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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. Restaurant review: Opal Sands' new spot Sea-Guini brings solid Italian, seafood despite odd name

    Food & Dining


    Some restaurants have bad names on purpose (Crabby Dick's). And then there are those that may be the naive choices of non-native speakers. (Let's assume Chewy Balls is a boba tea place and Crapitto's Cucina Italiana an unfortunate surname situation.)

    Still, there are other names that make you wonder. Was it a group decision, spit-balled in a conference room over too many cups of coffee? Or did someone wake up after an unsettling dream and it was the thought that couldn't be unthought: "I know, we should call the restaurant Sea-Guini. Definitely with a hyphen."...

    Pan-seared hogfish, made with local hogfish, roasted Florida corn broth, sweet gulf shrimp, smokehouse bacon and potato hash, as well as roasted cauliflower, is one of the fresh seafood options at Sea-Guini at Opal Sands Resort.
  2. Review: Fish Bar and Grille a welcome seafood-centric newcomer to Gulfport

    Food & Dining


    From the outside looking in, Gulfport has a more coherent identity than most of the communities in Tampa Bay. Folks are civic-minded, a little iconoclastic and a whole lot of friendly. It has more than its share of wind chimes, paintings of geckos and mailboxes shaped like manatees or jowly pelicans. Its 1930s bungalows tend to have yards that are pretty without being what might be described as manicured....

    The patio at Fish Bar and Grille is dog-friendly.
  3. Bern's Steak House wins 2016 James Beard Awards Outstanding Wine Program

    Food & Dining

    This year's only Tampa Bay James Beard finalist came up gold, the first year our area has medaled in the "Academy Awards of food" since Bern's Steak House sommelier Derrick Pagan won for wine service in 1992. Who was our big winner this year?

    Bern's Steak House.

    Bern's was named a finalist in this year's Outstanding Wine Program category. With what is said to be the largest restaurant wine list in the country, Bern's competed against Canlis in Seattle, Commander's Palace in New Orleans, FIG in Charleston, S.C., and Sepia in Chicago....

    Bern’s Steak House tweeted this photo of David Laxer, Bern’s owner, left, and Eric Renaud, senior sommelier, at the James Beard Awards in Chicago on Monday night. 
  4. Restaurant review: Solid Asian street food at St. Petersburg's Hawkers could use more polish

    Food & Dining


    I was smitten by the first Hawkers, which opened in Orlando in 2011. Aiming to re-create the street foods of Asia, it was an edgy, industrial space with concrete floors, corrugated aluminum wainscoting and an audacious color scheme. Named for the sidewalk peddlers who "hawk" via exuberant call or chant, it was a fun place to go with friends, racking up a pile of empty plates and chopstick-battling for a last bite of Korean bulgogi beef or Malaysian roti flatbread with savory curry dipping sauce....

The fare at Hawkers includes Slow-Braised Pork Belly Hawkers Baos.
  5. Farm to Fable: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ponders curbing food misrepresentation


    TAMPA — Florida's agriculture commissioner Wednesday said the state needs to better understand the definition of "Fresh from Florida" and more thoroughly police the claims restaurateurs make to customers.

    Adam Putnam's comments were spurred by the Tampa Bay Times' investigative series, called Farm to Fable, which published in April and exposed food misrepresentations at Florida's so-called farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets....

  6. Restaurant review: Lithuanian spot Drama Burger delivers funky but solid burgers, eclectic atmosphere

    Food & Dining


    It's nearly the best scene in Pulp Fiction. Vincent asks Jules if he knows what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris. Jules says, "They don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?" Vincent: "No, man, they got the metric system. ... They call it a royale with cheese."

    Living in Europe as kids, my little brother would go limp with hunger, practically expiring until we could shovel his boneless form into an American-style burger joint called Wimpy's. It was familiar but just different enough that it caused an odd sense of vertigo. In fact, one of the more unsettling parts of travel is checking out American fast-food innovations in foreign lands: McDonald's filet-o-shrimp burger in Japan; their taro pie in China; the Toblerone McFlurry in Denmark....

    Lithuanian-based Drama Burger opened its first U.S. restaurant in Tampa, on Kennedy Boulevard.
  7. What food critic Laura Reiley learned by not dining out for two months

    Food & Dining

    I went cold turkey.

    I took two months off of reviewing restaurants so that I could work on the Tampa Bay Times' Farm to Fable series. (Look for the second part in Sunday's paper; it's all online now at

    I'd done it before. Over the years there have been other reasons to step away from that particular credit card, to desist in making reservations under funny names. And it's always illuminating....
  8. 2016 James Beard semifinalist nods go to chef Greg Baker, Bern's Steak House in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    Greg Baker, chef and co-owner of Tampa's Refinery and Fodder & Shine, seemed hardly to break stride Wednesday when he learned he had once again been named a semifinalist in this year's James Beard awards.

    Putting finishing touches on some menu changes, followed by a finance meeting, it scarcely seemed like the day plan of someone just nominated to what is widely thought of as the Academy Awards of food....

