It’s shorts and flip flops time for quick eats so we have more hours to play. My hubby and I discussed, debated, dissented, and compiled our fave, fast-casual restaurants. These places, where you line up to order, are much more appealing than fast-food options (and cheaper than sit-down cousins). Experts say this hybrid category is on the grow and judging by the parking lots, most patrons agree.
Read more: Tampa Bay’s best restaurants with fast-casual food suit our speedy lifestyle
Miami has its attributes but can it claim rights to the holy grail of tropical sandwiches? Ybor City was turning out these banquets on Cuban bread before the turn of the previous century. Early bricklayers flattened their “mixto’’ sandwiches between hot bricks thus toasting bread, melting cheese, and melding flavors. But Miami Herald reporter Fabiola Santiago says Tampa has no culinary chops and started a cat fight about Miami boasting the original. “There’s no doubt that our Cuban sandwich, served all over South Florida, is more authentic and tastier. Even in its Americanized or gourmet incarnations, a cubano in Miami is superior– my Tampa and Miami friends agree,’’ whined Fabiola. Harrumph!
Read more: Tampa defends its Cuban sandwich title: The best in the Bay
If hurling and soccer, shamrocks and goofy Irish wit buttons bring you pleasure, you’re more than ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Tampa Bay’s assorted ale houses don’t always meet lofty standards but with the luck of the Irish, the grub can be filling and satisfying.
Read more: The best Irish pub fare in Tampa Bay
It took a stint of unemployment to help Todd Sturtz become a cheerleader for Tampa’s culinary scene. Last year, the chemical-environmental engineer and self-proclaimed foodie, started a blog, TastingTampa.com, and organized a dozen Food Truck Rallies throughout the area. The September rally at Hyde Park Presbyterian Church created lots of lines with almost 5,000 visitors. Todd recently launched 13th Step: A Support Group for Foodies, to promote the local talent in our area.
Read more: Food bloggers agree: Tampa’s Pelagia Trattoria makes a meal of discovery
Unabashedly rich and irresistible, few foods bring on such giddy cravings as chocolate. Love is sweet, but it’s much sweeter with chocolate. Its phenylethylamine is the same chemical that our brains produce when we fall in love. Quality chocolate stirs the same emotions and is positively addictive this close to Valentine’s Day in Tampa Bay. Charge up your appetite, and your wallet, with some luscious choices from candy land.
Read more: Chocolate is love in an edible form: Nine of Tampa Bay’s best chocolate shops
You never know who will be in your eatery in Ybor City. Sunday’s Fine Dining owner is still clucking about the rooster that took up residence in his office for a few days. His management style wasn’t so bad but his keyboard skills were all hunt and peck. Dave Sunday, armed with a skill set culled from the army, the Long Island fishing community and a degree from culinary school in New York (NYIT), has gotten notice here. Once a chef in South Hampton, N.Y. during summers, he chose to winter here and cook at the Straz Center for the Arts. Even that wasn’t his idea of paradise.
Read more: Any day is good at Tampa’s Sunday’s (Fine Dining)
Laura Reiley at the St. Pete Times revealed that Jeannie Pierola’s fourth pop up restaurant concept will be making its appearance at the newly opened Knife & Co. spot on Kennedy (formerly Al Gusto Mexican). TaylorEason.com food writer Mary Scourtes reported on on Knife’s woes in this post but who knew they’d close down for the month of December. But to make way for the empress of Tampa Bay food, it’s all for a good food cause.
Read more: Pop up KitchenBar4 emerges in Tampa’s Knife and Co. spot
The appeal of TV serials like Cheers, Friends and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is having a tight group of buddies who are willing to exalt in your victories, commiserate in your setbacks, and, of course give you a rousting birthday celebration every year. Lacking a favorite watering hole and posse of pals, where can you go to pick up a little cheer on your birthday? A few restaurateurs value your big day and offer you an entrée (you may need to register ahead). With the economy faltering, even a free dreamy dessert, works as a treat. Just remember to BYOL (bring your own license).
Read more: It’s great to celebrate your birthday with these Tampa Bay deals
A wisecracking critic could have a field day mocking a restaurant during the first week during a dreadful economy. A writer with a chip on her shoulder could make mincemeat of a new enterprise that acknowledges her reservation but still doesn’t have a table available. Still, there is hope for Knife & Co. One of its defining features is the chef’s commitment to prepare almost everything in-house, from hot biscuits and grape jam to curing their bacon.
Read more: Restaurant review: Knife and Co. in Tampa still needs a little sharpening
Although I don’t live there anymore, my heart still belongs to Tampa. And I follow the resto news pretty obsessively. A few tidbits you might have missed like the food truck frenzy, food swaps and restaurant openings and closures.
Read more: Tampa food scene news: Food truck frenzy, Epcot Food Festival, restaurant openings