These are restaurants that we can recommend for date nights, special occasions and a good meal. You can find more Tampa Bay restaurants and bars by searching our database at tampabay.com/things-to-do. Inclusion in this list or database is not related to advertising. If you have a restaurant or bar youÍd like us to check out, e-mail us at email@example.com.
* * *
Most entrees less than $10
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Vietnamese.
Fresh rolls are customized to suit, a rice paper round cradling vermicelli, green leaf lettuce, chives and mint, and then whatever you point to. The "sauce bar" offers up dunkables like spicy Sriracha, sweet/salty nuoc mam, or a sophisticated ponzu dipping sauce. Also vermicelli bowls and pho. 516 N Tampa St., Tampa. (813) 223-7320.
Cuisine: Coffee shops/diners.
This vegan-friendly coffee shop-sandwich-shop-art venue serves up a nice mix of coffee, tea, baked goods, sandwiches and soups. It also offers food for the mind with art shows and open mike nights. 1540 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 221-5150.
Lodge Restaurant & Bar
Cuisine: American casual, Spanish/Cuban, Sushi.
Tater tots! A Twinkie-tiramisu hybrid called the Twinkimisu! A key lime pie martini that smokes like a volcano! All this cheeky, kitschy humor stuff really works, giving the Lodge a vibe that hits somewhere between The Big Lebowski and A Christmas Story. 516 S Howard Ave., Tampa. 813-251-5634.
* * *
Most entrees $10 to $20
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.
On the bakery side, the baklava cheesecake is silly good, and in the restaurant my favorite entree is slowly braised tomatoey lamb shanks, served somewhat incongruously atop spaghetti. There are addictive garlic shrimp, nice gyros in warm Greek pita, and a very generous Greek salad that comes with a scoop of potato salad. 785 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs. (727) 943-2400.
Cuisine: American upscale, Fine dining.
Plates emerge from the open kitchen as finely crafted American cuisine with a twist. Think beef Wellington, grilled lamb chops, lobster pasta, or pan-seared scallops, only this version sweet and tender, circling a mound of sauteed baby spinach with the rich smokiness of Southern greens. 300 Beach Drive NE, Suite 104, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-9463.