    Greg Baker of the Refinery and Fodder and Shine in Tampa is a semifinalist in the Best Chef, South category for the fifth time.
  9. Restaurant review: New Boca Kitchen Bar Market is a hip, locally sourced treasure in Brandon-Riverview area

    Food & Dining


    When Boca Kitchen Bar Market debuted in South Tampa at the beginning of 2012 there wasn't much like it in these parts. A joint project of Gordon Davis and Kevin Enderle, it sourced veggies from Davis' Lake Hiawatha Farm in Odessa, pork from Nature Delivered in Brooksville, chicken and duck eggs from Lake Meadows Natural in Ocoee and Suncoast Food Alliance traipsed all over Manatee and surrounding counties filling in other farm-fresh produce several times a week, all of this listed on a chalkboard. It was among the first glimmers of real farm-to-table effort in our area....

    The P.E.I. mussels in a creamy-sweet sambuca broth is a notable dish and really a meal if you tack on fries.
  10. Dining planner: Outstanding in the Field, Forks and Corks in Sarasota and learning from a master

    Food & Dining


    At the first Outstanding in the Field dinner I went to, there was a 30-pound jackfruit, spiky and menacing like the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, perched center stage under a gazebo. We assembled at long tables and passed platters heaped with homemade organic ricotta cheese, caramel-colored squares of local honeycomb, walnut raisin toasts and vast piles of that lemon-yellow jackfruit flesh. During it all, California-based Jim Denevan explicated precisely what was occurring at his 107th Outstanding in the Field dinner, the first in Florida. With many more under his belt now, he and his performance art troupe/roving band of dinner hosts come back to Florida for a single meal Friday at Beasley Farm, 10137 Preston Road in Brooksville. Diners sit in a makeshift dining room at the center of the farm, with the fields all around, to enjoy local foods produced by local farmers, all crafted into a multi-course, family-style meal by chef Ferrell Alvarez of Tampa's Rooster & The Till. Alvarez is one of the area's most rigorous proponents of farm-to-table cooking, so it's bound to be a thrilling showcase of what Florida farmers are up to in 2016. Price is $190 per person. Start time is 3 p.m. (352) 799-6752. ...

    Giuliano Hazan prepares spaghetti with yellow squash and grape tomatoes.
  11. More than 40 new Tampa Bay restaurants opening in spring 2016

    Food & Dining

    Fasten your seat belts and ready the MasterCard. The Tampa Bay area is poised for a serious avalanche of notable new restaurants this spring. Already 2016 is heating up with fresh concepts that bring novelty to area tables (in St. Petersburg, the Lure on Central Avenue is making grasshopper tacos, and I'm hearing Joli Pizzeria and Market on Roosevelt Boulevard serves pizza pops and has a cannoli bar with toppings). Given the vicissitudes of construction, permitting and staffing, opening dates are as accurate as possible....

    Extreme Pizza recently opened in Palm Harbor, its first Florida location. Next up: Clearwater Beach.
  12. Restaurant review: Pericos in north St. Petersburg needs some work

    Food & Dining


    In the bar area is a row of saddles — tooled leather fenders, fleece-lined cantles, fringy horse tails behind and tall pommels in front — that serves as a metaphor. Although cool-looking, they go largely unused as bar stools because they are too far from the bar for easy beverage consumption. So close, but yet so far, which about sums up Pericos Restaurant, a new entry in the Gateway area of Fourth Street N. ...

    Pericos is loaded with authentic Day of the Dead memorabilia hauled from Mexico, where the owner ran a restaurant in Cancun for more than 30 years.
  13. Dining Planner: Seafood in Sarasota, veggies in Tampa and pie in Zephyrhills





    Go fish at the Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival, an inaugural fete that celebrates Sarasota's local seafood and entertainment. Expect seafood vendors, menu items from local restaurants made from indigenous and sustainable foods, cooking demonstrations, fishing workshops, arts and crafts, exhibits and live music by regional and national artists including Holey Miss Moley, Aland Music, Kettle of Fish, Sarasota Steel Pan and others. It's free, but food and drink (the main event, of course) are extra. Selby Five Points Park, 1331 First St., Sarasota. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

    Finding a good bowl of seafood chowder shouldn’t be a problem at the Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival this weekend.
  14. Changes coming to company that operates Ceviche and Rococo Steak


    Caledon Concepts, which operates four upscale restaurants in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando, has announced the addition of three top-level restaurant professionals to its management team. Lee Karlins, most recently of 2BHospitality (BellaBrava, Stillwaters Tavern) has been named president. And two notable locals have been tapped as directors of development: Dave Madera, former general manager of Mise En Place, and Ro Patel, a partner in Anise Global Gastrobar and architect of the bar program at restaurants such as Station House and Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club....

  15. IRB Sushi in Indian Rocks Beach closes to make way for expanded Crabby Bill's


    IRB Sushi in Indian Rocks Beach has closed in order to make way for an expanded Crabby Bill's Fish Market, according to owner Matt Loder, Sr. The market will jump from 300 square feet to 2,700 square feet, creating room for exhibition kitchen and butchery, with a target opening date in the next six to eight weeks.

    "We've owned the building in that north corner of the block for more than 20 years. IRB Sushi was at a crossroads and we needed the additional space for better presentation and more product."...