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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

  1. Dining Planner: Changes for Sea Sea Riders and Grill 131, info on the St. Pete Wine & Food Festival

    Food & Dining


    Sea Sea Riders

    Sea Sea Riders has been a solid part of Dunedin's dining scene for 27 years, since really before the charming gulf-side burg with the Scottish accent had much of a dining scene. Sylvia and Artie Tzekas have seen chefs come and go in the 1903 Key West-inspired old Florida cracker house, but through it all they've maintained an appealing Southern coastal theme to the menu....

    Shown are, from left, Grill 131’s seafood tasting and the baby back ribs done with the same sauce Bob Spoto has been using for more than 30 years.
  2. Restaurant review: Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill brings a novel cuisine to New Tampa

    Food & Dining


    When I lived in New Tampa there wasn't much more than Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Chili's. These days those Tampa Palms and Hunter's Green folks have a whole raft of appealing and sophisticated independent restaurants. Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill is the newest of the bunch, having opened its doors in Cross Creek in June. Owner Bilal Saleh is an engineer, his brother a physician who built a little shopping plaza adjacent to the Publix. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a restaurant nearby that served the Syrian cuisine of the brothers' homeland? So they built one....

    On the menu at Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill is the Pie Sampler, which comes with one piece of feta cheese pie, ground beef pie, spinach pie and zaatar pie.
  3. Worth the trip: Magical Dining Month offers prix-fixe meals at Orlando's best restaurants

    Food & Dining

    New York does theirs in the dog days of summer. For Chicago it's the beginning of February, when everyone is officially allergic to winter. In Sarasota it's June, and in Miami it runs August and September. Restaurant weeks (or months) have caught fire in most major cities. Participating restaurants offer inexpensive prix-fixe menus and the whole event is publicized and organized by the city, all of the tantalizing details elucidated on a website....

    “We have never done coupons; we believe it cheapens the brand,” said Henry Salgado. “Magical Dining is different.”
  4. Try this: savory yogurt from renowned chef Dan Barber's Blue Hill farm


    The yogurt aisle is starting to get outright silly. But here's a new product that is worthy of its shelf space. Times art critic Lennie Bennett leaned over her cubicle one day and told me, "Dan Barber is now making Blue Hill savory yogurts." It took me a couple of weeks to head to Fresh Market to investigate, because Lennie did not adequately convey the "run, don't walk" import of her news....

    Beet is among the Blue Hill yogurt flavors.
  5. New chef at Tampa's Roux makes things more Cajun, less Creole

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — She won them over from the stomach up.

    Bonnie Breaux was competing in the World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off in New Iberia, La. Suzanne and Roger Perry, owners of Datz, Dough and Roux in Tampa, were in town to check it out. The night before the big event they made reservations at Clementine Café, executive chef Breaux taking the call.

    "When you come in call me out and I'll do some samples of our food," she told them. "I did étouffée, seafood gumbo and shrimp and grits, I remember."...

    Bonnie Breaux says she got her “culinary training at the institute of life.”
  6. Dining Planner: Best smoked cocktails, a secret menu at Il Ritorno and a place for fresh bread

    Food & Dining


    Ready your extinguisher. They're everywhere. Bartenders all over the Tampa Bay area are turning to new tools to up their game. One of those is smoke, which comes in many forms.

    At Craft Street Kitchen (3216 Little Road, Trinity; (727) 372-9491), brothers Jason, Jimmy and Johnny Rehm head up a booming indoor-outdoor gastropub that is equal parts big-time fun and serious gastronomic ambition. There's a stupendous chalkboard of craft beers (oh, the flirty lusciousness of Cigar City Maduro vanilla on a nitro tap, nitrogen beers creamier than their prickly CO2 counterparts), but really, your attentions should be turned elsewhere. Such as to the smoked Old Fashioned: A cedar plank is lit on fire, its smoke captured in an overturned glass into which Buffalo Trace bourbon, walnut bitters and demerara sugar are assembled and capped off with one of those big, fancy ice cubes....

    The Tahona cocktail at the Mill in St. Petersburg mixes Milagro reposado tequila, St-Germain, cactus pear juice, smoked-jalapeno-infused agave and lime juice.
  7. Four Seasons offers Orlando's most luxe hotel experience



    Until last year, one still could ponder: In the 450 hotels with more than 116,000 rooms in Orlando, why is there no true luxury hotel with the cushy robes and fancy little shampoos that make you want to put down roots like Eloise at the Plaza?

    Yes, there was the Grand Floridian, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Great Lakes and Villas of Grand Cypress, but it wasn't until August 2014, when Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort opened (I know, the name is cumbersome), that super fancy travelers had somewhere to rest their heads on skajillion-thread-count pillowcases....

    The hotel’s Spanish Revival architecture is complemented by pools flanked by cypress, among 114 different plant species, including 49 live oaks, 927 palm trees and 72,000 shrubs. 
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort 
  8. Yelp heavy hitters talk about company's growing clout and struggles


    ST. PETERSBURG — Walter Palmer may have killed Cecil the lion, but it was Yelp that offed Palmer's dental practice.

