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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. Florida's crop of new craft distilleries stands ready to sell more liquor

    Bars & Spirits

    Feeling thirsty? It's looking as if Florida drinkers may have something to celebrate when a measure moving through the Legislature loosens purchase restrictions at craft breweries.

    But it's not just about beer. If the legislation passes, it will also help a growing number of Florida micro-distilleries, a new class of independent liquormakers popping up from St. Petersburg to Dunedin and beyond....

    The Republic National Distributing Co. sales team, including Eric Sellers, left, Erik Velasquez and Mark Jenkins, tastes products at St. Petersburg Distillery.
  2. Iconic Goody Goody restaurant to reopen in Hyde Park Village

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — After months of speculation, the location of the soon-to-be-resurrected Goody Goody — the iconic restaurant known for its pies and bags of hamburgers "POX" with pickles, onions and the fabled secret sauce — has been announced.

    This fall, Goody Goody will rise in Hyde Park Village at 1601 W Swann Ave. on the corner of Swann and South Dakota avenues on the same block as CinéBistro....

    Richard Gonzmart in the driver seat of the Goody Goody truck.
  3. Review: Haven, in SideBern's old spot, sets high bar from the start

    Food & Dining


    David Laxer reached way back when naming Haven, alluding to his parents' long-ago Beer Haven in what is now the Bordeaux Room of Bern's Steak House. This homage to Gert and Bern Laxer makes one wonder what the family patriarch would think of this newcomer, which opened in March at the site of SideBern's. It's certainly less old-school fancy than Bern's, and less expensive than SideBern's, but I'm guessing Bern Laxer, who died in 2002, would be over-the-moon in love with the new project. As am I....

    Monkfish Bourguignon with mushroom, root vegetables, lardons, red wine emulsion served at Haven on Friday, April 10, 2015. Haven a new restaurant with a vast collection of 300 bourbons and over 40 wines both domestic and imported is located on 2208 West Morrison Avenue in Tampa, on April 9, 2015.
  4. Tampa's Haven debuts bay area's most ambitious cheese program

    Food & Dining

    Cheese and charcuterie plates have cropped up all over the Tampa Bay area recently, from Annata Wine Bar and Locale Market in St. Petersburg to Cru Cellars and Bianchi's Enoteca in Tampa. But Haven, which debuted in March in the spot vacated in June 2014 by SideBern's, represents the most ambitious cheese program in our area to date.

    While this new little sibling to Bern's Steak House is more casual, with a lower price point than SideBern's, its aspirations are huge. The restaurant, at 2208 W Morrison Ave., Tampa, boasts a 2,500-bottle wine cellar and a list of more than 300 bourbons. But perhaps its most impressive element is a powerful olfactory wallop: a cheese cave that can accommodate 120 different kinds of cheeses at various stages of ripeness. ...

    With the charcuterie plate, you can pick three, five or seven different meats and cheeses to be plated with an assortment of nuts, fruits and olives. The Pick Seven, seen here, costs $25 and comes loaded up at the Annata Wine Bar.
  5. Food Network star Robert Irvine talks about his 'unique' live show coming to St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — Food Network star Robert Irvine swoops into the Mahaffey on April 19 for one evening of his multimedia, multisensory cooking demo/boot camp.

    Part motivational speaker, part muscle-bound "fixer," the host of Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, Restaurant: Impossible and Restaurant Express travels 345 days a year by his own count, touching down to save a failing restaurant or cook dinner for 1,000 using only Slim Jims and dented cans of tahini. That's hyperbole, but some of his challenges indeed seem to verge on the impossible. We spoke with him by phone from Las Vegas recently to discuss his upcoming live show....

    Robert Irvine is host of Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, Restaurant: Impossible and Restaurant Express.
  6. Review: Queens Head continues its reign with refreshed menu

    Food & Dining


    Successful long-standing restaurants often don't get the ink they deserve. They continue to admirably orchestrate dozens of moving parts, keep up with trends and establish a coherent identity while food critics are gadflying about looking for the flavor of the week. About the only time they get a fresh review is if there's a shakeup in the kitchen.

    Well, my intention was to re-review the Queens Head before I even knew about new chef Stephen Montalvo and his menu revamping. I've been a fan of Darren Conner and Paul Smith's adorable, quirky Kenwood original since it debuted in 2009, stopping in for a couple of meals recently that were even better than I remembered from back in the days of original chef Chris Greer....

    The burrata salad at Queens Head in St. Petersburg has stuffed handmade mozzarella, marinated tomatoes, a balsamic reduction, olive oil and toast points.
  7. Review: Bull Grill Brazilian Steakhouse is a carnivore's paradise

    Food & Dining


    You start out. Your tabletop paper medallion is on green: "Bring it on, let the meat parade begin." Soon, you get nervous. They're bringing around the lombinho again, the chicken hearts and the bacon-wrapped beef. You're getting sweaty, a meat fog clouding your judgment. That's it, you flip your medallion to red: "No, thanks. Make it stop. Não, as they say in Portuguese." And so it goes at a Brazilian churrascaria (that's shoo-HOSS-ka-REE-ah)....

    Robert Abramowicz, 49, of Northeast, Md., watches as Brazilian meat cooked churrasco-style is served at Bull Grill Brazilian Steakhouse. This is the traditional gaucho parade of meats: long skewers offered tableside, accompanied by an extensive salad buffet.
  8. 5 best places to get a hot dog in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    The Godzilla vs. King Kong of dogs is Nathan's versus Vienna. But then you've got to get into the toppings. In New York? A proper dog comes with steamed onions and pale, deli-style yellow mustard. In Kansas City, it's melted Swiss and kraut; Atlanta dogs get a coleslaw mantle. Whatever your frankfurter fantasies, here are some of Tampa Bay's best hot dog spots.

