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What to eat now in Tampa Bay: a breakfast sandwich, king cake, tacos from a gas station

Here are some of our favorite bites this month.
Charred romaine salad at Brick & Mortar in St. Petersburg [MICHELLE STARK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Charred romaine salad at Brick & Mortar in St. Petersburg [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Feb. 11
Updated Yesterday

Med Morning Yogurt Bowl

Psomi

Med Morning Yogurt Bowl at Tampa's Psomi. [MEAGHAN HABUDA | Times]

With so many tempting options on the menu, from bougatsa French toast to salmon eggs Benedict, it’s hard to decide what to order during a weekend brunch stop at the chic, bustling North Hyde Park newcomer Psomi. But here’s a guarantee: You can’t go wrong with the Med Morning Yogurt Bowl. Sporting a dreamy presentation that rivals the look of the Greek-American bakery and restaurant itself, the dish is thoughtfully layered with Greek thyme honey, yogurt, compressed fruit (peaches were the star on a recent visit), granola and candied brioche. Take your time while downing spoonfuls of the Med Morning’s sweet-meets-savory goodness on the restaurant patio — why rush your last bite? — then grab some spanakopita from the bakery counter for the road. — Meaghan Habuda, Times staff writer

701 N Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 733-0890. eatpsomi.com.

Native Clam Dip

Barterhouse

Native Clam Dip at Ybor City's Barterhouse. [MEAGHAN HABUDA | Times]

It’s not every day you come across a dip — a dip — that truly wows. Barterhouse’s Native Clam Dip is the exception. When the creamy, yummy starter arrives at your table, complete with awesomely crunchy house-made gaufrette potato chips, good luck fighting the urge to shovel down those delightful chunks of clams. I tried, and failed. But, lucky for us, the dining room of the elevated Ybor City restaurant and bar is dimly lit. — Meaghan Habuda, Times staff writer

1811 N 15th St., Suite A, Tampa. (813) 542-1710. barterhouseybor.com.

Charred romaine salad

Brick & Mortar

Charred romaine salad from Brick and Mortar restaurant [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

By far one of my favorite salads in St. Petersburg, this has been a menu highlight since the downtown restaurant opened in 2015. It’s literally a charred single stalk of romaine lettuce, cooked just enough to get some color and flavor. I was skeptical about warm lettuce at first, too. But it works. Especially because the hearty stalk is topped with bright pink pickled red onions, a creamy blue cheese and lemony garlic dressing, and thick shavings of Parmesan cheese. — Michelle Stark, Times food editor

539 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-6540.

King cake

The Fresh Market

The Fresh Market's king cake. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

This is my first year away from New Orleans for the Carnival season, which starts in early January and runs through Mardi Gras, and I’ve been craving king cake pretty much nonstop. Mornings at the office just don’t feel the same without a slice of the multicolored cinnamon-laced brioche confection. So when I popped into the Fresh Market the other night on a last-minute grocery run, I stopped short at the display near the entrance: king cakes, and lots of them. Though I tend to prefer the cream cheese and fruit-filled versions, this one is pretty good — with thick layers of cinnamon throughout the flaky slices of cake, and a nice purple, gold and green sparkly icing on top. — Helen Freund, Times food critic

2900 4th St N, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-4913; thefreshmarket.com

Tacos

Chile Verde

Carnitas, al pastor and lengua tacos at Chile Verde Authentic Mexican Food in St. Petersburg. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

There’s a lot to love at this restaurant inside a decommissioned gas station in St. Petersburg, but the tacos here are my current obsession. I went for the spit-grilled pork al pastor, lengua (beef tongue) and pork carnitas, which was probably my favorite. The tacos are served either “Mexican” with the traditional accoutrement of diced white onions, cilantro and lime, or “American,” with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and avocado. Spice fiends, ask for the fiery red sauce but use it sparingly — it packs a serious burn. — Helen Freund, Times food critic

2801 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 800-2679.

Related: Review: Chili Verde serving up solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Avocado toast

Pineapple Espresso

Avocado toast at Pineapple Espresso in St. Petersburg. [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

This quaint drive-through in St. Petersburg is a delight: Boasting a surprisingly large menu with coffee and breakfast options alike, it’s the perfect one-stop shop for the morning hours. I love all of the toast options, but my fave is the avocado toast, which tastes much different from other avo toasts I’ve had around town. Topped with orange segments, fresh mint and crumbled goat cheese, it’s refreshing and filling and bursting with flavor. (It also comes with diced roasted beets, which I leave off because I don’t love beets, but it is a nice addition.) Bonus: Everything sits atop Gulf Coast Sourdough bread. — Michelle Stark, Times food editor

3045 Dr M.L.K. Jr St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 202-8862.

Fried grouper cheeks

Frenchy’s Original Cafe

Fried grouper cheeks at Frenchy's Original Cafe in Clearwater. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

I’ll take grouper any which way, but the meaty cheeks are my favorite piece of the popular Gulf fish. While the grouper sandwich is the obvious go-to here, the slightly sweet, flaky cheeks are delicious on their own. Battered and fried until a crispy golden brown, they come skewered and served with a lemon wedge and the restaurant’s homemade tartar sauce. — Helen Freund, Times food critic

41 Baymont St.,Clearwater; (727) 446-3607; frenchysonline.com/frenchys-original-cafe/

Related: Frenchy's is one of the area's most iconic restaurants

Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich

Bandit Coffee Co.

A bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich at St. Petersburg's Bandit Coffee Co. [HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times]

If you haven’t checked out the new breakfast spread at St. Petersburg’s Bandit Coffee Co. yet, well, you should get on that ASAP. I’m particularly smitten with their breakfast sandwiches, which are made-to-order and wrapped to-go, so that grabbing one on my way to the office is super convenient. My favorite version is the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, which includes perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs paired with thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, Kewpie mayonnaise and American cheese all on a buttery Brioche bun. — Helen Freund, Times food critic

2662 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; banditcoffee.co

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

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  2. Expect to see lots of traditional Mardi Gras masks like this during the annual Mardi Gras parade in downtown Dunedin on Feb. 22.
  3. After nearly four decades of operating a restaurant on Fourth Avenue in Ybor City, Cephas Gilbert has a new location. He now runs a juice hut inside Tequilas Ybor in Tampa.
  4. The Tampa Bay Jewish Food Festival, which will return to Temple B'nai Israel in Clearwater on Sunday, has featured desserts like mini linzer tarts in the past.
  5. Yesterday• Arts & Entertainment
    Plant City's Fancy Farms off County Line Road will host its annual U-pick event on Feb. 22.
  6. Blue crab chilau at West Ybor Barterhouse.
  7. Johnson Barbeque's brisket berry tacos, served as part of Florida Strawberry Restaurant Month this year.
  8. Meatballs with fennel and lentils
  9. Strawberry chocolate tea cakes
  10. Mary Margaret's Olde Irish Tavern co-owner Pete Boland poses with photos of his family that will hang in the new St. Petersburg pub. He's holding a portrait of his late grandmother Mary Margaret Prescott, whom the bar is named after.
  11. Treasure Island is home to the flagship Caddy's outpost.
  12. Author, educator and activist Toni Tipton-Martin talks about history and food culture as keynote speaker at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival on Saturday in the gardens at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
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