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  1. SideBern's

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 2208 W Morrison Ave., Tampa, 33606

    Where Bern's is the big-name brawn in wine, steaks and overindulgence, SideBern's is the modern brains and R&D lab. The next generation of Laxers caught up to contemporary cooking and turned SideBern's into a culinary academy. On the plate, that results in mind-bending entrees, especially gr …

  2. Salt Rock Grill

    Editor's pick

    North Pinellas beaches : 19325 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores, 33811

    This gorgeously designed collaboration between Frank Chivas and Tom Pritchard is renowned for its straight-ahead grill cookery, fresh seafood, raw bar and deep wine list. The restaurant also has a fantastic patio bar that overlooks the Intercoastal Waterway, and an outrageous early-bird special  …

  3. Cafe Ponte

    Editor's pick

    Clearwater : 13505 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, 33760

    Cafe Ponte is still a yardstick against which the area's other fine dining restaurants may be measured. The dining room looks positively spruce, its red, sage and black color scheme crisp and stylish; linens and table appointments are top-notch. Servers are courteous and professional even when s …

  4. Restaurant BT

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 2507 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, 33606

  5. Bascom's Chop House

    Gateway : 3665 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, 33762

  6. Kelly's for Just About Anything

    Editor's pick

    Dunedin : 319 Main St., Dunedin, 34698

    The day's fun could start with Butterfinger muffins or French toast with chocolate and Cognac, drift through lunch of banana pancakes or Hell-burgers and head into dinner of duck breast, Emeril's escolar and house-smoked pork chops. Virgel Kelly and pals always add an extra smile and a kick, lik …

  7. Maritana Grille

    Editor's pick

    South Pinellas beaches : 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 33706

    A major renovation in the dining room has made one of the area's more swanky restaurants more contemporary. The renovations made their way into the kitchen, too, where fruits are being compressed and fish are being cooked in warm water baths. The black grouper cooked sous vide and served over ri …

  8. Mise En Place Restaurant

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 442 W Kennedy Blvd. # 110, Tampa, 33606

    New American doesn't get old when Marty Blitz is in the kitchen and the likes of hamachi crudo with watermelon radish and cucumber salad are on the menu. He and partner Maryann Ferenc pioneered here 25 years ago; their spot is now a downtown Tampa shrine and the skillets still hot. Game, vegetab …

  9. 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. Dessert takes more. …

  10. Beach Bistro

    Editor's pick

    Manatee beaches : 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 34217

    It has won nearly every award it is possible to win in Florida. Foodies and critics go on about the intimate dining room draped, tent-like, with silk; the wine list's exceptional breadth; and the playful French/Floribbean cuisine with sly Pacific Rim accents. One can put on the dog and dine in t …

  11. Mirage Restaurant

    Clearwater : 2284 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater, 33765

    The most dynamically flavored dishes don't seem to appear on the weekday lunch buffet; thus a dinner visit is in order (caution: belly dancing Friday and Saturday evenings). Two of the most famous Persian dishes, fesenjan and shirin polo, are elegantly rendered at Mirage. The former is chicken b …

  12. Rustic Grill

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota : 400 N Lemon Ave., Sarasota, 34236

    Fast forward the old Citrus Exchange into the 21st century with boisterous antiques and brilliant cooking to eye at the chefs bar or on CCTV. Clinton Combs dresses lusty chops, steaks and crab cakes with amazing vegetables, risotto and chickpea crepes.

  13. Black Pearl of Dunedin

    Editor's pick

    Dunedin : 315 Main St., Dunedin, 34698

    Folks have come here for grand meals under various flags for more than 20 years. The space is tiny, with plush decor and posh service. The food ranges from top-dollar classics to clever contemporary fare among the specials, all with first-rate vegetables.

  14. Six Tables Restaurant

    Gulfport : 2937 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport, 33701

  15. Main Street Oyster Bar

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota : 1991 Main St., Suite 118, Sarasota, 34236

    Well-established and still innovative, this two-chef restaurant serves sharp and simple cuisine with a sidewalk view downtown. Locals flock for the seasonal ingredients and smart takes on New England classics like fried Ipswich clams and Maine lobster. The same owners previously had Zoria at thi …

  16. Michael's on East

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota : 1212 East Ave. S, Sarasota, 34239

    It's won best-of-Florida accolades from nearly everyone since its opening at the beginning of the 1990s — and it's kept up with all the newcomers, consistently pushing the envelope and wowing diners with its "New American' take and opulent decor. During the day it's a power-lunching crowd  …

  17. Island Way Grill

    Editor's pick

    Clearwater : 20 Island Way, Clearwater, 33767

    A waterside palace of seafood, art glass and Asian accents, Island Way centers on freshness. Eat at the sushi bar, order from the raw bar or have boat-fresh fish grilled. Go for an oyster tequila shot, a noodle and clam pot or Korean BBQ and dive into the endless wine list. Be back Sunday for a  …

  18. Pelagia Trattoria

    Editor's pick

    International Plaza District : 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa, 33607

    Located in the Renaissance Tampa Hotel at International Plaza, the restaurant has an Italianesque menu that starts in Spain and coasts the entire Mediterranean for lusty flavors, scallops and bean ragout, Manchego cheese and honeycomb, crunchy olives and artichoke ricotta flan. Panettone French  …

  19. Casa Tina Gourmet Mexican & Vegetarian

    Editor's pick

    Dunedin : 365 Main St., Dunedin, 34698

    After a move from a smaller space, Casa Tina already it 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  …

  20. Selva

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota : 1345 Main St., Sarasota, 34236

    Peruvian nightlife comes to downtown Sarasota thanks to chef Darwin SantaMaria. He turns out stunning ceviches and a beautiful version of old Peruano favorites lomo salteado, cod stews and purple potatoes. Plus venison, osso bucco and sassy cocktails.

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