    Mel's Hot Dogs...

    Susan Norton, a personal chef by trade, makes a Chicago Dog at her restaurant, Hot Dogs on Main, in Dunedin.
  9. Mac and cheese, bacon highlight new foods at Tropicana Field (w/video)

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — One thing is clear at Tropicana Field: Mac is king. And bacon is the crown prince.

    At a Wednesday preview of this year's new Trop foods, mac and cheese dominated, taking center stage in two of the marquee additions to the starting lineup: The 2015 signature half-pound Mac Dog ($15) and the Mac Bat ($8), an all-new adventure in portability that puts mac and cheese — topped with chili, bacon and what have you — inside an edible bread cone....

    St. Petersburg’s Ricky P’s adds a lineup of shrimp and catfish po’boys, including the Ultimate Shrimp Po’boy, left, to Tropicana Field’s menu options.
  10. Local restaurants have fun with April Fools' pranks

    Food & Dining

    Z Grille closing? Datz going Chinese? A Burger King perfume?

    Not so fast.

    We're talking April 1, people. And restaurants are notorious pranksters.

    Zack Gross, one of our area's few James Beard semifinalists, announced the 10th anniversary of his Z Grille in St. Petersburg — as well as its closure — in a Facebook post Monday evening.

    "After 10 years in the Burg, from Central Ave. to the Signature Building, we have decided to go in a different direction. From the Rowdies Den, Station House, Reno's Downtown Joint to the Sundial restaurants as competitors, we are forced to close our doors. Luckily you will be able to enjoy Zack's culinary skills at one of the mentioned restaurants … to be announced."...

    The back of the Datz menu features the regular dishes, but each is “served with fried chicken in a sweet and tangy orange sauce.”
  11. Rowdies Den sports bar to debut in downtown St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    When Midtown Sundries closed abruptly in November, rumors began to swirl: It would become a steakhouse, a Tilted Kilt, Bill Edwards' next downtown project. This last rumor turned out to be true, and on Saturday the Rowdies Den debuts, just in time for his North American Soccer League team's first game of the season. It's an away game in San Antonio, Texas, but Tampa Bay Rowdies fever will run high at 200 First Ave. S, with members of Ralph's Mob and teammates who aren't in San Antonio in attendance....

    Featured on the new menu at the Rowdies Den at 200 First Ave. S in downtown St. Petersburg are a Cuban burger made with ham, a beef patty, Swiss cheese, dill pickle, fried egg and dijon mustard. At rear are Fifty Fifty Balls, tater tots made with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon.
  12. Cook hack: a recipe for the perfect hard-boiled egg


    Hard-boiled eggs: It's as simple as boiling water, right? Couldn't be more wrong. The perfect hard-boiled egg requires meticulous attention to detail, otherwise you get that tough, rubbery white and pasty yolk with an ugly gray-green edge. Whether you're dyeing them or deviling them, place your eggs in a large saucepan in a single layer and cover with cool water by 1 inch. Slowly bring the water to a vigorous simmer (a rolling boil may crack your eggs, so don't get crazy here). Once you've achieved serious bubbles, put a cover on the pot and remove from heat. Time for 12 minutes, drain, then run the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking. The whites won't be tough, the yolk will be a picture-perfect yellow and nice and fluffy. Fresher eggs are easier to peel. If yours are recalcitrant, roll them in your palm back and forth on your counter, and peel them under running water. ...

  13. Celebrity chefs offer tips for bringing something different to the table this Easter


    Some things we know for sure. There will be Peeps, there will be jelly beans (black jelly beans: delightful treat or pure evil?) and there will be an Easter dinner entree you've seen before. Maybe ham, maybe lamb.

    This year, after the egg hunt has run its course, try something different. We asked a handful of celebrity chefs, visiting St. Petersburg's HSN headquarters for a recent 24-hour marathon event billed as the world's largest cooking class, to weigh in on how to enjoy entertaining friends and family this Sunday....

  14. Review: PieTopia's pies please; prices and service don't

    Food & Dining


    The Fourth Street N corridor is splitting at the seams with new restaurants and there are more to come (Pericos, Casita Taqueria, Fresh Kitchen, Daily Eats). There's already a lot of pizza (Tour de Pizza, Flipper's, Westshore, Paisano's, Noble Crust, Goodfella's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's). Which is why I was a little skeptical when I saw the sign go up for PieTopia. Yes, Americans eat about 100 acres of pizza a day, but is there more room for anything, much less pizza, up on Fourth Street?...

    Customers dine at the new PieTopia at 5226 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg.
  15. Recipe for Passover Slow Cooker Beef Brisket


    First, there's the "What is it?" Jewish brisket is not corned beef. Nor is it Texas-style barbecued brisket or French pot au feu, although the cut is the same. One of the nine beef primal cuts, it's from the pectorals, and because cows don't have collarbones, this big muscle supports a lot of bovine body weight. (Read: Cook this cut low and slow to maximize tenderness.)

    Then there's the "Why is it the most traditional Passover protein?"...

    Cook the beef brisket, a traditional Passover meal, low and slow to ensure tender meat. A slow cooker is perfect for the job.