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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. Columbia Restaurant

    Editor's pick

    Ybor City : 2117 E Seventh Ave., Tampa, 33605

    The granddaddy of them all, Columbia Restaurant bears the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in Florida as well as the nation's largest Spanish/Cuban restaurant, with 13 rooms extending one full city block. Some of these waiters have been here a lifetime, there are stirring flamenco show …

  3. 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  …

  4. Roy's

    Editor's pick

    International Plaza District : 4342 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa, 33607

    It's hard to resent chain restaurants when Outback can bring a chef like Roy Yamaguchi and his jeweled fusion of French polish and Asian flavors to our table. Love rack of lamb or Hawaiian fish? Roy's local partners do them up teak-brown, with orchids, breezy guitars and a happy crowd of casual  …

  5. 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 …

  6. Capital Grille

    Editor's pick

    International Plaza District : Bay Street at International Plaza, 2223 N West Shore Blvd. , Tampa, 33607

    When you need a $47 steak to make your Neiman Marcus purchases seem a mere pittance, this is the place to go. It's a national dry-aged beef chain with a 400-plus label wine list. Capital Grille offers top-notch service and a steak menu that's more inventive than many (see: the dry-aged sirloin c …

  7. Council Oak Steakhouse

    Editor's pick

    Tampa : 5223 Orient Road, Tampa, 33610

    Council Oak has managed to assemble a competent, thoughtful service staff and to train them well. Owned by the Seminole tribe (as is the restaurant of the same name in Hollywood), Council Oak is a new contender in the great American steak house wars. Morton's, Sullivan's Steakhouse, Don Shula's, …

  8. Beaune's Wine Bar

    Ybor City : 2009 N 22nd St., Tampa, 33605

    Beaune's Wine Bar is a classy yet comfy lounge, perfect for a first date or an intimate night with friends. Beaune's (pronounced "bones," after the city in Burgundy) wine shop has been a go-to place for local oenophiles, and the wine bar gives wine lovers a place to linger in the eveni …

  9. 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 …

  10. 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 …

  11. Vernona

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota : 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota, 34236

    In the Ritz-Carlton. Put on the down-home Ritz in Sarasota and you'll taste local flavor as well as the chain's culinary fame. Almost everything but the salmon has Florida roots, from heirloom melons and tomatoes to Everglades bass and orange-braised veal shanks as the restaurant features locall …

  12. 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. …

  13. Donatello Restaurant

    Editor's pick

    Tampa : 232 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 33609

    The blush is not off the rose at this nearly 30-year-old Tampa original. In the dining room, tuxedoed waiters have the assurance only longtime employment provides, whether that's guiding guests through the menu or whipping up a tableside Caesar (the best in town). The food is rigorously traditio …

  14. Columbia Restaurant

    Editor's pick

    Sarasota beaches : 411 St. Armands Circle , Sarasota, 34236

    This is one of six branches (plus a cafe) of the original Ybor City location, considered the oldest restaurant in Florida (1905). You'll enjoy old-world service and traditional Spanish dishes such as paella, arroz con pollo and ropa vieja, to name just a few. Going to the Columbia is an experien …

  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. Dempsey's Steak House

    Wesley Chapel : 5700 Saddlebrook Way, Wesley Chapel, 33543

    Should you find yourself plotting a golf or tennis outing to Saddlebrook Resort, consider a finishing meal at this traditional steakhouse. The chairs are clubby, the service excellent, and the steaks and seafood are topnotch.

  17. 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  …

  18. Ruth's Chris Steak House

    Tampa : 1700 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa, 33607

    In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, the New Orleans-based chain closed a handful of outposts (and, much to the chagrin of Louisiana residents, relocated its headquarters to Central Florida), but it's still more than 90 strong and growing. Some of this is due to the memory of scrappy Rut …

  19. 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  …

  20. Il Terrazzo

    Downtown Tampa : 700 S Florida Ave., Tampa, 33602

    The Marriott's signature restaurant offers Northern Italian dining and a wine list cited by Wine Spectator.

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