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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: New Vinoy speakeasy, new Kahwa and ... lobster at Subway?

    Food & Dining


    Have you ever been to the super exclusive club-members-and-hotel-guests-only Fred's at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club? Me neither. In countless visits to Marchand's, Alfresco's and the Lobby Bar, I've peeked my head in there and wondered what goes on. Nubile dancing girls? Secret rich-guy handshakes? Now, we can find out. Fred's Cellar is a new concept for the space, this one open to the public. The 1920s speakeasy-inspired dining experience is named after Fred Guest, who helped restore and reopen the Vinoy in 1992. With live music on the weekends and moody dim lighting, guests enter the "juice joint" through a secret passageway complete with a key and secret code. Still, chef Mark Heimann is keeping the food fairly 21st century, with rotating seasonal specials focusing on sustainability and local produce from exclusive area farms and vendors, with shareables and small plates and an emphasis on local beer and small-batch liquors. ...

    Incoming Tampa ramen restaurant Ichicoro got a preview in New York City over the weekend at a ramen test kitchen (Ramen Lab). Noel Cruz, who is opening Ichicoro in Seminole Heights in June, works in his New York City pop-up preview. [Laura Reiley | Times]
  2. It's raining naan: New Indian restaurants around Tampa Bay are both affordable and familiar

    Food & Dining


    It's raining naan, hallelujah. Indian food is one of my faves, that wonderful array of spices, with textural interest provided by soupy lentil dals, spongy housemade cheese, fuchsia-tinged tandoori meats, pillowy puffed breads and condiments with heat and sizzle. In the past few weeks a passel of new Indian restaurants has opened, all at an affordable price point and offering some familiar dishes and other novelty items. • Fowler and Fletcher avenues in Tampa are home to the greatest density of Indian restaurants in the area, and if you ask Anu Vohra why that is, her answer might surprise. Yes, it's because there are a fair number of Indian residents and Indian-heavy businesses, but the more salient reason is that the biggest and best Indian grocery stores are on those streets. Those who are of Indian decent or who seek Indian ingredients head to Patel Bros. or other stores, and then it's one-stop shopping to scoot in for tandoori chicken and a hot order of onion kulcha....

    Vegetable biryani is on the menu at Desi by Nature in Tampa.
  3. Dining Planner: Where to eat on the Fourth of July, plus a showing from Dr. BBQ

    Food & Dining


    For most of us, Saturday evening will culminate in looking skyward while saying, "Oooooohhhhhhh." July Fourth fireworks displays are preceded in large measure by backyard barbecues, but if you find yourself peckish preshow, here are some dining suggestions.


    ,Annata Wine Bar, 300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 851-9582...

    Pan-Seared Scallop With Creamed Corn, Tomato, Bacon and Pickled Jalapeno is on the menu at Annata Wine Bar in St. Petersburg.
  4. Review: Fabrica Woodfired Pizza brings custom pizzas to Tampa's Channel District

    Food & Dining


    If you work out at the Orangetheory Fitness center in Channelside, you've got to be a little nervous right now. Your spandex is soggy and your muscles burn, time to go out and rock the day. But what's this? The smell of thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza? Each pie customized and available in 90 seconds? You're looking at a lot more time on the rowing machine.

    As the Channel District has filled up with young professionals drawn by Tampa urban living (finally), infrastructure has filled in around the complexes at Pierhouse at Channelside and Grand Central at Kennedy. Brand new on the scene is Fabrica Woodfired Pizza, Mayor Buckhorn to preside over its official "dough cutting" on July 17. Jonathan and Estefania Perez, working with San Francisco-based Culinary Edge consultants, have brought a quick-serve, Chipotle-ish approach to sophisticated dark-edged, tender-middled pizzas, the 'za lineup supplemented by smart salads, some really good meatballs and doodads like craft beer and gelato. The prices are very reasonable and you can take it to-go; that right there could put a little crimp in the magnitude of your Orange Effect....

    Oven-roasted meatballs are served in a warm housemade tomato sauce with parmigiano and fresh basil at Fabrica Woodfired Pizza in Tampa.
  5. Ray Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ, offers grilling advice on rubs, marinades and brining



    Barbecue titans quake when they see him. He's buds with Guy Fieri, but also helped pal Justin Timberlake with his Southern Hospitality in New York. And he's routinely seen as a judge on shows like Chopped, World Food Championships and American Grilled.

