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Best Restaurants in Tampa Bay, FL

by Marty Martindale

Tampa Bay is the tri-city area of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater located on the west central coast of Florida. Tampa’s International Airport continues to get raves from those who appreciate the quick connects between tickets, planes, baggage.

Many new, tasteful tourist attractions and museums have been added or rebuilt in the Bay Area in the last few years, while retaining our major league MLB Rays, NFL Bucs, Rowdies Soccer and a winter home facility for the New York Yankees.

The city of Tampa, in Hillsborough County, is the historic, urban hub of Tampa Bay. Ybor (EE-bore) City, Tampa's historic Latin district, dates back two centuries when thirty thousand Cuban and European immigrants hand-rolled cigars in more than 200 factories. The Quarter is now a restored entertainment and shopping district. Nearby is Channelside with its entertainment district, adjacent to Tampa’s cruise port.

Separated by three long, bridges, Pinellas county and its beaches, are to Tampa’s west and much more laid-back. This county includes not only Clearwater and St. Petersburg, but also Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs to their north. Her beautiful barrier islands are separated from this mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway. These islands rim the Gulf and run from Clearwater Beach south to St. Petersburg Beach, with colorful beach towns in between. Gulf Blvd. parallels most of its shoreline.

PARTIAL RESTAURANT LISTING, TAMPA BAY

Alésia
7204 Central Ave
(727) 345-9701 $$   
Simple, art-filled, bright Parisienne atmosphere French Vietnamese with large patio. Alesia is a delight and so is their Pho and other authentic menu choices.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant
571 Central Ave.
St. Petersburg
727 894-5990   $$
Excellent Thai at the same location for over eight years. The Bangkok is right in the midst of St. Pete’s rapidly growing art district. Lunch and dinner daily.

Bascom's Chop House
3665 Ulmerton Road
Clearwater
(727) 573-3363  $$    
Bascom’s is an affordable steak house with class and a knowledgeable  staff.
Aged steaks carefully prepared and a fine wine list. The “B” is a favorite with locals.

Bern ’s Steak House
1208 South Howard Ave.
Tampa
813 251-2421  $$$
Bern's Steak House, “Art in Steaks,” attracts world tavelers and visiting presidents. Now run by Bern’s son, David, this legendary restaurant has been owned and operated by the Laxer family for over 40 years. Separate, elegant dessert room. Reservation a must.

Billy’s Stone Crab and Steak House
1 Collany Rd.
Tierra Verde  (southern tip of Pinellas County)
727 866-2115  $
Enjoy the bay, the mangroves in this eatery just off the road to Ft. DeSoto Park. The regular year-round menu offers luncheon salads, Cubans and a wide array of sandwiches. At dinner time, choose from a full range of seafood choices, plus to-order sirloin and prime rib.

Bon Appetite
148 Marina Plaza
Dunedin
727 733-2151 $$
Newly remodeled with additional outside, bayside spectacular view. Look for luncheon or complete dinners, complete menu including seafood, beef, lamb and veal. Sunday brunches, valet parking.

Caretta on the Gulf
Sandpearl Resort
500 Mandalay Ave.
Clearwater Beach
(727) 674-4171  $$$     
This is probably Clearwater and Clearwater Beach’s finest dining. Varied menustrong on sushi and seafood, imaginatively prepared, overlooking broad beach scene.

Charley’s Steak House
Aged Steaks & Market Fresh Fish
4444 West Cypress Street
Tampa
813 353-9706  $$$
Located near Tampa’s International Airport, “Our specially built pit and flame-broiling secret date back to Florida's own Seminole Indians; meats, poultry and seafood cooked over special hardwoods.” Reservations recommended.

Crabby Bill’s 
413 1 st St. E
Indian Rocks Beach
727 517-9521  $$
Wildly popular with tourists, fresh seafood and big, large, new outdoor bar also with dining.

Cristino's Coal Oven Pizza
1101 S Fort Harrison Ave. Clearwater
8th & l7th, Ybor City, Tampa
(727) 443-4900  $$
Coal oven-baked pizza made by those who know excellent, authentic pizza. Locals like Cristino’s for its thin crusts and gently charred cheese bubbles.

