soupless soup. Still, simple is good, like the brined, smoked rotisserie chicken with buttery garlic mashed potatoes, or a hot, open-faced filet mignon sandwich smothered in peppers and onions and given a luscious drizzle of Maytag blue aioli. 3689 Tampa Road, Oldsmar. (813) 336-4977. saltrocktavern.com
Yoko's Japanese Restaurant
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese, Sushi.
One of the reliable suppliers is this quiet but busy spot in the MacDill gourmet cluster. Students, professors, military brass and locals fill the small bar, snare tables or sit shoeless at tatami for tempura, bento boxes and clever sushi. 3217 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 835-4311. yokosrestaurant.com