    Since the crowdsourced review site's debut in 2004 it has experienced a meteoric rise among consumer websites, now boasting an average of 83 million unique monthly mobile visitors and 79 million desktop visitors. Consumers can read and write Yelp reviews in 31 countries and counting....

    Datz is now the most-evaluated Tampa Bay area restaurant on Yelp with more than 1,100 reviews.
  9. Review: St. Petersburg's the Mill wows with decor, thoughtfully prepared food and drinks

    Food & Dining


    Burlap and chicken wire create a textural backdrop for a mounted pitchfork over the bar. One wall is the lustrous tooled leather of a rodeo star's lucky saddle, another is an installation of rust-freckled gears and cogs and wheels and pipes. A repurposed footed bathtub becomes the ladies' room sink; the men's room features a wash basin inset in a wide-wale tractor tire. At the hostess stand there's a vintage hand pump, behind that a huge waterwheel-turned-wine rack....

    The Toro Pastrami at the Mill in St. Petersburg is served with avocado frisee, heirloom tomatoes, pickled red onion, fennel pollen, freed marble rye and a “64 degree egg.”
  10. American Social and Thai Prime to join the Tampa restaurant roster

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — With a view of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, Amalie Arena, Tampa General Hospital and all of Jeff Vinik's highly anticipated Channelside construction, Harbour Island is looking like prime restaurant territory.

    At least it seems that way based on the announcement Wednesday that it will be the site of American Social's third location.

    Paul Greenberg, Rick Mijares and Mijares' parents, Tony and Laurie Mijares, debuted their first high-profile upscale sports bar and "farm-to-table" restaurant in 2012 on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and expanded with a second location last year in the tony Brickell area of downtown Miami....

    American Social sports bar, already in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, is slated to open next August on Harbour Island.
  11. Dining planner: Best places to get cheese and charcuterie around Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining


    I know you've noticed this. It's there on the menu, usually after the appetizers and before the entrees, with its own little section devoted to things that are hard to pronounce but delicious to eat: robiola due latte, tartufotto, caciocavallo. Cheese and charcuterie boards are popping up all over the place. I'm in the midst of getting chummy with that at Ted Dorsey's the Mill in downtown St. Petersburg (look for that review in Taste on Wednesday), but here are others of the species that are worthy of some swooning. ...

    Available at Cuv?e 103 in Clearwater is a charcuterie plate of meats, cheeses and olives.
  12. St. Petersburg food truck owner to compete on Food Network's 'Cutthroat Kitchen'

    Food & Dining

    Longtime married folks say pick a spouse who has the power to surprise you. Newlywed Mee Ae Wolney hit paydirt. Last October she and Dan Wolney started the Mmm Bap Korean food truck, which mostly motors the streets of St. Petersburg. Unbeknownst to Mee Ae, Dan submitted her name as a contestant on the Food Network show Cutthroat Kitchen, hosted by Alton Brown and featuring four chefs competing in a three-round elimination cooking competition....

    Mee Ae Wolney is owner of Mmm Bap Korean food truck in St. Petersburg.
  13. Celebrity chef Marc Murphy to open a restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa announced Monday it will partner with New York celebrity chef Marc Murphy to debut a new as-yet-unnamed Mediterranean restaurant to take the place of the Green Room, with a target opening date in November.

    Murphy has been a regular judge on Food Network's Chopped, with frequent appearances on other hit series such as Guy's Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. His debut cookbook, Season With Authority, was released in April. But it is his work as the head of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy, with hot New York destinations such as Landmarc in Tribeca, Landmarc at the Time Warner Center and Kingside at the Viceroy New York, that excited the Hard Rock team....

    The Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has announced a new restaurant from celebrity chef Mark Murphy (he's from Chopped) coming in November. The Mediterranean place will be "a calming oasis with a bright atmosphere and a restrained palette of warm neutral materials." With the lackluster presence of the promised celeb chefs at Locale in St. Pete, this could be the area's biggest name on a restaurant. 

courtesy Seminole Hard Rock
  14. Review: Chop Chop Shop needs refinement, but its Korean fusion flavors are worth seeking out

    Food & Dining


    Last month I wrote about a new trend in the food truck business. Folks are taking the wheels off, starting with a truck in order to pave the way for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Steve Sera and his wife, Olivia, were among the examples I gave. On June 27 they debuted Chop Chop Shop in Seminole Heights after having built a following with their Korean-fusion build-a-bowl truck called Kind Grinds....

    The Chop Chop Shop in Tampa.
  15. Sunray Venus clams could be Florida's next big aquaculture crop


    ANNA MARIA ISLAND — As labs go, it's not half bad. A blue heron tilts fixedly at the shoreline; dolphin splashes are a brief distraction. Bruce Barber, professor of marine science at Eckerd College, has to squat down to run a blunt knife through the soft, sandy bottom at low tide.

    A few assays and it's pay dirt: He pulls up an ovoid 3-inch bivalve, its shell highly polished and radiating with pretty crisscrossed stripes of brown, pink-gray, lavender and gold....

    Sunray venus clams at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Avenue, on Anna Maria Island Sunday afternoon