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  1. Edison food+drink lab

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 912 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 33606

    Edison embodies what was most exciting and new in 2012. I’ve heard restaurant industry folks grousing: How does Jeannie Pierola keep the prices so reasonable at her inventive Kennedy Corridor newcomer, opened in August (foie gras dishes under $20?!)? To them she might ...

  2. Ulele Native Inspired Food & Spirits

    1810 N Highland Ave., Tampa, 33602

    Richard Gonzmart spent $6 million to get the doors open at Ulele and in just about every way it shows: It is a project of prodigious moving pieces, a thousand stories — an intricate cogs-and-wheels front door made by Dominique Martinez of Rustic Steel Creations; furniture and decor elemen...

  3. Cafe Dufrain

    Editor's pick

    707 Harbour Post Drive, Tampa, 33602

    Boasting one of Tampa's best views, this Harbour Island bistro is one of downtown's best getaways. Get smart eating from lemongrass soups to diver scallops, risotto, short ribs and salmon with frizzled leeks. Flavors come from the Pacific and the Americas, but the style is Tampa lofty. ...

  4. Vintage On 5th

    Editor's pick

    Citrus County : 114 NE Fifth St., Crystal River, 34429

    Set in a rehabbed 1940s church, Vintage is preoccupied by the grape, offering 20 pours by the glass and lots of liquid temptations, duly sanctioned by the Wine Spectator. Still, it goes far beyond the traditional wine bar model where food plays second fiddle to the potables. The menu i...

  5. Queens Head

    Editor's pick

    Grand Central District : 2501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 33713

    The work of Darren Conner and Paul Smith, Queens Head is an adorable, cheeky and emphatically stylish addition to St. Petersburg's Grand Central district. The small bar-restaurant is a delightful addition, a British pub with a little South Beach glamor and New York club smarts (it's har...

  6. Fresh Bites

    Westchase : 116655 Countryway Blvd., Tampa, 33626

    It's a modest space with ambitious aims. Adhering to many of the nutrition ideas of Orlando-based Maximized Living (an organization that advocates a fitness, nutrition and lifestyle regimen), it's straight-up traditional Lebanese food made from organic produce, grass-fed beef and lamb f...

  7. Flippers Pizzeria

    Fourth Street Garden District : 1054 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, 33701

    Flippers is a small chain out of Orlando, named because the first outpost was a herring's throw from Sea World. In a fairly dense playing field, what differentiates Flippers? It's not coal-oven pizza, so it's not the dark, blistery thin crust. Flippers' pizzas are made in a bric...

  8. Laughing Cat

    Ybor City : 1811 N 15th St., Tampa, 33605

    Laughing Cat built an avid clientele over 11 years so that by 2010 the place was turning away eager supplicants in droves. It recently marched its business right across the street, taking up residence in the twice-as-big space formerly home to Streetcar Charlie’s. It serves food that migh...

  9. Saffron Indian Cuisine

    10044 Cross Creek Blvd., Tampa, 33647

    Sunita Chheda's small, strip-mall restaurant, opened in 2008 across from the New Tampa Library, is a find. In the kitchen, Chheda is bold, unafraid of serious spiciness. But her heat is not a straightforward hurts-so-good kind of thing. It's nuanced, the flavorful food relying on a cumu...

  10. Shubee Shack

    North Pinellas beaches : 91 171st Ave. E, North Redington Beach, 33708

    Pat Bearry has brought Thrasher fries along with a few others Maryland-style delicacies to the beach here. It’s a Maryland snack shack, not fancy, no credit cards, nowhere to sit. Order at the counter and Bearry, a huge man with an unruly mop of hair held in check with a bandanna, gets to...

  11. Grille 54

    Editor's pick

    West Pasco : 10900 State Road 54, Suite #105, New Port Richey, 34655

    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. And what's the draw? Sushi. Oh, and steaks. And Italian food. There's also seafood, raw bar items and a lot of dishes from t...

  12. Cello's Charhouse

    143 Seventh Ave. N, Safety Harbor, 34695

    Susan Cello and Ellen Young's restaurant has been an ill-kept Safety Harbor secret since 1998. The building itself is certainly loud enough, its exterior given over to a faux-cubist mural featuring a cello, wine, bread and two ladies with crazy grapefruit bosoms. Then inside? It's like ...

  13. Stella's Deli

    Gulfport : 3119 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport, 33707

    It's a different kind of mug shot. Along one whole wall of Stella's Deli hang coffee mugs. Maybe 60 of them, regulars' coffee vessels. Stella’s isn’t just breakfast. Lunch was added a while back, but it's with morning foods that Stella's hits its stride: Kahwa co...

  14. Southern Fresh

    122 Third Ave. N, Safety Harbor, 34695

    At Southern Fresh, a tiny, pleasantly spare one-room space with patio seating, the menu totals about 10 items with a couple of daily specials. Two dishes stand out, big time. A BLT soup brings a vegetable broth cradling soft hunks of simmered plum tomato, with garlic, shallot and bacon making t...

  15. Bern's Steak House

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa, 33606

    Naysayers can grouse, but there's no denying the fine meat and one of the world's best and cheapest wine lists. You can drink back through 20 years in Spanish, Italians, Rhones and zins for $75 or less. Lighten up and relax; just exploring the menu's new additions takes time. Desser...

  16. Pearl in the Grove

    East Pasco : 31936 St. Joe Road, Dade City, 33525

    Chef-owner Curtis Beebe recently broke into the food service industry as a second career and is getting attention with his take on farm-to-table Southern food. The menu changes as often as he can change it, but if the catfish beignets and the Geeno chips are there, try them. On Sunday’s, ...

  17. Michael's Grill

    Editor's pick

    Carrollwood : 11720 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 33618

    The suburban restaurant's warmly modern decor features sconce wall lamps, hardwood furniture, soft yellows and terra cotta tile. Or sit outside where a few tables under an awning can transform the strip mall eatery into a breezy Euro-style cafe. With the warmth and connectedness of a neighborho...

  18. Latitudes

    North Pinellas beaches : 13205 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach, 33708

    It's a space with a pedigree. In the spot that used to house Dockside Dave's, a new three-story building has been erected at the edge of Madeira Bay Marina. It's the handiwork of a bunch of pros who know what they're doing when it comes to casual, waterfront dining heavy on the Jimmy Buffet sound...

  19. Grille One Sixteen (South Tampa)

    612 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 33609

    Terence Terenzi and partner Tom Schelldorf did the same very smart thing they did with their flagship restaurant of the same name in Carrollwood: They hired Angel del Monte of Alfonso Architects to do the design. It is drop-dead hip, super Miami-glammy. It is chock-full of white leather and sle...

  20. Frenchy's Rockaway Grill

    Clearwater Beach : 7 Rockaway St, Clearwater, 33767

    The Selling Point is the she-crab soup. (Insert Homer drool here.) It's Frenchy's, so you know the good eats are in the house. They offer more turf with their surf than the other Frenchy's locations, and, of course, seafood abounds. Rockaway offers a nice beachfront experience with ...

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