Edison:  Food & Drink Lab
912 W Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa
(813) 254-7111  $$    
Jeannie Pierola is now doing food her way at her own Edison with a highly  resourceful staff. Pierola, known widely as the first female chef at the legendary Bern’s Art in Steaks, then at Bern’s Sideburns, has a broad and wonderful license to make the Lab sensational. It’s a fun food challenge!

Élevage Restaurant - Epicurean Hotel
1207 S. Howard Ave
Tampa
(813) 999-8726   $$
This is a new Bern’s Steak House partnership. Located a stone’s-throw from the original steakhouse, the Epicurian is a combination of hotel, spa, Elevage, rooftop bar, bakery, meeting room, culinary classroom and Bern’s relocation of Bern’s Wines & Spirits store. James Beard Best Chef South finalist in 2012 and 2014, Chad Johnson, shares his innovative, yet classic, cuisine. Case in point, his “Tuna Casserole.”

Frenchy's South Beach Cafe
351 S Gulfview Blvd.
Clearwater Beach FL
727-441-2548  $$
This is another very popular fish restaurant, popular with tourists. Rockaway stuffed clams, grouper Reuben, calamari salad and a fresh fruit salad for land-lubbers. She Crab Soup with a fresh Three Fish Taco a favorite. Four locations, lunch and dinner daily.

Frog Pond
16909 Gulf Blvd
North Redington Beach
727 392-4117  $$
7390 Gulf Blvd
St Pete Beach
727 363-7205  $$
Still very popular with locals and out-of-towners for their generous portions, abundant omelets, heaping fruit plates and lots of two-handed sandwiches. Small fee for splitting selections. Chunky homemade pickles during lunch. “Lotsa” frog paraphernalia all the time. Breakfast and lunch daily.

Gator’s Café & Saloon
12754 Kingfish Dr.
Treasure Island
727 367-8951 $$
Located at busy, congested John’s Pass, this is a hearty, party-down, bikini-ok, sun-fun, brewsky deck with live music, swooping pelicans and wide-open jet ski action. Find volumes of beer brands and a great array of appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, or goodies from their smoke house. Music, boat access, open 24 hours a day.

Guppy’s on the Beach
1701 Gulf Blvd.
Indian Rocks Beach
727 593-2032  $$
Find indoor or outdoor dining here. Word of Guppy's innovative menus seems to have gotten around Europe. It's also popular with natives, as well. Leading edge entrees, seafood, pastas well presented. Wine and beer, only. Lunch and dinner daily.

Hallas’ Restaurant
785 Dodecanese Blvd
Tarpon Springs
727 934-8400  $$
If you have ever been to the Greek islands, the coast of Tarpon Springs, just a little north of TampaBay, will make those Greek memories rush back, and Hallas’ Greek Restaurant will enliven them. They excel at authentic Greek dishes, freshest seafood and American choices. Flaming cheese, Oompah!

Lenny's
21220 US Highway 19 N
Clearwater
727-799-0402  $$
Popular, busy dining scene, generous Kosher selections. Draws big crowd for breakfast scene and lunchtime burgers and sandwiches.

Mazzaro's Italian Market
2909 22nd Ave N
St Petersburg
727-321-2400  $$   
This is a fun, exciting Italian grocery store with a huge Italian deli section complete with busy, colorful lunch counter as well as sit-down, self-serve dining area. Gourmet sandwiches, Italian favorites, abundant bakery and homemade gelato.

Mise en Place
442 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa
813 254-5373  $$ 
Mise en Place is a stone’s throw from the University of Tampa and its 13 silver-domed minarets. The college buildings were built in 1891 by Henry B. Plant. Here Teddy Roosevelt billeted his Rough Riders in preparation for their trip to Cuba during the Spanish-American war. Its Plant Museum is well worth the visit. Mise En Place features New American cuisine with fresh local ingredients. Zagat Surveys says "Kudos abound for this superb, cutting edge New American bistro in downtown Tampa, where chef Marty Blitz creates dishes that are inventive yet homey, turning each plate into art. Staffers know their food and cater to the guests.” Open lunch and dinners--call for days. The menu changes every week as well as the by-the-glass wine list.

