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, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Most entrees less than $10
Ben Thanh Restaurant
Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese.
In an unassuming strip mall, a short menu has a refined array of soups pho, vermicelli bowls, soothing porridges, stir-fries and complicated self-roll entrees. 4200 62nd Ave. N, Pinellas Park. (727) 526-3051.
Dockside Dave's Grill
Cuisine: Seafood casual, Southern.
Dave's legendary dive fell to development, but even in this spot, the fish sandwiches are still king of the beach, best with onion rings. There's also a second location in St. Pete Beach at 7141 Gulf Blvd. This one is 14701 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. (727) 392-9399. docksidedavesgrill.com
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Most entrees $10 to $20
Cuisine: American casual, Breakfast or brunch, Sandwiches.
A building reminiscent of some of London's poshest cafes., breakfast and lunch menus are suitably chic without breaking the bank (sandwiches, salads, pastries, high tea). 2420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. (813) 253-0222. oxfordexchange.com
Pane Rustica Bakery & Cafe
Cuisine: Deli, Fine dining.
A wood-fired oven cranks out a wild assortment of crisp pizzas, roast chickens, monster pork chops and robust pastas. Plus there are brilliant salads. 3225 S MacDill Ave., Suite #103, Tampa. (813) 902-8828. panerusticabakery.com
Seabreeze Island Grill & Raw Bar
Cuisine: American casual, Seafood casual.
The kitchen aims to take full advantage of the area's dayboat catch. Hogfish is a regular item, getting a panko coating and a quick pan-frying, offered with a choice of two sides (try the cinnamony mashed sweet potatoes). The house guava barbecue sauced baby-back ribs are meltingly tender and zesty. 17855 Gulf Blvd., Redington Shores. (727) 498-8688. seabreezeislandgrill.com
Cuisine: American casual, Southern.
The menu totals about 10 items with a couple of daily specials. Two dishes stand out, big time. A BLT soup brings a vegetable broth cradling soft hunks of simmered plum tomato, with garlic, shallot and bacon making their presence known. Home run No. 2 is fried chicken, moist and hot, with a crunchy flour coating. 122 Third Ave. N, Safety Harbor. (727) 216-6341.
Urban Brew and BBQ
Cuisine: American casual, Barbecue.
Andy Salyards' smoker offerings - brisket, baby-back ribs, pulled pork, chicken - get full plates, with a side and a roll, or as excellent and well-priced sliders. All the sides at Urban Brew are keepers, especially the skillet mac and cheese with wisps of prosciutto, crunchy bread crumb topping; 18 taps of beer change constantly. 1939 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-8919.
This Asian fusion eatery does a good job with Chinese basics (pot stickers, General Tso's, Crab Rangoon), but it also pays homage to Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. 4148 Rowan Road, New Port Richey. (727) 372-9545. zenforrest.com
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Most entrees $20 or more
Cuisine: Fine dining, Italian.
One of Tampa's top special-occasion restaurants, the antipasto offerings still have an almost cult following. 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa. (813) 207-6800. grandhyatttampabay.com/restaurants
Birch & Vine at the Birchwood
Cuisine: American upscale, New American.
The menu is ambitious, with lots of culinary buzzwords: compressed watermelon, sous vide, pork belly. It's suave, and the setting parries step for step. Caveat: Prepare for a wait to get up to the thronged rooftop deck. 340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-1080. thebirchwood.com