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Metro Tampa - Dinner & Brunch?

Coming into Tampa for the weekend and don't have a lot of extra time - so focusing on two good meals Saturday Dinner and Sunday Brunch. Lived in Miami and Boston and consider ourselves "foodies". We've been to Tampa only once. We try hard to stay away from chain and hotel restaurants. After a little searching here, on open-table and yelp, we are considering Saturday dinner at SIDEBERN'S and Sunday brunch at CIRCLES. Yea? Nea? Any other suggestions? Appreciate the help.

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  1. Sidebern's is worth the trip. Haven't been in a while but I'm sure you will have a fine experience.

    I'd like to recommend Pane Rustica. I've appreciated this place as a bakery and gourmet sandwich spot for years now but have only recently experience their dinner menu. They are doing some great things with fresh and tasty ingredients. On a recent visit I was wowed with a dish of house made fetucine served with mussels, clams, salmon and a nice garlic cream sauce. My companion enjoyed a plate of gnocchi with beef tips in a red wine reduction. That sauce was sublime and the beef tips were perfectly seasoned and cooked. They gnocchi were rustic and perfectly cooked. You can also stop in for lunch or in the morning for the best breads and pastries in the area and cup of delicious Illy brand coffee.

    Enjoy your visit. Hope you have some great meals.

    1. Went to Sidebern's a couple of weeks ago and was not impressed. The food was quite bland, a huge disappointment. I would check out the dessert room at Berns, it's fabulous! I would recommend Donatello's on Dale Mabry or Mise En Place. As for Brunch I like Datz Deli or Oyster Catchers.

      1. Sunday Brunch at Oyster Catchers. Make a reservation.

        1. I agree w Pane Rustica, I prefer their lunch over their dinner but if you can't make it for lunch, then dinner is good to. They have really tasty breads and desserts, the Expresso Cookie is delish, big hunks of moist chocolate morsels, dusted w powdered sugar. The Rustica Salad is really good, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, sooo good.

          1. No, no, no to Sidebern's. Ever since the founding chef left, they have floundered. I have not heard anything good about it in ages.

            For dinner Saturday, Pane Rustica for fresh, creative seasonal fare in a casual atmosphere; or possibly Ocean Prime, which is a small chain specializing in steak and seafood in a clubby atmosphere. Foodies will not be disappointed at either. But I'd give the edge to Pane Rustica. digyourself, the fettuccine dish you describe is my all-time favorite there, although the specials are usually tough to pass up!

            Brunch is tougher. Circles is good, and one of the few places in town serving a proper brunch menu complete with mimosas, bloody marys, etc. Pinky's is my favorite place for breakfast around here, but it's kind of a dive, so if you want white tablecloths, stick with Circles. (Pane Rustica serves lunch and has terrific pastries, but apart from the occasional omelet and their frittata on the menu, does not do breakfast dishes.)

            I do not recommend Oystercatchers. It's one of those expensive all you can eat buffets, a cut above, yes, but not exactly foodie-ville.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Miss E

              When I think brunch I guess I think old school with cocktails and a buffet. Once a year or so I like to dress up and head to OC and pay too much for some interesting and some not so interesting food while I enjoy the view and the service and some mimosas.

            2. Yes again to Pane Rustica. I keep meaning to go back after a great meal a few months ago. I've followed the place for many years, but they have really outdone themselves lately.

              1. I recommend Mis En Place for dinner and also like Oystercatchers for brunch. Although I do love Circle's and it's still a good choice. It's a more intimate setting too, as OC is bigger & more expensive. Not a fan of Sidebern's, would go to Bern's over that.

                1. For a pretty cool brunch, you can also head over to Ceviche, on Howard, in south Tampa. Went a few weeks ago and was really impressed. Probably the only brunch that's ever impressed me in Tampa (I come from a brunch city). Good food as well as pretty inexpensive bloody mary and mimosa specials. Along with the typical dishes, there are several good seafood dishes. I tend to skip the "brunch" places unless they actually serve bloody marys and mimosas.

                  Don't forget that Tampa's got the wacky liquor laws, so don't go to brunch before 11am on Sunday.

                  Heard mixed reviews about Ocean Prime, mostly mediocre, but I have not been yet. Never been a fan of Circles, but then again, I have not had their brunch.

                  As mentioned here already, the dessert room at Bern's is something to write home about. Seriously a great experience. Bern's and Sidebern's, quite overrated.

                  Just my 2 cents.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: UptownKevin

                    Brunch at Ceviche sounds so interesting--I'm putting it on my list, thanks for the heads up. Had no idea they served it.

                    1. re: Miss E

                      Brunch there just started recently. There are two locations of Ceviche, but only the Tampa location serves brunch. Found out the hard way when we stopped at the St. Pete location hoping for a bloody, the morning after a wedding.


                  2. I would recommend Pelagia Trattoria in the International Mall for dinner. It's an upscale Italian seafood place. For brunch, definitely Oyster Catchers--a really impressive (albeit pricey) feast.

                    I am very surprised to hear all the negative commentary on Sidebern's. I have not been there in years, but even after the departure of Chef Jeanie Pierola, in the recent past, the comments have been favorable.

                    Ceviche has wonderful tapas, so if it is now doing brunch, I imagine that brunch would be wonderful, too.

                    Pane Rustica is one of the most consistently praised places on this board, although it impresses me as more of a casual lunch place than a dinner place. I haven't been to Circles in years, either, but in Circles' case it is because I found the food to be just okay. The menu reads better than it tastes.

                    Mise en Place is an old standard that just keeps cranking out good food, year after year. Donatello's is to Italian what Mise en Place is to continental/French, an old standard cranking out consistently excellent food.

                    Last, Miss E referenced "Pinky's," which, I assume is the Pink Flamingo. I've never eaten there, but I thought that I would clarify the reference. I hope that this helps.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: gfr1111

                      no, pinky's is a different place.

                      1. re: gfr1111

                        I second the recommendation for Pelagia Trattoria... I think it's often over-looked.

                        1. re: gfr1111

                          No, I did mean Pinky's. It's in the old Bean There location on Bay to Bay near MacDill, across from Cappy's.

                          gfr, you must try Pane Rustica for dinner. They turn down the lights, the wait staff are true professionals. The atmosphere is better than during the day, and the food is truly a cut above.

                          1. re: Miss E

                            is there proper table service at night?

                            1. re: rhnault

                              Yes, very proper! You never see HS kids--professional waiters, all. Excellent service.

                        2. Thanks all for the suggestions! We started the Saturday off with lunch at Columbia in Ybor City. A little touristy, but I have to admit the food was spot on for cuban food. The cuban sandwich and mojito was awesome. We did do Sidebern's for dinner, despite the mixed reviews here. The food was very nice - sophisticated and thoughtful. Each of us had a different entry to be able to survey the scene. The duck, lamb, tuna and halibut entress were all homeruns! Wine list was extensive. It was on the pricey side, but we saw this going into it. Circle's for brunch on Sunday was standard brunch menu fare. Menu did look better than food...but wasn't awful. Can't wait to head back to Tampa to try Ceviche & Pane Rustica. Thanks to all.