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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. Restaurant BT

    Editor's pick

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

  8. Columbia Restaurant

    Editor's pick

    North Pinellas beaches : 1241 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater, 33767

    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 …

  9. 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 …

  10. 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 …

  11. 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. …

  12. 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 …

  13. Ceviche St. Pete

    Editor's pick

    Downtown St. Petersburg : 95 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 33701

    That cocktail of marinated fish is only one item on the biggest spread of hot and cold tapas laid out on both sides of the bay. The Tampa location is dark and cozy, St. Pete's open to the embarcadero. Crowds and food are fast and fun: olives, quail, sherried chicken livers and albondigas. The ba …

  14. 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 …

  15. Pane Rustica Bakery & Cafe

    Editor's pick

    South Tampa : 3225 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, 33629

    South Tampa's beloved eat-in bakery has grown up to be a brave new bistro, and it has added sit-down dinners as high-end as you wish. A big, wood-fired oven cranks out a wild assortment of crisp pizzas and roast chickens, monster pork chops and robust pastas. Plus there are brilliant salads, irr …

  16. 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 …

  17. Bonefish Grill (Brandon)

    Brandon : 1015 Providence Road, Brandon, 33511

    Bonefish Grill's mother ship opened on Fourth Street N in 2000. Now more than 150 locations strong, it was selected the best value in the seafood category by Consumer Reports in June 2009. The menu at Bonefish has been fairly steady, but there is some movement in a new direction: affordable, sha …

  18. 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.

  19. 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 …

  20. 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  …

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