Best Of 2006

Bella Brava (Photo by Lisa Mauriello)
Bella Brava (Photo by Lisa Mauriello)

At first, it’s a mystery, a wide crock draped with golden-brown pizza dough. Anything could be inside, maybe an exotic dancer, maybe a clutch of blackbirds. Instead, break the crust and you’ll find a steamy filling of penne dotted by hunks of fennel and pork sausage, bound together by Bella Brava’s exceptional spicy, pancetta-laced tomato sauce. Better than a bunch of live birds any day of the week (but not necessarily better than a stripper).


Food & Drink

Food & Drink 2011

The best thing to happen to fast-food breakfasts since the Heart Attack Eggwich or whatever that gigundo thing is called at Burger King, Panera’s soufflés are savory little pies in three flavors (four cheeses, spinach and artichoke, and the champ: spinach and bacon) that taste like they’re good for you — or at least they taste much better than the stuff that’s bad for you at the other chains. Sure, the name’s a little redundant — soufflés are always baked, and we’re pretty sure they always contain eggs — but hell, they’re great with coffee. Various area locations.

219 Westshore Plaza, Tampa, www.pfchangs.com

Runners Up: TC Choy’s, Jasmine Thai

Various Bay Area locations, www.sonnysbbq.com

Runners Up: Kojak’s House of Ribs, Fred Fleming’s

Runners Up: The Independent, Mellow Mushroom

Cafe Alma (Photo by Valerie Troyano)
Cafe Alma (Photo by Valerie Troyano)

This hip St. Pete day- and nightspot is hands-down the best place to get a little hair of the dog on a late, lazy Saturday morning that’s more like an early Saturday afternoon. They bring you the vodka of your choice iced down in a pint glass, and you make your own medicine from a spread that typically features two very original Bloody Mary mixes (the one made with a splash of Guinness is a widespread favorite), along with everything from Tabasco sauce and horseradish to pickled okra and baby corn. Plus, the brunch menu is uniformly excellent.

For the newcomers: Café con leche is the Spanish version of Café Au Lait, requiring nearly a quarter cup of sugar placed underneath the grounds of a strong, finely ground espresso coffee, then drip-brewed and topped with heated milk. The result is a strong, sweet brew that titillates the senses as much as the brain. And although Tampa has its share of great Cuban cafés offering the drink, the key to any café con leche is the espresso, and no espresso beats El Molino’s. Unlike most of the chain coffee shops in the area, El Molino roasts its beans on premises at the 85-year-old Naviera Coffee Mills, creating a fresh, unique espresso shot with much more kick than anything Starbucks could ever create. 2012 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 800-531-9587, www.elmolinocoffee.com.

It’s the best chain pizza in the land, with that ideal crust combination of chewy, crunchy and creamy that makes all the difference, with the usual choices of meat and veggie toppings along with wacky combinations like pesto and jalapenos. Mellow Mushroom also has one of the best beer selections — more than 20 taps loaded with real microbrews — in the Bay area, chain or no. It’s almost enough to forget how places like this are crushing local restaurateurs — and your soul. 10959 Causeway Blvd., Brandon, 813-685-1122; 11955 Sheldon Road, Tampa, 813-926-3600.


See full review.


See full Good Eats listing.

Various Bay Area locations, www.tacobell.com

Runners Up: La Teresita, Taco Bus