Ajanta Indian Cuisine in the Ramada Inn at 5005 34th Street North, St. Petersburg (727) 525-1181 offers a full and varied menu of meat and seafood entrees, from shrimp cocktail to lamb curry to quail eggs stuffed with raisins and nuts, as well as the best selection of vegetarian entrees, yogurt and herbal beverages available in the Tampa Bay area. Reserve an evening to experience this truly remarkable cuisine.
Armani's at the top of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa (813) 281-9165 affords the best view of Tampa Bay and the Tampa International Airport, and serves the finest Italian cuisine in the area. Create your own antipasto platter of the finest ingredients, and try the signature Veal Scallopini Armani at this Mobil four-star and AAA four-diamond restaurant.
Backfin Blue Cafe at 2913 Beach Boulevard, Gulfport (727) 343-2583 is along the beach, in the middle of the Gulfport art community, in an old Florida cracker-style house with a back porch built in the 1920s, and offers a seafood menu prepared and served in a down-home, local style. The food is excellent, and the atmosphere is informative of how the natives used to live before the tourists arrived.
Bern's Steakhouse at 1208 South Howard Avenue, Tampa (813) 251-2421 claims to have the largest wine cellar of any restaurant in the world, and judging from the phone book-size wine list of grand vins, rare Sauternes and Cognacs, we cannot argue. If you want to experience the finest dry-aged steak dinner of your life, reserve an evening for Bern's. The menu also includes an astounding variety of caviar, foie gras and truffle appetizers, as well as seafood, fresh locally caught fish, poultry and vegetarian entrees.
Bon Appetit at 150 Marina Plaza, Dunedin (727) 733-2151 is right across from the Dunedin Marina and next door to Yacht Harbor Inn, and offers the best casual yet elegant open-air waterfront dining in the area. Serving a full menu of everything from pasta to seafood, sweetbreads to steaks, the chefs prepare and present everything creatively using the freshest, seasonal ingredients, which you can enjoy casually dressed at a relaxed pace.
Chateau France at 136 Fourth Avenue North, St. Petersburg (727) 894-7163 serves classic French dishes in a restored Victorian house built almost a hundred years ago. The pate is made on the premises, as are the bouillabaisse, coq au vin and crepes Suzette. Chateau France provides the most intimate atmosphere and most authentic French cuisine available in the Tampa Bay area.
Food Court at The Pier, downtown St. Petersburg has a variety of casual dining alternatives, including pizza, burgers, ice cream and fast food, all of which are generally higher in quality than what is usually found in the malls.
Fourth Street Shrimp Store at 1006 Fourth Street North, St. Petersburg (727) 822-0325 specializes in shrimp, and has the freshest in town. You can select from a variety of different preparations, enjoy them casually in their unusually decorated dining room, or buy some from their market and cook them at home. The oysters, clams, grouper and catfish also are served in generous proportions at very reasonable prices.
Frenchy's Original Cafe at 41 Baymont Street, Clearwater Beach (727) 446-3607 is a casual old Florida-style café right on the beach at the end of Highway 60 which has been serving award winning grouper sandwiches for over 20 years. They maintain their own fishing fleet, and everything they serve is grilled on the premises, fresh off the boat.
Friendly Fisherman at 150 John's Pass Boardwalk, John's Pass Village, Madeira Beach (727) 391-6025 is at the fishing docks, and will prepare, cook and serve whatever you catch for under $5. They also offer a good seafood menu for the less ambitious, and the dining room provides an excellent view of the fishing area.
Guppy's at 1701 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach (727) 593-2032 is right across from the beach, and provides both indoor and outdoor seating. Standard beach fare is available, as well as daily upscale chalkboard specials like salmon grilled with a potato crust accompanied by a white leek sauce. Black Angus steaks and filets, as well as a variety of vegetarian entrees, also are on their full and varied menu.
Hellas Bakery & Restaurant at 785 Dodecanese Boulevard, Tarpon Springs (727) 943-2400 is the best casual, open-air café from which to enjoy a great view of the sponge docks while enjoying authentic Greek pastries, or more substantial Old World fare like moussaka (an eggplant and lamb casserole) or dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb and/or rice) followed by galactombouriko (Greek custard) and glasses of Retsina.
