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Taste of Land O'Lakes whets local appetites

On Friday nights, Bill Swanner enjoys a good meal.

"Most of the time I go for dinner, I drive to Tampa," said Swanner, 47, a Lutz resident. "You have to wait for hours for a table, though."

Then Swanner, along with about 100 other residents, sampled dishes from Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel restaurants at the first Land O'Lakes Taste of the Towne on Saturday.

Because of what he discovered, Swanner said from now on he will consider dining locally.

"It's good to get a taste of the restaurants in the area," Swanner said. "You start to think more of eating in the community instead of leaving the community."

Swanner's son, who is visiting for the summer, was impressed with a country-fried steak from Smitty's Restaurant on U.S. 41 and fried green tomatoes from Storch and Son Lakeside Inn on U.S. 41.

"Everything has been great," said James Swanner, 17, who lives in Clinton, Miss. "And I come from a place where good food is mandatory."

Fourteen restaurants took part in the event, which was sponsored by the Land O'Lakes Chamber of Commerce. The event also kicked off the Land O'Lakes honorary mayor's race.

"It was a big success," said Land O'Lakes honorary mayor Carla Collier, who organized the event. "I hope this becomes a Land O'Lakes thing."

Residents could sample dishes priced from 50 cents to $3.50. Participating restaurants got to keep the proceeds.

"Most people are afraid to go to a restaurant because they don't know if they're going to like it," said Billy Shook, 13, from Lutz. "This gives them the chance to taste everything."

Restaurant owners and managers were happy they could showcase their offerings to local patrons.

"We came here to build new customers, that was our whole motive," said Darrell Croteau, owner of Smitty's Restaurant.

The event may have been summed up best by Land O'Lakes resident Larry DeLucenay, 49, owner of Mad Hatter Utility.

"Good day. Good food," he said. "That's a good combination."