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St Petersburg, Tampa, Lakeland recs needed

We’re visiting St Petersburg from Connecticut next week – we’re staying in Isla del Sol.

Having done extensive searches on these boards I have a short list of places we should try to get to during our trip – am interested in opinions on these plus of course any other ‘only in Florida’ chow experiences.

Also we’re planning on visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern in Lakeland – any good chow there? I found mention of a BBQ place but nothing recently – is it still there?

Thanks in advance

Dinners -
Tampa:
Berns (I’m not into the whole steakhouse thing but my husband is & it seems to be a local institution).
SideBerns.
Mise en Place

St Petersburg:
Café Alma
Primi
Ceviche

Others:
Salt Water Grill
Pearl @ Treasure Island
Island Way Grill

More casual/lunch
Crab Shack, St Petersburg
Thuy Café for Banh Mi
Pipo’s for Cuban Sandwiches
Z-Grille for fish tacos
Ted Peters (maybe takeout?)
Cacciatore & Sons for deviled crabs
Rusty Bellies when we visit Tarpon Springs
Maybe drive to Homasassa for Cuban – is there anything else up there to see???

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  1. i've been making annual work trips to tampa for the past few years, and finally tried bern's on my last trip. the steak was very good. the sides were fine, but not particularly outstanding (we didn't order any of the ala carte sides, just got what came with the meal). service was good, and the ambience is good (assuming brothel-chic isn't a turn-off for you). the little tours of the kitchen and on-site wine cellar were fun. dessert was very good (sorry, i don't remember what all we had, but out of 4 desserts there were no losers) and is served upstairs in private rooms; unique and fun, would probably be a great place for a romantic dessert. while bern's was pricey, it wasn't as bad as i had expected.

    more in keeping with my preferences was ted peters. simple, not pretentious, a good place for meeting the locals. awesome smoked mullet and ice-cold miller high life on tap. we just had a blast hanging out, eating, people-watching. i did see plenty of people getting take-out, so that would definitely work, too. i'll be in orlando instead of tampa this year, but i'm planning a daytrip over to the gulf, and ted peters will be one stop.

    1. Thanks - I love desserts so maybe Berns will have something for me after all!
      BTW does my hubby need a jacket at Berns or would smart dockers & a shirt be acceptable?

      Ted Peters sounds great! Have fun in Orlando

      1 Reply
      1. re: ctbrit

        i saw all manners of dress (from shorts to suits). khakis and something better than a t-shirt would be about as casual as i would feel comfortable with given the atmosphere & price range.

        oh, and if you try that cuban in homosassa, please post about it. i saw the write-up too and am toying with extending my tampa daytrip up that way.

      2. dockers and a shirt are fine, no jacket required

        1. Re; Ceviche. We tried it recently. It was our first Tapas restaurant. It is a fun way to eat, but there are so many menu items it's kinda hard to order with any intellegence. Avoid the simple vege dishes and go for the more exotic type mixes. It is a very pleasant place to eat; inside or out.

          Bern's: Considering the reputation, it is rather casual. Don't get too worked up about the side dishes; just orde the steak of your dreams. Enjoy the tour and dessert room, because that is what Bern's is all about (besides steak)

          When you go to Tarpon Springs, keep your mind open. We love Hellas and I love the Greek Pizza Kitchen, which is downtown. There are any number of good, local Greek fooderies there, so enjoy a gyro and Greek salad just about anywhere.

          If you go to Homosassa, go to the wildlife park. Only because it is the only thing there to see.

          1. I used to be a huge fan of Cafe Alma, but I would not recommend it any more. If it were my list, I'd replace it with Cafe Ponte, or Redwoods.

            Ceviche is always good, and so is the Pearl. I can't recommend any one dish at Cevishe as we are trying to eat our way across the menu and have yet to repeat any!

            I've had a really wonderful lobster at Bern's and good fish dishes, too. St. Bart's Island House is also a good choice in Tampa.

            I've been to Ted Peters once, and that was enough. There's only so much smoked anything that I can eat - but I don't like chipotle peppers for the same reason. YMMV.

            I grew up in Lakeland, and unfortunately, it is a culinary wasteland for the most part (think big chains). Close to Florida Southern College, however, is one of the few gems - Mr. Fish. It's right across the street from the public library. Get yourself a fish sandwich or a basket of fish and chips and walk across the street to Lake Morton and eat on a bench watching the ducks and swans. Many will recommend the Reececliff for Lakeland - I've eaten many entirely adequate meals there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BeaN

              My dear spouse did not mention a potential oasis in the culinary wasteland that is Lakeland under the assumption you were looking for lunch vice dinner while you were there.

              Blue Nile (3133? Florida) is a place we stumbled into upon our last trip to Lakeland while looking for something...ANYTHING, a little different. I am not certain they are open for lunch but we were pleasantly suprised with the menu and execution in this little place. In short it is a wine bar/music place, the menu is not overly ambitious but it is solid with primarily mediterranean offerings.

              We intend to write a more in depth review in the near future but I thought it worth a mention.

              Regards,
              J. (AKA BeaN's spousal unit)