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What’s on our plate: calamari on the Sponge Docks, chopped salads, doughnuts

Here are some of our favorite bites around Tampa Bay this month.
Roast pork and yellow rice at La Teresita. [HELEN FREUND  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Roast pork and yellow rice at La Teresita. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 8

Magic Bar

Bright Ice

The Magic Bar at Bright Ice in St. Petersburg. [MEAGHAN HABUDA | Times]

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.

Charbroiled calamari


Charbroiled calamari are served at Mykonos in Tarpon Springs. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

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.

A doughnut from Peachey's Baking Co. food truck. [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

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

Related: At Bandit Coffee Co. in St. Petersburg, coffee and community go hand in hand

Warm lentil and soppressata salad


The warm lentil and soppressatta salad at Cassis. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

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.

Roast pork and yellow rice

La Teresita

Roast pork and yellow rice at La Teresita. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

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.

Chopped salad


A salad from St. Petersburg's Greenstock. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

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.


  1. A Play Within A Play, Orpheus Brewing and Overflow Brewing Company [Justin Grant   |   tbt*]
  2. Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin on "the Office," partnered with Bush's Beans to bring the chili his character was famous for spilling to life. [Bush's Beans]
  3. Lamb and lentil ragu [LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times]
  4. Mojo pork with yellow rice, black beans and fried plantains is on the menu at Luv Child. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  5. Paella and other seafood offerings will be offered at the SunWest Crab and Shrimp Festival this weekend in Hudson. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times (2018)]
  6. The Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival will return to Tampa on Feb. 29, running weekends through April 26. [Courtesy of Busch Gardens]
  7. EggFest competitors will cook on demo Big Green Egg grills at Tabellas at Delaney Creek in Tampa on Feb. 29. [Tampa Bay Times (2016)]
  8. Downtown St. Petersburg's Watergarden Inn at the Bay houses a new popup restaurant called the Kitchen at Watergarden. [Courtesy of the Kitchen at Watergarden]
  9. Watermelon salad with feta and mint [MICHELLE STARK  |  Times]
  10. An illustration of a casserole. [Illustration by Lisa Merklin   |   Times]
  11. Chef Joe Isidori will lead JoToro, which is opening soon at Sparkman Wharf in Tampa. [Courtesy of JoToro]
  12. Tampa's El Toro Loco features more than a dozen tacos, including crispy fried fish, center. [MEAGHAN HABUDA  |  Times]