The Weekend dining guide is a listing of restaurants around Tampa Bay sampled and recommended by St. Petersburg Times food critic Chris Sherman and other staffers. Recommendations are not related to advertising. A portion of the guide runs weekly in Weekend. You can also find dining listings at www.tampabay.com.
Price: Cost of a dinner for two with tax and tip is indicated by the number of dollar signs: $ _ Inexpensive (less than $25); $$ _ Moderate ($25 to $50); $$$ _ Expensive ($60 and up).
Hours: Hours and days of operation change frequently, so it's wise to call ahead.
Reservations: Most restaurants welcome reservations. If you cannot keep a reservation, notify the restaurant promptly.
Credit cards: Accepted unless otherwise noted.
Tip us off: Got a favorite restaurant we haven't reviewed? Contact us at weekendsptimes.com or send a note and a menu to Weekend Dining Guide, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.
+ SEAFOOD +
A big old place crammed with dusty nautical memorabilia and red legs in bad shorts. . . . Got a problem with that? Not if you're looking for fresh seafood and lots of it. Local catch plus big, sweet oysters, cedar-planked salmon and surprising chef specials. 7604 Ehrlich Road, Tampa, (813) 926-2149.
Bonefish Grill $$
Hip design, cool music and modern cooking on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg, and now all over the bay area: more fish than steak, good salads, crusty bread and worldly touches such as artichokes, goat cheese and risotto. Warning: Locals have waited decades for contemporary food, so they don't mind standing in line. Best dishes are smoky mussels in a tomato-citrus broth and rock shrimp over spinach fettuccine. Full bar. 5901 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 521-3434; 2519 McMullen-Booth Road, Safety Harbor, (727) 726-1315; 3665 Henderson Blvd., Tampa, (813) 876-3535; 13262 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, (813) 969-1619; 3971 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 924-9090. www.bonefishgrill.com.
Casual Clam $
Low-frills seafood that tastes of New England: big-belly Ipswich clams, steamed littlenecks and usually some cod or halibut with new potatoes and corn on the cob, served in a Cheers atmosphere. 3336 Dr. M. L. King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 895-2526.
The Colonnade $ to $$
Tampa has stopped here for a bay view and plain food for 50 years, with good reason. Seafood is varied, from grilled salmon to Florida's fried favorites, and comes with good trimmings, such as spinach salad and fresh muffins. 3401 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; (813) 839-7558.
Crazy Conch Cafe $$
Smart, casual food fixed with from-scratch effort and uptown flash. The menu ranges from sandwiches to serious entrees. Some of the best: a salad of frizzy greens and thick bacon sweetened with caramelized onions and topped with a warm poached egg; house-made potato chips with blue cheese; pappardelle with a duck ragu; limey tuna ceviche with guacamole; and first-class crab cakes. Add to the inventive menu the best wine program on either side of the bay. 1110 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde; (727) 865-0633. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
Keegan's Seafood Grille $$
The most unassuming place on the beach has some of the most imaginative food. Have your beer and Buffalo shrimp, grouper sandwich linguini and clams, or go way beyond. Check the blackboard for wahoo with a banana crust or new tricks with amberjack. There's always good gumbo, ceviche, octopus with feta, Jamaican jerk seafood in foil, and Parmesan mahi and black bean salsa. Fisherfolk eat here; so should you. 1519 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach; (727) 596-2477. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
+ TAPAS +
Blue Martini $$
Blue Martini calls its fare heavy appetizers, but there's not a chicken wing or onion ring in sight. Instead, the short menu features contemporary Asian-Mediterranean fusion: sesame seared tuna, sliced beef tenderloin, hummus, calamari salad. And don't miss the killer 6-inch tall chocolate cake. Full bar. Bay Street at International Plaza, West Shore and Boy Scout boulevards, Tampa; (813) 873-2583. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
E _ A Tapas Lounge $$
Quirky comes to downtown St. Petersburg a stone's throw from BayWalk. Smoked salmon cheesecake, oyster Rockefeller soup and crab custard are $10 or less. The basement setting is surprisingly cheerful. Full bar. Colonial Inn & Spa, 126 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 823-0101.
Mangia mixes tie-dye funk, garden-arty graces with a world of foreign flavors and new ideas in beach dining. Lunch bounces from Morocco to Japan and still happily serves hefty, homey sandwiches of fresh roasted turkey or mushroom daubed with cheese, from Cheddar to chevre. Tapas aren't strictly Spanish, but a modern American model, smaller servings and less expensive than entrees. For full-fledged dinners, scallops, lasagna, fish and small steaks are standards, smartly garnished. 338 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach; (727) 363-6088.
+ GREEK +
Athenian Garden $ to $$
A neighborhood staple for Greek appetites light and heavy. Greek salads come with everything from beets to potato salad, but the biggest attraction is the sweet spectrum of phyllo, nuts, honey and cream, from kataifi to pudding. Beer, wine. 6940 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 345-7040. Take out and delivery only: 9939 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 570-4500.; 2900 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-2000.
Louis Pappas Market Cafe $-$$
The former owner of the landmark Tarpon Springs restaurant has turned his attention to Greek "great fast food." There are gyros, salads and rotisserie chickens, of course, but also Greek quesadilla, pita pizza, bruschetta, moussaka, little spanakopitas in crisp phyllo crust and stuffed grape leaves, plus lamb shanks and other hearty entrees. The best bet among the salads is one with marinated octopus. 14913 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa, (813) 910-9000; 3409 Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, (813) 839-0000; 7877 Gunn Highway, Tampa, (813) 926-5202; and 2560 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater, (727) 727-797-3700. www.louispappas.com.
