... 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 food.tampabay.com. Got a restaurant we should try? Send submissions to email@example.com or to Weekend, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.
* * *
Most entrees less than $10
Cuisine: American, Local Flavor Big bathtub planters outside, froufrou English collectibles inside, and it's dog friendly: The Chattaway in the Old Southeast neighborhood is a quirky bird with legion followers who have the bumper stickers to prove it. The central draw is the burger, a big dry cleaner's nightmare, but Chattaway is also cherished for its historic, ramshackle glory (it started as a general store with a gas pump back in the early 1920s). What you need to know: Cash only and there's a special every day: Monday Cubans, Tuesday catfish, Wednesday Sloppy Joe's, Thursday spaghetti and meat sauce and Friday Juanita's Choice (which, mysterious, seems to be stuck on shrimp salad or tuna salad). 358 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-1594.
Cuisine: Barbecue The notion that good food doesn't happen every day holds true for the barbecue of Elijah Crawford. He fires up his cooking rig next to the Pinellas Trail only on Fridays and Saturdays and then only from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. That's enough. When something is as precious as a thin end rib out of Crawford's cooker, it's worth waiting for. 360 Skinner Blvd., Dunedin. (727) 738-4856.
Rollin' Oats Natural Cafe
Cuisine: Healthy, Market Part of a health food store, the Tampa Bay area's most creative vegetarian cuisine features vegan, ovo-lacto and macrobiotic specials and a global selection of dals, soups and stir-fries. There are vegetarian sandwiches and husky entrees, too, such as stuffed portobello mushrooms over rice. Terrific field greens salad and delicious smoothies; chicken and tuna also available. Beer and wine available for takeout only. 2842 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-4910.
Cuisine: Caribbean, Spanish/Cuban No one in downtown St. Pete puts more color and spice in a sandwich, soup bowl or pitcher of iced tea. Funky, chunky eating from thick turkey sandwiches to fork-ready gazpacho plus black beans and Cuban sandwiches. It's all fired up with jerk from the back of the house and hot sauce from Trinidad and cooled off with herb tea and sweet potato fries. 226 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 894-1695.
* * *
Most entrees $10-$20
Cuisine: Tapas 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. Bay Street at International Plaza, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa. (813) 873-2583.
Cuisine: Italian Sauce is the star here, a thick orange potion served with the bread. It has a little marinara, chopped herbs and a hint of anchovy, but the secret is that it's bound with butter. Longtime fans put it on everything in this bright, lively space (pronounced CHEE-bo). This isn't novello Italian, but pizzas and Mama Mia dishes of the south of Italy and old Italian neighborhoods, served up with fresh style. 8697 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 579-1570. www.cafecibo.net
Cuisine: Seafood You can't get much closer to Florida's waters and working boats than this Cracker shack for pile-on-the-table blue crabs, shrimp, raw oysters and grouper. This is the kind of place to order a platter with everything fried and wash it down with a cold beer. Then ask for key lime pie. 11400 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg. (727) 576-7813. www.crabshack.com
Moon Under Water
Cuisine: Indian, Pub Since 1996, its calling card has been a loose and ethnically diverse array of pub grub, all able accompaniments to a delicious, foam-capped black and tan. The signature dish is chicken tikka masala (said to be "Britain's true national dish"), and even Moon Under Water's walls are deep red tinged a slight curry color, against which assorted flags and Brit-obilia pop. The regular chicken curry is something of a party, arriving with a hot metal bowl of saffron-hued basmati, another of dusky curry, a crisp, peppery pappadam, an oblong of warm naan, and if you're in the mood to splurge a few bucks extra, little bowls of mango chutney, onion pickle and cuke-spiked yogurt. 332 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-6160.
Snapper's Sea Grill
Cuisine: Bistro, Seafood A tiny bright spot in the neon strand of Pinellas County beaches, Snappers serves its namesake and other sea fare with the seasons and a bit of silliness and with a smart wine list and a smart staff. 5895 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-3550. www.snappersseagrill.com
* * *
Most entrees $20 or more
Grille One Sixteen
Cuisine: New American Grille One Sixteen is foremost about style. House music pulses, waiters scoot around in modish all-black and an elegant long bar is packed with the glamorous or at least fashion-intrepid. Chef James Maita has a strong New American palette with a world-beat sense of play that fits right in, from a striking architectural tuna tartare tower of delicate fried wonton skins sandwiching jewel-tone diced tuna dabbed with sweet chile sauce, to a stunning 8-ounce filet mignon with a horseradish bearnaise sauce. 15405 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 265-0116.
Cuisine: Asian, Pacific Rim, Sushi Downtown St. Petersburg's Pacific Wave is proof positive that a restaurant that's been around a while has had time to mature, settle really to grow up. The restaurant's interior exudes casual elegance. It's not too loud, too frenetic or too dark. It's got date night written all over it, but seems equally amenable to office parties and boisterous groups. The strengths of the menu are sophisticated but traditional sushi and sashimi, but also Japanese- and Pacific Rim-inspired cooked dishes (special emphasis on Pacific fish from Hawaii) and an appealing short wine list and alluring cocktail list. A real treat, servers are polished and seasoned, they pace a meal appropriately and show a deep knowledge of the menu's ingredients and flavors. 211 Second St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-5235. pacificwaverestaurant.com
Vizcaya Restaurante & Tapas Bar
Cuisine: Fine Dining, Tapas Felix Piedras brings us the taste of San Sebastian's grand resorts, the jewel of the Basque country, and the colorful mosaics of Barcelona. The menu ranges from rustic tapas of oxtail and cod to grand affairs of lamb chops, pheasant or seafood bisques, so tread lightly and take time. 10905 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 968-7400.