Best Of 2008

BEST SOUTH BEACH IN SUBURBIA: Grille 116

Don’t judge this book by its cover, the covering being a typical Carrollwood strip mall complete with nail salon and TGIFriday’s. Not that you’ll likely notice Grille 116, anyway, with the subtle lettering on the building and plain, unsigned wooden door facing the parking lot. But step inside and it’s like you tapped your heels and wished for South Beach. Not the clientele, maybe, but the design. Grille 116 is gorgeous, dark and dreamy, with floor-to-ceiling white curtains and graceful, flowing booths inset in walls of padded leather. The lounge area — which occupies the center of the room — is taken up by low, chocolate couches set in conversation-starting pits, making it easy for a crowd to get together or different groups of drinkers to become one crowd. The lighting is sublime, the bar is impressive and there are two private dining areas that can be curtained off from prying eyes, if that’s your bag. Get rid of the TVs behind the bar, and it could be heaven. Oh, and the food and drinks are pretty damn good, too. 15405 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-265-0116