The following is a brief sampler of some recommended restaurants in the Tampa Bay area, grouped by the kind of dining they offer. The restaurants named rotate each week and are selected by the news staff of the St. Petersburg Times, without regard to advertising. For days and hours of operation, call the restaurant. APROPOS. This stylish downtown spot in St. Petersburg is the place for an elegant lunch. Much of the menu is sandwiches, salads and cold plates, but food is fresh and preparations refreshing. Try shrimp and artichoke salad, tomato basil tart, tarragon chicken salad or fresh soups. A chic brunch offered on Sunday.
_ 104 First Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. 823-8934. No reservations. No credit cards accepted. Beer, wine served. Lunch prices, $3.95-7.50.
CHUBBY'S. This is a no-frills neighborhood pizza and sandwich place with a genuine Italian aroma, New England grinders and lots of bragging about the Boston Celtics. Business is mostly take-out but there's table service after 5 p.m. (and delivery to a limited area around MacDill).
_ 5023 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; 831-5557. Beer and wine served. No credit cards accepted. Sandwiches, pasta and pizza, $3 to $12.95.
DOGWATER. The gag here is on other gimmicky theme bars as well as the customers. Dinner is served in dog food bowls. Honest. But the food is as good as the joke; nothing special, just everyday grub done well. Lap up the food, but beer comes in regulation glasses.
_ 8300 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg; 347-6190. Beer and wine. $2.25 to $8.95.
KEYSTONE CLUB. A clubby little spot for power dining and power lunching in an executive-green setting in downtown St. Petersburg. The attention-getters here are big steaks and chops, but crab and seafood are also simple and good; all served at modest prices, with minimum fuss.
_ 320 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. 822-6600. Full bar. Non-smoking section available. Prices: $7.95 to $19.95.
ROGER'S REAL PIT BAR-B-QUE. Roger's, which started in Clearwater, now has two good, quick barbecue spots that draw enough of a crowd that there's a wait to be seated most Friday and Saturday nights. Barbecue comes in sandwiches and plate dinners. Alternatives include catfish and a salad bar.
_ 6851 66th St. N, Pinellas Park, 544-6671; 12150 Seminole Blvd., Clearwater, 586-2629. Non-smoking section available. Draft beer served. Prices, $2.10 to $7.
ARIGATO JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE. A fun place for kids and adults. Groups of up to 10 are assembled around a teppanyaki table and stove to watch the Japanese chef prepare steak, chicken or seafood with a dash of spice and a flash of cutlery. The food is reliable, and you can control the cooking since you're watching the whole time. For full flavor, have some hot sake.
_ 13755 N Dale Mabry, Tampa, 960-5050; 1500 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater, 799-0202; 3600 66th St. N, St. Petersburg, 343-5200. Full bar. Reservations recommended. Dinners, $7.95 to $16.95.
B.T. BONES STEAKHOUSE. If you like your beef with the brand of the Old West, head out to a homegrown chain's version of a Texas steak 'n' beer palace. Meat's not always butterknife-tender, but you can bet the cuts will be hefty, the prices puny and the atmosphere kicked-back.
_ 7022 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg (and other locations in Tampa Bay). No reservations. Full bar. No non-smoking area. Moderate prices, $5.50 to $13.95.
BELLA TRATTORIA. This is a fun place for chic, one-person-size pizzas with designer toppings and good salads. The paper-covered tables come equipped with crayons, so you can sketch your dinner partner _ or your neighbors _ between courses.
_ 1413 S Howard Ave., Tampa, 254-3355; 13505 Icot Blvd. (Ulmerton Road), Clearwater, 535-6224. No reservations. Non-smoking area provided at Clearwater location. Full bar. Prices $1.50 to $11.95.
BITE OF EUROPE. This tiny Bohemian bistro is actually a large, affordable helping of Continental charm, borrowed from Eastern Europe as well as France and Italy. Start with baked cheese or soup and duckling or the special sauerkraut goulash. If dumplings or spaetzle aren't included, they're worth ordering a la carte.
_ 14203 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; 398-7465. No non-smoking section. Prices, $8.90 to 11.30.
BUDAPEST. Not much room in here and not much room left on your plate; this is hearty Hungarian family eating. Don't mind the no-nonsense service; goulash, paprikash and spaetzle dumplings are pure comfort foods, plentiful and affordable.
_ 7411 U.S. 19 N, New Port Richey; 848-4437. Reservations suggested. Credit cards not accepted. Beer, wine. Dinners, $4.95 to $8.95.
