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SHERMAN'S PICKS

Summaries of recent reviews by Times Restaurant Critic Chris Sherman. CAFE CREOLE. The setting is ye olde Ybor, the history Cuban, the food and music imported from New Orleans. Skip the dirty rice, but don't miss softshell crabs, oyster po' boys, crawfish or occasional zydeco bands; they've got real bayou flavor. Plus there are plenty of snacks and small portions for grazing and light dining.

- 1330 Ninth Ave., Tampa; 247-6283. Full bar, credit cards. Prices, $5.25 to $12.95.

HOPS GRILL & BREWERY. One of the area's first "brew pubs," Hops makes its beer and most of its food from scratch and does well in both categories. The four house beers range from a surprisingly tasty light to a British-style pale ale. Expect more than bar food, too: pastas, soups and steaks all show extra effort.

- 1451 U.S. 19 S, Clearwater; 531-5300. Beer, wine. Credit cards.

Prices, $2.45 to $13.95.

KEEGAN'S SEAFOOD GRILLE. Size and decor are modest, but the menu's

ambitious, and the kitchen usually delivers some of the most clever seafood on the beaches, from ceviche to grilled fish, for bargain prices. Most entrees are modest in size, but linguine with mussels is a feast.

- 1311 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, 596-2477. Beer, wine; no non-smoking area. No credit cards. Prices, $4.50 to $8.95.

ANI'S MEDITERRANEAN DELI. This is mostly a takeout counter with folding chairs and zero atmosphere, but that won't matter to underground gourmets, vegetarians and fans of Middle Eastern food.

Here they make sandwiches of meatless falafel and baba ghanouj eggplant dip and other goodies, with and without meat.

- 6570 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; 345-6611. No credit cards. No alcohol. Prices, $1.50 to $4.75.

ATENE. The downtown St. Petersburg menu is brighter since swank food returned to this equally swank room in the Plaza; here you can indulge in gourmet lunches and dinners at modest prices. Eclectic cuisine combines rich old-school sauces, nouvelle presentation with a slight Eastern European accent. Soups and meats are first-rate; low-fat healthful alternatives are tasty.

- 111 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg; 898-7900; full bar; dinners, $10.95 to $16.95.

CAFE PEPE. This place has hearty Spanish food seasoned with olive oil and sherry. Decor is classic and clean. Best entrees are steaks and rice dishes such as paella or chicken.

- 2006 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. 253-6501. Non-smoking section provided.

Full bar. Dinners, $6.50 to $15.

OMI'S BAVARIAN INN - The music is taped, and the decor is kitschy, but there's plenty of oompah on your plate. Soups are homemade, and German hospitality is as genuine as the beer.

- 14702 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. No non-smoking section. Beer, wine.

Dinners, $6.80 to $12.45.

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