I have a new remedy for that sweet tooth of yours. Never before has a dessert lived up to its name more than the Magic Bar at Bright Ice. The newly opened neighborhood ice creamery’s creation is an ooey, gooey wonder that you’ll love licking off your fingertips. This thing loads chocolate chips and shredded coconut, plus pecans for some more welcome texture, onto a graham cracker crust. Its generous size makes it fit for sharing. The Magic Bar is essentially the jumbo version of the seven-layer bar your mom makes for the holidays — only better. Sorry, Ma. — Meaghan Habuda, Times staff writer
3701 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 289-5438. brighticeisnice.com.
The Tarpon Springs mainstay is known for its hulking lamb shanks and flaming cast-iron skillets of saganaki. But on a recent visit I found that this charbroiled calamari (“kalamaria charbroiled,” on the menu) is my new go-to dish when I’m in the mood for something a little lighter. Served with fresh lemon on a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and olive oil, the crispy, blackened squid pieces were great dunked in a little tzatziki and nothing else. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
628 Dodecanese Blvd.,Tarpon Springs. (727) 934-4306.
Sourdough doughnuts and pretzels
Peachey’s Baking Co.
This food truck only serves two things, but they’re among the best versions of those things I’ve ever had. Specializing in sourdough doughnuts and pretzels, Peachey’s started in 2007 and has been roving around the country since. Their doughnuts, large and pillowy and lightly glazed though still quite sweet, are a dream. But I was even more into the pretzels, which are charmingly hand-shaped and slathered in just the right amount of butter and salt. In Tampa Bay, Peachey’s is primarily in the Manatee County/Sarasota area, but they’ve recently started parking it at some St. Petersburg spots, like Bandit Coffee Co. (2662 Central Ave., St. Petersburg) and Vertical Ventures (116 18th St. S, St. Petersburg). — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
Warm lentil and soppressata salad
Nothing against eggnog or the endless supply of cookies that found their way to our office this past holiday season, but at some point I found myself in need of a little break. Chock-full of snappy fennel shavings, earthy lentils and peppery arugula, this salad offered a delicious and welcome respite from some of the holiday heft. A good handful of soppressata chunks and a shower of Parmesan provided the extra bit of decadence and flavor needed. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
170 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 827-2927. cassisstpete.com.
Roast pork and yellow rice
Everyone has their own version of comfort food — the dishes they return to over and over again when they’re in need of something familiar, or a reminder of home. I’m still fairly new to the Tampa Bay area, but I’ve already found that the roast pork and yellow rice at La Teresita does the trick. I order it with a side of the kitchen’s wickedly delicious chimichurri, which brightens everything up with a powerful punch of garlic and citrus. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
3248 W Columbus Drive, Tampa. (813) 879-9704. lateresitarestaurant.com.
I know that I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that many of us at the Tampa Bay Times office in downtown St. Petersburg are very excited to have a create-your-own-salad spot within walking distance. The new “chef-driven" salad concept from Il Ritorno’s David and Erica Benstock follows a familiar fast-casual model found at countless salad spots across the country: Choose a lettuce base, add your desired “stocks,” “proteins,” “premiums” and “finishes,” select a dressing — then watch the whole thing get chopped and mixed up before your eyes. It’s a great way to get those greens in, and the quality of the ingredients here is top-notch. Salads and wraps start at $9, but beware, some of the premiums and proteins come with a significant price uptick. (Grilled mojo chicken thighs are $3.50 and both feta and goat cheese are an extra $1.75, for example.) — Helen Freund, Times food critic
449 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 350-4721. eatatgreenstock.com.