    If you know what he looks like, he's hard to miss: a big guy with a white flattop and a long cylindrical, maybe even goaty, beard. Oh, and he sports a tattoo of a watch on his left arm (couldn't quite see what time it reads) and often wears a chef's jacket with flames licking down the sleeves. In short, he doesn't exactly blend. But Ray Lampe is undoubtedly St. Petersburg's most famous chef whom no one knows....

    Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe of St. Petersburg has written the book on barbecue, or rather several of them. He has been on the barbecue circuit, grilling professionally, for more than two decades.
  6. Wines to pair with grilled chicken, seafood and red meats

    Bars & Spirits

    You've got the fancy grill tongs, the special mesquite wood chips and the space-age meat thermometer, everything you need to get serious at the barbecue. But now you're thirsty. Parched, in fact. What to quaff with grillables is tricky, but Tampa's Cru Cellars sommelier and general manager William Lucius has you covered. • He grills all the time, he says, but since moving to Florida he leans toward roses, lighter reds and crisper whites. Laura Reiley, Times food critic...

  7. Where to eat in Orlando: a raft of new restaurants

    Food & Dining


    Maybe the kids are spending the week at Camp Kennedy Space Center, or the family has driven over to check out the 400 skeletons in dioramas at the new Skeletons: Animals Unveiled! on I-Drive or the similarly ghoulish Mummies of the World Exhibition at the Orlando Science Center. Or maybe you're taking advantage of the long Independence Day weekend. In any event, you find yourself driving northeast on Interstate 4 to Orlando for a little summer relaxation....

    You can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner — and housemade coffee tequila — at Artisan’s Table, which is centrally located in downtown.
  8. Restaurant review: La Fondita de Leo brings novel cuisine to downtown Clearwater

    Food & Dining


    Downtown Clearwater, the toughest restaurant territory in the Tampa Bay area. Is it the longtime construction that has made getting there tricky? Or maybe the lack of cultural amenities beyond the Capitol Theatre and the odd gallery or two? Or could it be the huge Scientology complex looming mysteriously at its center? For whatever reason, of the more than a dozen restaurants I've reviewed there in recent years, only a couple have made it past their one-year anniversary. It's a tough business, but that's pretty bad odds....

    La Fondita de Leo chef-restaurateur Leo Caicedo serves, from left, Karin Brooks of Safety Harbor, Rachel Wyllie of Clearwater and Isiah Waller of Largo. The restaurant opened on May 2.
  9. Tampa Bay Food and Dining Quiz: Which beach bar should you go to this summer?

    Bars & Spirits

    Nearly as elusive as the yeti, the perfect beach bar is first and foremost a good time. It may be toes-in-the-sand, or else splintery picnic tables in the sun and opportunistic seagulls poised for incursion. But it can't be too upscale, is likely to serve frozen drinks in some approximation of a Solo cup and certain to cycle through a musical repertoire that will satisfy Parrotheads. If you are having trouble deciding which Tampa Bay beach bar to check out tonight, use our fun quiz to help you decide. For more suggestions, insider tips and reviews on the culinary delights of the Tampa Bay region, check out our Beach Bar Guide and the Food and Dining section of

    A fresh margarita, available at Woody's Waterfront, 7308 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  10. Top 10 summer beach bars in Tampa Bay

    Bars & Spirits


    Nearly as elusive as the yeti, the perfect beach bar is first and foremost a good time. It may be toes-in-the-sand, or splintery picnic tables in the sun and opportunistic seagulls poised for incursion. But it can't be too upscale (sorry, Salt Rock, Bon Appetit and other worthy waterside spots), is likely to serve frozen drinks in some approximation of a Solo cup and is certain to cycle through a musical repertoire that will satisfy Parrotheads. St. Pete Beach has a ton of them, Clearwater Beach another big handful. Pinellas County's communities in between tend to fill their beachside bits with residential properties, so beach bars have gotten the heave-ho. After doing some diligent field work (at least SPF 30 at all times!), we determined that, from south to north, here are the 10 beach bars worthy of your summer scrutiny....

