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MAY WE SUGGEST . . .

...these restaurants sampled and recommended by St. Petersburg Times food critics. Inclusion is not related to advertising. For more recommendations - and to search by cuisine, price, location and more - go to dining.tampabay.com. Got a restaurant we should try?

Most entrees less than $10

Alan's N.C. Bar-B-Que

Cuisine: Barbecue Eat in or take out, the best bet is the pulled pork, straight-up North Carolina-style, with a sauce that's mostly boiled cider vinegar with crushed red pepper and brown sugar. Huge pork spareribs are gas-grilled slowly, then slow-roasted. A little fatty, they get a squirt of hickory smoke sauce. 7305 State Road 54, New Port Richey. (727) 376-4408.

Au Rendezvous

Cuisine: Bistro, Breads and Dessert It serves a long list of crepes and croques, plus soup, sandwiches and salads, and a wide range of fresh-baked goods. Breads include baguettes, boules, lusty olive loaves and fragrant rosemary. 200 E Madison St., Tampa. (813) 221-4748.

Four Green Fields

Cuisine: Pub It's not home brew, but Guinness from the auld sod is revered here. With Irish stew, corned beef, fish and chips and shepherd's pie to match. 205 W Platt St., Tampa. (813) 254-4444.

Globe Coffee Lounge

Cuisine: American, Coffee Shops Funky, global whimsy takes many forms here, from flavored coffees to Rice Krispies Treats, sloppy Joes, poetry readings and gospel brunches. 532 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 898-5282.

Johnny's Pizza and Restaurant

Cuisine: Family Style/Home Cooking, Pizza Food doesn't get warmer, friendlier or cheaper than this converted gas station: meatloaf, Swiss steak, pasta, souvlaki and not just one blue plate but a dozen plus man-eating sandwiches. The thin crust pizza with fresh tomatoes would shame L.A. 3001 28th St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 323-3919.

Mama Fu's Asian House

Cuisine: Asian A new generation of mall takeout has modernized the look and style of Chinese food. The menu is an Asian mix, from familiar lo mein and teriyaki to Thai green beans and Vietnamese pho, all with fresh, crunchy vegetables. 2689 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 712-0201. mamafus.com

Mexico Lindo

Cuisine: Mexican The taqueria has expanded with a spectrum of meats and moles in hailing distance of the carniceros at the butcher counter. Come on weekends for menudo. 812 Court St., Clearwater. (727) 443-5892.

Pancho's Villa

Cuisine: Mexican Picnic tables, cane-bottom chairs and happy customers fill this tiny, bustling place. Tomatillo, mole and enchilada sauces are pure Mexico. 32804 Pennsylvania Ave., San Antonio. (352) 588-3037.

Pizza Mania

Cuisine: Italian, Pizza, Sandwiches Another chunk of up-North pizza tucked into a faceless shopping center, but this one's special. Crisp New York pizza, good calzones and fat sandwiches and a whole family behind the counter. 1742 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Wesley Chapel. (813) 907-0005.

Sea Horse Tavern and Restaurant

Cuisine: Breakfast and Lunch This 50-year-old building is as much a Pass-a-Grille landmark as the Merry Pier. Good breakfasts, great burgers, friendly service, outdoor seats and a sea breeze. 800 Pass-a-Grille Way, St. Pete Beach. (727) 360-1734.

Ted Peters Smoked Fish

Cuisine: Local Flavor, Seafood For a rich taste of the "cracker salmon,'' come to this historic fish shack for mullet, amberjack or mackerel. Too fishy for you? Have a burger. 1350 Pasadena Ave. S, South Pasadena. (727) 381-7931.

Most entrees $10-$20

Athenian Garden

Cuisine: Greek 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. 2900 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-2000; 6940 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 345-7040; 9047 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 570-4500.

Boo's BBQ

Cuisine: Barbecue Fat spareribs are seriously caked with a spicy/salty dry rub, with a tabletop bottle of tomatoey sauce. They say it's North Carolina-style, but it's kind of its own invention. There's no smoke, and the baby backs are a bit more tender and less fatty than the spareribs. And get this: barbecued tofu. Blue cheesy coleslaw is near world class. 13855 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. (813) 854-3999.

Casa Tina

Cuisine: Mexican One of the first Mexican restaurants with a difference: veggie-friendly cooking in a no-lard zone. All the usuals, plus crab enchiladas, stuffed squash, cactus salads, posole and fresh moles and a lively Day of the Dead observance. 369 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 734-9226.

Ciccio and Tony's

Cuisine: Italian, New American Upper West Side roots, pump-you-up health trends and culinary imagination make the menu mostly Italian, with wild swings from crispy risotto cakes to Atkins-friendlier lettuce wraps. 1015 S Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 514-4426. www.ciccioandtonys.com

Frenchy's Rockaway Grill

Cuisine: Local Flavor, Seafood Forget fancy settings. This favorite on Clearwater Beach serves up seafood fresh from the boat at bargain prices, plus modest fixings and great desserts. 7 Rockaway St., Clearwater. (727) 446-4844. www.frenchysonline.com

Gulf Bistro

Cuisine: Bistro, Fine Dining, French For years this cozy refuge was called Cafe de France. It served classic French fare - coq au vin, duck confit, lobster bisque, escargot - at a steady but unhurried pace. Don't worry: It has a new name but not much has changed; it's just a slightly more casual environment. 15225 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. (727) 392-8627.

