1. Florida

Four Tampa Bay restaurants awarded a four-diamond rating on AAA’s 2019 list

Florida has the second-most four-star restaurants of any state in the country.

AAA just released its 2019 list of diamond-rated restaurants, and Florida made a solid showing.

The company started evaluating establishments back in 1937 before moving to the more formal system used today, which relies on “professionally trained inspectors to conduct unannounced restaurant evaluations,” according to AAA. This year, nearly 32,000 restaurants were inspected and assigned a rating from one (the lowest) to five (the best) diamonds.

Florida has the second-most four-star restaurants of any state in the country. Fifty-four restaurants in Florida were given four stars (the No. 1 state, California, has 74). And four of those restaurants are in the Tampa Bay area. One thing worth noting: They’re all in hotels, most of them located mere feet from our glistening beaches.

Florida is also home to three five-star restaurants on this year’s list: Palme D’or in Coral Gables, Salt in Fernandina Beach and Victoria and Albert’s, the fine dining restaurant in the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Here are the four-star spots.

Ocean Hai

Ocean Hai in Clearwater Beach [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

This spot in the Wyndham Grand on Clearwater Beach boasts water views and an Asian-inflected menu. We reviewed it back when it opened in 2017.

Caretta on the Gulf

Oysters at Caretta on the Gulf. [Times staff]

Another spot in Clearwater Beach, this one in the Sandpearl. It’s fancy, expensive hotel food that makes for a romantic night out. An ideal place to pop the question.

Maritana Grille

Maritana Grille. Courtesy Maritana Grille.

This one is at the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach. It’s the iconic hotel’s signature sophisticated dining spot.


The charcuterie bar at Armani's in Tampa. [BRONTE WITTPENN | Times]

This Tampa restaurant on the 14th floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel has a long cheese and charcuterie bar worthy of perusal. It recently made our 2019 list of the area’s best restaurants.