Hurricane at 807 Gulf Way, Pass-a-Grille (727) 360-9558 offers an unusual adventure in seafood dining in this restored 3-story Victorian building, right across from the beach. Enjoy a varied menu of fresh fish and seafood indoors or on the veranda for a great view of the setting sun. You can even step off the beach in your bathing suit and enjoy a drink at the upstairs beach bar. After hours, the top floor opens as Stormy's Nightclub, which is popular with the locals.
Lobster Pot at 17814 Gulf Boulevard, Redington Shores (727) 391-8592 serves the freshest Maine lobster available in the Tampa Bay area, and in a variety of preparations. Most lobster served in Florida restaurants is the smaller, locally grown variety, which lobster fans will tell you is crawfish and not really lobster. Other specialties include a great bouillabaisse, snapper, swordfish, all manner of shellfish, and they offer an excellent children's menu.
Marchand's Bar & Grill in the Renaissance Vinoy Resort at 501 Fifth Avenue Northeast, St. Petersburg (727) 894-1000 was formerly the Pompeii Room of the opulent Vinoy Hotel built in the 1920s, and is an historical landmark worth visiting even if you are not hungry. The menu, presentation and service are top of the line Continental, however, and provide a delightful fine dining experience within walking distance of the Pier and other downtown attractions.
Mise en Place at 442 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa (813) 254-5373 is a consistent award winner among top rating organizations for almost 20 years. The menu is varied and seasonal, and emphasizes regional cuisine. To experience the finest in locally caught and harvested produce, prepared creatively and paired with the perfect wines, this is the place to come for the best adventure in local gastronomy.
Oystercatchers in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa (813) 207-6815 is the best place to enjoy the Gulf Coast's fabulous sunsets while savoring the finest fresh seafood in the region in an upscale but casual atmosphere. The Sunday brunch is particularly generous and memorable.
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish at 1350 South Pasadena Avenue, South Pasadena (727) 381-7931 has been offering the same simple menu for over 50 years. From the smoked mullet spread and crackers to the full-course smoked mullet, mackerel, mahi-mahi and salmon dinners, the aroma of Georgia red oak-smoked locally caught fish fills the air around this unassuming roadside stop with outdoor picnic benches and a small indoor dining room for rainy days. The generously sized cheeseburgers with big slices of sweet onion, German potato salad and clam chowder also happen to be the best we have found anywhere.
The Colonnade at 3401 Bayshore Boulevard and West Julia Street, Hyde Park (813) 839-7558 provides a wonderful view of Hillsborough Bay, the cruise ships and the dockside activity along Bayshore Boulevard, while you enjoy locally harvested seafood, and sample the best appetizers of wild alligator found in Florida. They have been a local favorite since 1935.
The Columbia at 2117 East 7th Avenue, Ybor City (813) 248-4961 has served some of the finest Cuban, Portuguese and Spanish cuisine available anywhere since 1905, and its vast wine cellar includes the largest collection of Spanish wines in the country. Their extensive menu of everything from a wide selection of tapas and authentic albondigas soup, to their extraordinary Paella Valencia and pompano baked in parchment, to their Crema Catalana and Brazo Gitano is perfectly prepared and artfully presented in any of a variety of different dining rooms, each appointed with authentic antique furnishings, well-preserved murals and strolling musicians that capture the atmosphere of old Spain.
The Moon Under Water at 332 Beach Drive Northeast, St. Petersburg (727) 896-6160 is an unusual British Colonial-themed restaurant serving a number of ethnic cuisines, including Asian and Pacific Rim, Indian and Middle Eastern, with a full bar that includes a good variety of British and Australian beers. A fun place to have a casual and relaxing meal, you can also enjoy live music here on weekends.
The Salt Rock Grill at 19325 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach (727) 593-7625 is a tri-level, upscale and contemporary seafood restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating by a dock with a tiki bar and live music, where you can enjoy steak and other meat entrees cooked on a wood-fired grill as well as a large variety of seafood specialties, including cedar-cooked salmon, pan-seared tuna and coconut shrimp.
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