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What are your personal faves in the Tampa/St Pete/Clearwater area?

We're pretty new to the area and would appreciate the dining wisdom of all you seasoned Tampa types. Please share your list of favorite area restaurants. Doesn't matter if they're hip or hole-in-the-wall. We want to put our time, calorie and eating-out budgets to their best use.

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  1. J. Alexanders on Dale Mabry & Cypress St...
    A grill restaurant with consistent perfected recipes, great service, and generous portions...
    Incredible burgers, Salmon, (great)Prime Rib, Calamari, Caesar Salads... Chicken Fingers... SMASHED POTATOES!!!...

    Beautiful restaurant too... Dimly lit ski lodge vibe...

    What a place...

    1. Okay, here are a few of mine.

      Chinese - China Yuan/North Tampa

      Seafood - Mid Peninsula Seafood/St. Petersburg
      Rusty Bellies/Tarpon Springs

      Mexican - El Toro Negro/Kenneth City
      Carumbas/Clearwater

      BBQ - Jimbo's/Tampa
      Hickory Hollow/Ellenton

      Thai - Ban Thai/Clearwater

      Sushi - Hook's Seafood and Sushi/St. Petersburg

      Puerto Rican - Cafe Kalao/Pinellas Park

      Italian Beef - Fat Boy's/St. Petersburg

      No concern with dollars - Cafe Ponte/Clearwater

      I know I will think of more. Will come back and add them as I remember them.

      John

      2 Replies
      1. re: RibDog

        Thanks for the Ban Thai rec. After seeing the name pop up a few times on Chowhound, we gave it a whirl a couple weeks ago. Pretty darn good! (Finally...a Thai place to return to in Pinellas!)

        1. re: RibDog

          Did not like Ban Thai in Tampa, Carrollwood location.
          The food quality does not compare with Jasmine Thai!
          Loved Cafe Ponte.

          -----
          Ban Thai Restaurant
          5374 W Village Dr, Tampa, FL 33624

          Cafe Ponte
          13505 Icot Blvd. Suite 214, Clearwater, FL 33760

        2. For Vietnamese, Mekong on Hwy 19 at about 58th Ave N in Lealman (unincorporated Pinellas). In December ’04 I ate at six Vietnamese places on both sides of the Bay. It’s the quality of the stock that keeps me coming back to Mekong. There is another Viet restaurant and a Viet sandwich/bubble tea place in the same strip mall. My car doesn’t want to drive by without turning into Mekong. Say hello to Alexander and Victoria.

          For Cuban, try La Teresita, 7101 66th St in Pinellas Park. You will roll away from the table fat and happy for ridiculously little money. Wish they had an outlet down toward the Skyway Bridge.

          For upscale, Cafe Pont, http://www.cafeponte.com/ (d@mn the annoying music at the website), is in Clearwater. Redwoods (http://www.sptimes.com/2004/01/01/Wee...) has recently caught my attention. Given prices pushing toward Charlie Trotter’s and my one (disappointing) experience there, I would avoid Chateau France in St Pete.

          Keegan’s Grill (http://www.keegansseafood.com/) can’t be beat for deft handling of seafood. Another fine choice for no-frills, high quality seafood at prices that will make anyone happy, hit Mid-Peninsula. http://www.sptimes.com/2003/06/26/Wee...

          Breakfast/Brunch or Lunch = Lenny’s in Clearwater (http://www.sptimes.com/2006/03/23/Wee... ) skip church on Sunday or you’re going to be waiting. Yes, it’s that good; God will understand.

          Chinese requires a trip across the Bay to China Yuan (http://www.sptimes.com/2004/04/22/Wee... ). You won’t find any frills, but you will find fine fresh food and humble prices. Try the shrimp wonton soup – a fat, succulent shrimp hidden in every wonton. Beware, though, those appetizer soups could serve two or three people! The cuttlefish and ducks hanging in the case are worth perusing – take one of each home for later.

          Now for my neighborhood:

          For tacky, old Florida at its best, try Skyway Jack’s. It’s not politically correct, but where else are you going to get brains and eggs? http://www.weeklyplanet.com/gyrobase/...

          Munch’s (http://poynterextra.org/pointssouth/2... ) is walking distance from my home. Don’t miss the fried green tomatoes. They only take cash.

          The Chattaway (dog-friendly link - http://boards.thenest.com/boards/Show... ) is another don’t miss. Like Munch’s and Skyway Jack’s, it is a tasteless but tasty bit of Americana that, as of yet, has not been obliterated by standardization, homogenization and Disnification. There are many pink bath tubs, cold bear and good burgers.

          Now if there was just an Ethiopian place I could be happy forever.

          1 Reply
          1. Adding a few to the list:
            Red Mesa - Nuevo Latino(something more than Tex-Mex) 4th St. St. Pete
            Italia Mia - Hole in the wall Italian. Try the sausage or meat balls. St. Pete in Rutland Plaza, 62nd Ave N.
            Vincenzo's - Not upscale Italian but a cut above the local neighborhood, red sauce place. On McMullen Booth Rd. Clearwater.
            For a couple of near institutions not already mentioned - El Caps on 4th St. (Beer and burgers) St. Pete and Ted Peter's on S. Pasadena Ave. (Beer, burgers, SMOKED FISH and attitude)
            Ditto on China Yuan, Ponte's, Skyway Jack's

            1. i need to get out more. my list hasn't changed much in recent years. all in Tampa unless otherwise indicated

              Arco Iris and La Teresita, both on Columbus in Tampa for good cheap Cuban.

              Trang's and Pho Quyen for Vietnamese. Trang's has the best rolls--- try the 4 seasons platter. also try the happy pan cake for a savory bean flour crepe. At Pho Quyen, the Pho is very good, as are all the entrees i've tasted.

              Antojitos on Howard for great Columbian food. try the empanadas, pork chop, fish, etc. was not too impressed with the tamale and beef. get a fruit shake con leche.

              i do like El Cap for burgers in St. Pete.

              Taconazo in Tampa for best tacos, burritos. too bad the tamales are only on weekends, they are the best, especially slathered with their spicy salsa verde.

              I'm sure there's others...

              andy

              1 Reply
              1. re: andy huse

                Taconazo. I really have to second you on that. I try and take all visiting friends there for the food and odd atmosphere.