The Scone Age
This quaint bakery in Dunedin offers plenty more than just scones, but you shouldn’t leave without ordering one of their crown jewels. On my recent visit, they had seasonal scones made with fresh strawberries — buttery, creamy, dotted with sweet fruit and drizzled with a simple glaze. The cafe also serves a wide variety of gluten-free and vegan options, including breakfast and lunch items. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
332 Skinner Blvd., Dunedin. (727) 216-3248.
Trio of spreads
Listed on the menu as “Spreads,” you must try at least a trio of one of Baba’s specialties. The St. Petersburg restaurant specializes in Mediterranean fare, and for $15, you can choose three of these: muhammara, tzatziki, tabouli, baba ghanoush, labneh or hummus. They’re all great, though I’m partial to the vibrant and nutty muhammara, creamy labneh and perfectly textured hummus. The best part? The little bowls of dip are served with pita and zatar bread — and the cutest little dip-serving spoons. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
2701 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 954-3406.
Flatbread & Butter
When it comes to Flatbread & Butter’s avocado toast, it’s hard to pick just one thing that makes it so great. Maybe it’s the freshly baked Gulf Coast Sourdough bread, which always complements the avocados perfectly. Or the drizzle of olive oil that adds a savory flavor to the mild sweetness of the avocado. Either way, I instantly fell in love with the dish the first time I had it. And since my first visit to Flatbread & Butter, I have been back countless times, for a coffee, for a flatbread, for a cookie or pastry from Mana Bakery. Going to Flatbread & Butter reminds me of the best parts of a neighborhood coffee shop: People float in and out, always seeming to know each other, and you can stay there for hours to work or just for a quick coffee and a toast. As they celebrate their first birthday this week, I have to say: I am grateful for Flatbread & Butter. To me, it is the perfect start to a Saturday morning. And it all began with an avocado toast. — Elizabeth Djinis, Times staff writer
497 Seventh Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 329-8698.
Sabu (at the Joinery)
One of the vendors at Lakeland’s new food hall the Joinery is Sabu, serving up Japanese ramen bowls and shareable snacks. The buns and chicken karraage are solid, but my go-to is the Shio Ramen. The base is a chicken-dashi broth bursting with umami flavor, in which yuzu grilled chicken, a marinated egg, fried shallot, scallion and more are submerged. It’s a very satisfying bowl that I completely cleared in about 15 minutes — the sign of a truly good dish. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
640 E Main St., Lakeland. (863) 337-4583.
This is my go-to breakfast sandwich in the St. Petersburg area when I’m running late to work and need something affordable and filling. It tastes like a homemade breakfast, and I mean that in the best way. It’s free of anything too indulgent and instead packed with simple ingredients: two scrambled eggs, melted cheese and slices of avocado and tomato. It comes on your choice of croissant, bagel or a variety of bread options. Are you ready for the best part? It costs all of $4.25. A bargain for a 'wich that will keep you full for hours. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
2609 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 290-9241.
Pho beef bao buns
I’m a big fan of steamed bao buns, and the pillowy versions here are no exception to that rule. Stuffed with soft hunks of beef marinated with pho spices (heavy on the star anise) and topped with a sweet chili hoisin sauce, bean sprouts and herbs, the buns get a welcome hit of acid and crunch from pickled red onions and jalapenos. They come three per order, so sure, you could share. But do you really want to? — Helen Freund, Times food critic
224 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 350-1019. stillwaterstavern.com.
There’s a lot to love about the Neapolitan-style pies that exit the wood-fired ovens here. Boasting charred and bubble-marked chewy crusts, the pies feature a long selection of classic toppings. Never one to turn down anything with prosciutto, I ordered this version on a recent visit and wasn’t disappointed. Topped with thick, pink slices of prosciutto cotto (lighter in flavor and color than its cousin, prosciutto crudo), the pizza features melted fior di latte cheese (fresh cow’s milk mozzarella), San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan, basil and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
945 Central Ave., St Petersburg, (727) 258-7517; 514 N Franklin St., Tampa, (813) 868-4440. bavarospizza.com.
Sometimes, it’s the simple things that keep you coming back. The shrimp scampi at Pia’s in Gulfport is that kind of dish. It’s exactly what you’d expect of the classic — buttery and garlicky with the faintest hint of white wine, plenty of citrus and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp and cherry tomatoes. The dish also serves as a reminder of the kitchen’s killer pasta skills, and arrives nestled on a bed of fresh, bouncy linguine that comes enveloped in a sheen of the rich, buttery sauce. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but why fix what isn’t broken? — Helen Freund, Times food critic
3054 Beach Blvd., Gulfport. (727) 327-2190. piastrattoria.com.