Oystercatchers
Located in the Hyatt Regency Westshore
6200 Courtney Campbell Causeway ( U.S. Highway 60)
Tampa
813 207-6815  $$$    
Upscale, Zagat Excellence award winner and reminiscent of the best of Key West, Oystercatchers continues to be one of TampaBay’s premier eating establishments. Scenically located on the shores of Old Tampa Bay with views of the Gulf’s glorious sunsets. Fresh seafood selections, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

Pelagia Tratoria
International Plaza, ground floor Renaissance Hotel
4200 Jim Walter Blvd
Tampa
813 313-3235  $$    
Always an award winner. Innovative Italian and more.

P.J.’s Seafood Restaurant
500 1st St.
Indian Rocks Beach
727 596-5898
7500 Gulf Blvd
St. Pete Beach
727 367-3309   $$
Come just exactly as you are to popularly-priced PJ’s, renown for its Buffalo wings, seafood, pasta, ribs and burgers. Full bar and many beer choices. Lunch and dinner.

The Pub Waterfront Restaurant
20025 Gulf Blvd
Indian Shores
727 595-3172 $$
Enjoy the music and an active boat dock as you dine indoors or outdoors, breakfast, lunch and dinner with dancing until midnight. Sometimes piano bar indoors and live jazz out on the deck. Breakfast buffets Saturday and Sunday. Full seafood and landlover menus at popular prices.

Red Mesa Restaurant
4912 4 th St., N.
St. Petersburg  
(727) 527-8728  $$
Very popular Mexican, Tex-Mex restaurant with touches of Asian. Try chef’s Killer Shrimp & Avacado Cocktail. Colorful place. Serious Mexican foods. Also, try their  Crème Brulee Cheesecake. Lunch and dinner, hours vary.

Rusty’s Bistro
Inside Sheraton Sand Key Resort
1160 Gulf Blvd
Clearwater
727 595-1611 $$   
Evenings choose from a more-than-tempting buffet, also ala carte menu broken into three parts: Small Plates, Bowls which are not just soups, and Large Plates. Choose from abundant seafood, char-grilled steaks, lamb rack and mole chicken. Chef John Harris is an award winner, wait staff attentive. Live jazz piano Tuesdays thru Saturdays. Take after-dinner drink out by the pool on the Gulf. Breakfast and dinner. Reservations suggested.

Salt Rock Grill
19325 Gulf Blvd.
Indian Shores
727 593-7625  $$   
A big-city Tampa favorite on Indian Shores in Pinellas County, a great place to see be seen. Large, multi-tier deck with vast docking facilities overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway for dining and cocktails. Indoors find large dining rooms surrounding their flamboyant open kitchen. Award-winning chef, dinner nightly, reservations a must.

Sideburn’s
2208 West Morrison Ave.
Tampa  
813 258-2233  $$
Sidebern’s respected spin-off from Tampa’s famed Bern’s Steak House. Like Bern’s, always a good bet.

Taco Bus
Several locations, both sides of the bay
(813) 232-5889; other locations;  $
Guy Fiore likes the Taco Bus(s). Probably the only food trucks located in several places on both sides of the bay. Highly popular with campus crowd, it’s authentic Mexican, fast, affordable and vegetarian, if you wish.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company
1600 8th Ave
Ybor City
Tampa
813-247-1422  $$
Tampa Bay Brewing Co., with up and downstairs bars in an original brick Cuban cigar factory building, is a fun beerpub for serious beer consumers. Add pub classics such as Shepherds Pie and Bangers and Mash, plus latter-day North American favorites and an ice cream Stout dessert, and you’ve found a great place to party! Lunch and dinner.

Ted Peter’s Smoked Fish
1350 Pasadena Ave. S
South Pasadena
727 381-7931  $$
Come as you are. This restaurant is a periodic pilgrimage for many wishing to relive decades-old memories of great smoked salmon, mackerel and mullet, Manhattan style clam chowder, German potato salad and terrific hamburgers. No credit cards, lunch and dinner daily except Tuesdays.

Z Grille
104 Second St. S.
St. Petersburg
(727) 822-9600 $$   
A James Beard finalist in 2009. Find upscale menu with world appeal. Located handy to St. Pete’s colorful waterfront.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.


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Marty Martindale is editor of FOODSITE MAGAZINE.

 



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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