Rigatoni Tuscan Oven

Cuisine: Italian Lusty, old-fashioned southern Italian, red sauce made from real tomatoes, lots of oregano and seemingly all the garlic in Gilroy. 3437 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 879-7000.

Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill

Cuisine: Greek, Seafood A little Greek, with feta in the kitchen and potato salad on the menu, but so much fresh fish, it's all Tarpon Springs. Fish come from the market and boats next door, recipes from around the South. 937 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs. (727) 934-4047.

Samurai Blue

Cuisine: Asian, Sushi Smart sushi, sharp sake and the fieriest beef tartare that Seoul cooking can make. 12950 Racetrack Road, No. 120, Oldsmar. (813) 341-6688; 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. (813) 242-6688.

Sukhothai Restaurant

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi, Thai Thai food gets sophisticated presentation, pretty on the plate and surrounded by handsome woodwork and exotic fabrics. The best eating is chicken and duck. 18100 Highwoods Preserve Parkway, Tampa. (813) 615-2345; 8201 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 933-7990.

T.C. Choy's Asian Bistro

Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Sushi T.C. Choy's takes the best of Oceanic Market - swimming fish, softball oysters and ever-ready Peking duck - and adds a top chef and a big crew who know all of China, sushi and more. Come for lunch and dinner. 301 S Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 251-1191.

Zante Cafeneo

Cuisine: Cajun, French, Greek This is not a gallery, more like a living collage, the family restaurant as performance art. All the antiques, children's toys and children are packed into a tiny shop. The food roams the waterfronts from Greece to New Orleans. 13 N Safford Ave., Tarpon Springs. (727) 934-5558.

Most entrees $20 or more

Bernini

Cuisine: Fine Dining, Italian Back in the '90s, Bernini's lionhead roared with hipness, and it's still king of this jungle. The service is both old-pro and young. The menu's modern standards of crisp pizzas, rustic pastas and smart salads make it a fine room for dealmaking dinners or urbane lunches. 1702 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. (813) 248-0099.

Black Pearl

Cuisine: New American Folks have come here for grand meals under various flags for more than 20 years. The space is tiny, with plush decor and posh service. The food ranges from top-dollar classics to clever contemporary fare among the specials, all with first-rate vegetables. 315 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 734-3463

Gratzzi

Cuisine: Italian Located at BayWalk. A revamped version of the original Gratzzi relies on the familiar: American restaurant Italian. The menu is heavy on pastas and grilled entrees but done well with touches of vodka, wild mushrooms and goat cheese. Big spenders can find steaks, chops and lobster dishes. 199 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-7769. www.gratzzi.com

La Cachette de la Plage

Cuisine: French Continental cooking survives on the beach with charm in this intimate restaurant, where the Jacksons still cook with cognac and brioche. Make reservations, bring cash and your own wine; $37 buys three courses of goodies such as duck confit, lamb chops and pork encroute, rare treats of lamb kidneys and sweetbreads, or heirloom butter pie from Canada. 321 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. (727) 596-5439.

Marchand's Bar & Grill

Cuisine: Brunches, Fine Dining, Mediterranean The Vinoy has undergone a major makeover that includes the retooling of Marchand's, showing off the central Vinoy Bar. Perhaps the biggest change is the dining concept: One side used to be Marchand's, with a Mediterranean menu, the other the Terrace Room, seafood-heavy American. Now it's all called Marchand's. The kitchen has wisely kept the seafood focus, but dishes reflect a more stylish and still loosely Mediterranean sensibility with saucing and garniture. Renaissance Vinoy Resort, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 894-1000.

Parkshore Grill

Cuisine: New American Outside tables offer a view of the bustling downtown revival. Inside, a curving bar is flanked by a glass-encased wine closet that doubles as a design feature and includes some fine, moderately priced California cabernets and pinot noirs. Cuisine is finely crafted American with a twist. Think beef Wellington, grilled lamb chops, lobster pasta, or pan-seared scallops. 300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-9463. www.parkshoregrill.com

Ponte's Tuscan Grille

Cuisine: Bistro, Fine Dining, Italian Chris Ponte, star chef of mid Pinellas gourmets, takes a turn with contemporary Italian. Creamy soups, lusty chops, strong flavors. Order polenta fries, antipasti and tart lemon torta. 2544 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 724-5716. www.cafeponte.com/TuscanGrill

Roy's

Cuisine: Fine Dining, Pacific Rim, Seafood It's hard to resent chain restaurants when Outback can bring a chef like Roy Yamaguchi and his jeweled fusion of French polish and Asian flavors to our table. Love rack of lamb or Hawaiian fish? Roy's local partners do them up teak-brown, with orchids, breezy guitars and a happy crowd of casual big-spenders. Full bar. 4342 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. (813) 873-7697.

Vernona

Cuisine: Fine Dining, Healthy In the Ritz-Carlton. Put on the down-home Ritz in Sarasota and you'll taste local flavor as well as the chain's culinary fame. Almost everything but the salmon has Florida roots, from heirloom melons and tomatoes to Everglades bass and orange-braised veal shanks. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota. (941) 309-2008.

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