Mykonos $ to $$
The Salivaras' restaurant is pretty comfy, although it's new by Tarpon Springs standards _ 10 years old. The menu is unrestrained Greek, with fishy spreads, wonderful ways with octopus and calamari, lamb shanks and a daily range of whole fish. All taste like the real thing, and should; the family cares enough to own a bakery, Fournos, in downtown Tarpon. 628 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs; (727) 934-4306. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
Mykonos II $
For an unbeatable mix of Mediterranean and Tampa Bay cuisine _ Greek, Cuban and Italian _ North Suncoast eaters land here. Fantastic pizzas, black beans and yellow rice with chopped onions, Cuban pork dishes and, of course, Greek specialties by the owner himself. 1740 E Jefferson St. (State Road 50 E), Brooksville; (352) 799-3154..
Paul's Shrimp House $$
This old favorite has moved to massive new digs, but it's still just a few steps from Tarpon Springs' dockside tourist zone. Atmosphere has changed, but beer, ouzo, fresh seafood and Greek dishes still draw the locals and snowbirds. You can't beat the shrimp or smelt. 80 W Live Oak St., Tarpon Springs; (727) 937-1239.
+ NEW AMERICAN +
Big City Tavern $$
This is the grandest space in Ybor, the top floor of the 1912 Centro Espanol. In it, Big City serves straightforward modern American classics. Ask for a pork chop, and you get a thick one, juicy pink as ordered. Pasta? Linguine with clam sauce or whole wheat penne with porcini mushrooms. Or you can have a big burger with hand-cut fries, tuna salad with basil and capers or scrambled eggs and caviar. Centro Ybor, 1600 Eighth Ave., Ybor City; (813) 247-3000.
Black Pearl $$$
This intimate room feels like a snug fit of gray flannel. The china is pastel depression glass, but the food is fresh and modern. Count on personal service. And don't miss the black ice cream. 315 Main St., Dunedin; (727) 734-3463. www.theblackpearlofdunedin.com.
Bobby's Bistro & Wine Bar $$
Hip spinoff of the landmark Heilman's Beachcomber serves contemporary food and a world-class wine list in cozy style. Steaks and chops, seafood, raclette potatoes, plus gourmet pizzas and burgers taste richly of an Americanized brasserie. Full bar. 447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater; (727) 446-9463.
This bit of Vegas style in the midst of the rather dreary Seminole casino offers smart cooking, flashy presentation, lively spicing and respect for vegetables and pastry. It shows in every course in a way that matches some of our best restaurants and tops many. The short, modern menu has indulgences for high-rollers at dinner and burgers for punters at lunch. Full bar. 5223 N Orient Road, Tampa; (813) 627-7625. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
Pappas' Grillmarks $$
The transition from the longtime Largo landmark to new wave cuisine has taken a couple of years, but early birds still can get meatloaf, Greek salads and, at lunch, spanakopita, pastry filled with good ol' cheesy spinach. For the dinner crowd, though, blue crab cakes come with a tint of blue Curacao for an edge of late-night attitude. Style has gone from blue plate to cobalt, and modern presentation can turn even that meatloaf into Tall Food _ or occasion for an eye-poking herb sprig. Full bar. 607 N Clearwater-Largo Road; (727) 584-6235. www.grillmarks.com.
+ LOCAL FLAVOR +
Dockside Dave's $
This is the little sandwich place that could. The grouper is big and boat-fresh, cooked in front of you with big tomatoes, great fries and equally warm service. If we ever need to ration grouper, this place stays, screen doors and all. 13203 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; (727) 392-9399. One of Chris Sherman's best restaurants.
The Globe $
The Globe styles itself a coffee lounge to make sure you know that it's not as hyper as a coffee bar. Much of the limited menu comes directly from the recipe box of a late 20th century childhood: peanut butter and jelly, baked ziti thick as a brick, eggplant Parmesan served on a hamburger bun. Then there's the counter of endless, shameless pastries and cakes dripping with chocolate and caramel, Rice Krispies treats, s'mores and other goodies. 532 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 898-5282. www.globecoffeelounge.com.
Green Iguana $
The newest Iguana is a casual homegrown bar, a thatched-roof beach watering hole at the Days Inn on Rocky Point that also sprawls indoors. Some great beer food is here; monstrous burgers, world-class onion straws and sturdy red chili that tastes as if it has been simmering for days. The Iguana is less successful with fern bar fare. 7627 W Courtney Campbell Parkway, Tampa; (813) 288-9076. Also locations at 8790 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg, (727) 209-1234; 4029 S West Shore Blvd., Tampa, (813) 837-1234 and 1708 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 248-9555. www.greeniguana.com.
Jack Willie's Original Tiki Bar & Grill $
Strengths in this ramshackle spot on the %% WARNING %%edge of Tampa Bay are in the bar food. Big burgers; jerked chicken skewers cut from juicy breast meat; fat, crisp Buffalo wings; and peel 'n' eat shrimp on ice or still hot in an Old Bay-style broth. Full bar. 1011 St. Petersburg Drive, Oldsmar; (813) 854-1972.
Woody's of Tampa, Famous
Salads and Gourmet Sandwiches $
Tampa shrine to the Greek salad (potato salad division), rescued from the old Riverboat Restaurant decades ago. It's a staple on the midday menu of South Tampa society and can be ordered in sizes for two to 100. Shrimp and other salads, well-made sandwiches, quick service and pleasant setting keep crowds coming. 1722 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 254-2806.