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 you'd like us to check out, e-mail us at email@example.com.
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Most entrees less than $10
Cuisine: Casual Dining, Mexican.
Ana Magallon's Ana's (formerly called Sanchez Restaurant) is one of the fancier spots in town, with brightly painted walls and chili pepper tablecloths. Magallon, who is Mexican, serves thick, house-fried tortilla chips and super-spicy salsa puree, which we scooped up along with an order of chiles rellenos filled with a mix of beef and beans, which came with lush and obviously homemade refried beans and a spoon of tomato-tinged rice. 5705 State Road 674, Wimauma. (813) 634-3721. anasmexicanrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Vegetarian.
Meze 119 is billed as "authentic Middle Eastern food with modern flair." That it is. What it may take the unobservant diner a while to figure out, though, is that it's 100 percent vegetarian. It cooks up exciting and inexpensive spins on traditional Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli dishes in a light, airy space, with lots of colorful pillows and a funky tree mural on one wall. 119 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 498-8627. meze119.com
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Most entrees $10 to $20
Dan Bavaro had a handmade brick pizza oven shipped from Italy along with a pizza maestro. His task: Stretch the ball of dough, toss rakishly for ideal thinness, then give it a topping of hand-crushed and deseeded San Marzano tomatoes and other ingredients (less is more) and slide it into the maw of the blistering oven. You can build your own, but you're better off letting the experts concoct one of caramelized onion and provolone or soppressata and buffalo mozzarella. Follow immediately with the Nutella dessert pizza. 514 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 868-4440. pizzaiolobavaro.com
Cuisine: Mexican, New American, Tapas/small plates.
It's Latin-inspired, not Mexican exactly, with stylish, nightclubby decor that telegraphs nothing about the food. The vibe is warm, with friendly young servers and bartenders who seem eager to share their mad mixology. The booze focus is tequila, with some really sophisticated margaritas, from cucumber-cilantro to blackberry mint. These aren't goofy slushy versions. Sweetness is reined in and excellent tequilas employed. 2542 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 400-6900. besagrill.com
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Pub.
The local rebirth of Middle Eastern cuisine gets its most stylish display thanks to smart Lebanese entrepreneurs. Yogurt, grape leaves and kibbe are deliciously fresh. Stay late and finish with intoxicating bellydancing or a dreamy draw on the water pipe (hookah). 2832 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 805-7977. bybloscafe.com
E & E Stakeout Grill
Cuisine: American upscale, Seafood upscale, Steak house.
People come for its vast menu, with a new lineup of small plates, loads of steak options and a ton of seafood. A tip: Unlike a lot of places, the evening specials are among the greatest deals. 100 Indian Rocks Road N, Belleair Bluffs. (727) 585-6399. 3bestchefs.com/ee
Hot Tuna Sushi Bar & Grille
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi.
It's a greatest-hits approach to Japanese cooked dishes and sushi, served in a lively, hip environment. You'll find attractively arrayed chicken lettuce cups and greaseless tempura shrimp and veggies, traditional sirloin-wrapped, teriyaki-glazed asparagus negamaki and less traditional fresh rolls with a little bit of strawberry and mango enlivening the shrimp, fake crab, rice noodle assembly. With sushi, rolls aren't oversauced, oversquiggled and overwrought, with the clean, briny flavor of fresh yellowtail, salmon or roe shining through 3689 Tampa Road, #302B, Oldsmar. (813) 818-8862. hottunasushi.com
Thai Island has the sweet charm of a beloved neighborhood place. IWhat elevates Thai Island above plenty of other area Thai restaurants is breadth of menu and quality of ingredients. They have the familiar curries (green, red, panang, massaman), but the salad and appetizer sections of the menu pack some unusual finds. 210 E Davis Blvd., Tampa. (813) 251-9111.
Yummy House China Bistro
This branch of the original is in a much more glamorous freestanding building on a slightly bedraggled stretch of Hillsborough Avenue. In a beautiful, airy dining room suitable for big parties (with a lovely private dining space visible off the back), there are stylish bamboo sculptures, a long central bar and a hip red and black color scheme. They also offer dim sum cart service at lunch, a rarity in these parts, as well as luxurious and authentic Chinese dishes from teamed lobster in ginger sauce to salt-and-pepper tofu (little fried-and-dusted blocks sitting on a pile of addictive bits of jalapeno, crisply roasted garlic, scallion and ginger.) 2620 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. (813) 237-3838.