    Mark Bussman of St. Petersburg, Bryan Vokey of Oakland, Calif., and George Vokey of Bradenton share a pitcher of beer Thursday at Woody's Waterfront, 7308 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  11. Tampa restaurant Rooster & the Till raising money to help send employee to college

    Food & Dining

    It was supposed to be a surprise, but Hassan Lewis, 18, was noodling on Rooster & the Till's Instagram feed and was shocked to see his own face.

    Under it was a message from Rooster's chef/co-owner Ferrell Alvarez: "Sometimes your crew does things for each other that truly move you. Ben is raising money to send his brother and co-worker Hassan to college. Check out the link in our profile to read his story and pitch in."...

    Rooster & the Till dishwasher Hassan Lewis graduated this year from Leto High School in Tampa and hopes to go to USF.
  12. First look at new pan-Asian restaurant Souzou in downtown St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    One of the six dramatic black-and-white charcoal canvases depicting fierce shogun warriors looks suspiciously like Frank Zappa. The artist, Scott Fisher of St. Petersburg design firm T2theS, was not available to confirm Wednesday afternoon, but Mike Harting and Patrick Marston spent a little time explicating many other non-Zappa elements of their Souzou, which debuts Monday at 435 Fifth Ave. N....

    On Wednesday, some of the nearly 60 employees prepare Souzou for its opening next week.
  13. Cigar City Brewing, Florida Cattlemen's Association are partnering to make a craft beer

    Food & Dining

    Florida cattle ranchers and Florida craft brewers have gotten cozy in the past couple years. Jim Strickland, past chairman of the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation, and the brewmasters at Ulele and 3 Daughters Brewing have entered into savvy collaborations, the spent grain from brewing going to nourish Strickland's cows; Strickland's beef going to nourish Ulele and 3 Daughters customers.

    Today that collaboration was strengthened when Cigar City Brewing and the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation announced the development of Cow Boss Imperial Milk Stout, an authentic, Florida-sourced craft beer to debut next week in 22-ounce bottles and on draft all over the state. Cigar City Brewing will make a donation to the Florida Cattlemen's Foundation in support of its mission to preserve the history, heritage and ideals of Florida cattle producers....

    Label courtesy Cigar City Brewing
  14. Purslane or saltwort anyone? Mote Research Lab debuts edible sea vegetables


    On Monday morning a bus full of chefs pulled up at Mote Research Lab in Sarasota to taste what marine scientist Kevan Main has been up to. On the heels of the lab's tremendously popular commercial demonstration project with sturgeon and sturgeon caviar, Main was upping the ante.

    Her new project is sustainable, local, ecologically friendly and just about all the other foodie buzzwords bandied about these days. What she didn't know was: Was it tasty? And would chefs and consumers be open to it?...

    Matt Dahlkemper, executive sous chef of St. Petersburg’s Locale Market, bought sea purslane a few weeks ago and served it at FarmTable Kitchen as a garnish to a dish of Punta Gorda flounder.
  15. Wrap your hands around one of Tampa Bay's alterna-burgers

    Food & Dining

    If your cheeseburger paradise is one with some quirks, here are the Tampa Bay sandwiches for you.

    Laura Reiley, Times food critic

    Brick House Tavern + Tap

    The Houston-based chain recently debuted a couple of alterna-meat burgers, offered every Thursday at the man cave/restaurant. (That's not my judgment call; it says it right there on the wall, along with the Homer Simpson quote: "To alcohol ... the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.'' Plus, there are beer bongs.) Brought to you by servers not quite as pneumatic as those at Hooters, you can order a bison burger, chargrilled and drizzled with jalapeno cilantro mayo, with a layer of candied slab bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion, served on a toasted brioche bun. And if you're really willing to take a walk on the wild side, opt for the goat burger (above): a third of a pound of blended ground goat, lamb and beef, topped with a blend of sauteed wild mushrooms and oven-roasted tomatoes, then drizzled with a goat cheese cream sauce and spicy Harissa mayo spread, the whole thing served on grilled naan with a pouf of arugula. 1102 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 350-9108 ...

    Square 1’s Portobello Burger is topped with greens, avocado, tomato slices, goat cheese spread and sun-dried tomato mayo.