COCKLES CAFE. Some of the finest light and creative dining hides in a newish Howard Johnson's. No clam rolls, but have some of the namesake mollusks. Chefs do striking turns with pasta, seafood and grilled meats by adding fresh herbs and mushrooms, all at affordable prices. Breads and salads are tops.
_ 3600 34th St. S (U.S. 19), St. Petersburg; 867-6070; full bar. Non-smoking area provided. Prices, $4.50 to $14.50.
CHILI'S. This Texas-based chain started out dressing up Tex-Mex food with fern bar decor, and now it has updated the menu as well. It's a fun place to sit back and sip a Top Shelf Margarita and munch on spicy chicken tacos, lively fajitas or a grilled tuna salad.
_ 6798 Crosswinds Drive, St. Petersburg; 345-6057 (many other locations in Tampa Bay area). Non-smoking section provided. Full bar. Children's menu available. Prices, $4.50 to $14.
COLUMBIA. St. Petersburg's branch of Tampa's landmark Cuban restaurant (c. 1905) is ensconced on The Pier in a very stylish room with a view. Food is slowly modernizing, too. Boliche and other traditional Cuban favorites are here, but for the lightest fare, check daily fish specials. Sample tapas, soup and the wine list for Spanish flavor. Service and setting are consistently tops.
_ 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; 822-8000. Reservations recommended. Full bar. Non-smoking section provided. Dinner prices, $6.95 to $13.95.
CRAB TRAP. A favorite hangout on the banks of the Homosassa, the natural specialty is crabs: hard shell, soft shell or afire with garlic and pepper. You can try all three in a combination platter, or spread out some newspapers and get all you can eat. And you'll like the shrimp, too.
_ 5300 S Cherokee Way, Homosassa (904) 628-1122. Reservations recommended. Customers may bring their own beer or wine. Dinners, $7.95 to $13.95.
MOONLIGHT BAY CAFE. This tiny beachside bistro stresses imagination, quality and freshness. Try homemade soups and pate, duck and seafood dishes. Food is cooked with style, but decor, dress and atmosphere are laid-back. A charmer.
_ 6690 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg Beach; 360-2978. Reservations required for dinner. No credit cards. Customers may bring beer or wine. $3.25-$7.95 for lunch; $8.75-13.50 for dinner.
ARMANI'S. If you're on top of the world, this is your best bet for luxury dining _ and little black dresses. Fourteen stories up and bills are high too, but the food is usually up to it. Antipasto bar, lobster dumplings and salads are stunning. Entrees can be uneven, although quail stuffed with risotto is a winner.
_ Hyatt Regency Westshore, 6200 Courtney Campbell Parkway, Tampa; 874-1234. Full bar; reservations required. Non-smoking area available. Dinner, $12.50 to $24.
THE BLACK SWAN. At this elegant oasis in mid-Pinellas, decor and prices are ritzy, but food is high quality and eclectic, tossing together California style and Florida accents. Clever sauces, wild mushrooms, fresh herbs, nuts and berries give roast and grilled entrees extra style. Even steamed clams, chicken salad and apple strudel dazzle.
_ 13707 58th St. N (Rubin ICOT Center), Clearwater; 535-7926. Reservations suggested. Non-smoking section available. Full bar. Lunch, $4.95 to $11.25; dinner $13.95-$24.95.
LE BORDEAUX. Everything about this bungalow/bistro is French except price and atmosphere; even $20 can buy la grande fete from the goodies listed on the chalkboard each day. Food is country and ambience is citified vibrant and noisy. Banquet on crusty bread, soup, home-made pate and terrific salads and go straight to such desserts as poached pear with chocolate. The kitchen works magic with duck, lamb, beef, pork, salmon and the humble chicken. It's all worth the wait _ and some Bordeaux at bargain prices.
_ 1502 S Howard Ave., Tampa; 254-4387. Full bar. No non-smoking area. reservations only for parties of six or more. Dinner prices, $7.95 to 12.95.
MISE EN PLACE. Few frills on the walls here; the big show is on the plate: exceptionally clever food from a New American menu that changes daily. Entrees mix meat and fish with fruits, peppers, nuts and a whimsical array of sauces. Spa fish, salads, soups and ice creams are always devilishly good; prices surprisingly reasonable.
_ 1815 W Platt St., Tampa; 254-5373; no reservations; beer, wine served; dinner entrees, $9.95 to $14.95.