Best Of 2016

Best "cyser"

Let’s face it: Sometimes beer, even local beer, gets old. What to taste? There are plenty of ciders and meads around here, but — speaking of taste — Green Bench’s blend of the two is currently the best thing going if you’re looking to sample local beer culture without actually sampling local beer. Neither too sweet nor too dry, this blend of cider and honey wine traditions is, really, an amazing and utterly unique flavor experience. We can’t recommend it enough for both those who don’t drink beer, and those who are looking for a break from the norm when out at the tasting room. —Scott Harrell

Best anytime of the day pick-me-up
Alexis Chamberlain

One taste and you’ll be hooked. Because not only are acai bowls delicious, they’re good for you, too. Think of them as smoothies you eat with a spoon. Each smoothie is made fresh to order from the super-berry acai, piled high with anything from coconut to granola to bananas to bee pollen, and served in an enormous bowl. SoHo Juice Co. sets the bar high when it comes to organic smoothie bowls, which will keep you coming back again and again (and again and...) at any hour of the day. —Alexis Chamberlain

Best artsy restaurant exterior
Chip Weiner

One of the fascinating aspects of the dining experience here is the quirky artwork. The whimsical pen-and-ink-style black-and-white line drawings on the outside facade are by David Schiesser, a well-known painter and tattoo artist from Germany. They are oh so much fun and immediately brand the building — delightful to study as you await your burgers or just to make you smile as you zoom past the lit-up W. Kennedy exterior. —Jon Palmer Claridge

Best “What Prohibition?”
Kozuba & Sons Distillery via Facebook

We’re having a moment. Gone are the days when the 18th Amendment forbade the creation, sale and transportation of distilled spirits — the Bay area’s number of indie distilleries has continued to grow throughout 2016. Last year, when the National Restaurant Association declared 2015 the year of “micro-distilled/artisan spirits,” Cotherman Distilling Co. launched in Pinellas, followed by St. Petersburg Distillery. Now, our craft spirits scene has seen the relocation of Florida Cane Distillery from East Tampa to Ybor City, the opening of St. Pete-based Kozuba & Sons Distillery, and plans for Tampa’s Fish Hawk Spirits (Ybor) and Twisted Sun Rum Company (Seminole Heights). It’s all resulted in a larger collection of small-batch, award-winning spirits for locals to choose from, including orange liqueur, vodka, rye whiskey and gin, to which we say, drink up! Prohibition who? —Meaghan Habuda

Best bad news, good news for St. Pete nightlife
Ray Roa

For three years, John Cullen, Zoie Torres and their crew brought something unique to downtown nightlife — a place that was both comparatively upscale and unabashedly casual, a craft-beer haven with a friendly vibe and a dedication to local art and music. It was the latter that did ‘em in this past June (who moves downtown and then complains about the noise?!), but the space at the edge of the EDGE District will still offer a more-than-worthwhile drinker’s destination: Veronica Danko is bringing the Independent Bar, now a Seminole Heights mainstay, back to the city of its birth. Hell, it might be open by the time you read this. —Scott Harrell

Best bar where everyone knows your name

Sometimes you really do wanna go where everyone knows your name, and where they’re legitimately glad you came. Such is the case at Ybor City’s Reservoir Bar. A locals hangout and true dive bar, it attracts an eclectic crowd that ranges from attorneys to folks in the service industry. Friendly bar staff welcome you with a warm smile and serve up good drinks at a fair price, and there’s a strong possibility you’ll strike up conversations at the pool table or the bar and leave with what could very well be a lifelong friend. I’m not sure what’s in the air there (besides secondhand smoke), but it’s magical. —Kelly Knaggs

Best boozy brain freeze
Two Lions Winery & Palm Harbor Brewery via Facebook
click to enlarge Best boozy brain freeze
Two Lions Winery & Palm Harbor Brewery via Facebook

The best thing about Florida might be that you can indulge in signature (or should we say infamous?) Two Lion’s wine slushies year-round. The winery and brewery’s glorious freezes, which are basically the drunk Uncle Jesse of the ICEE and make us want to invest in a Slurpee machine for a weekend side gig, are the quintessential combination of refreshing and boozy, delivering a damn good drink. And this isn’t just f’rosé we’re talking about. TLW & PHB whips up a rotating selection of slushies in flavors like margarita, sangria and peach bellini. Go get you one. —Meaghan Habuda

Best bread that's even better than Europe

Save your Euros; the finest bread is hidden in the north St. Petersburg neighborhood of Fossil Park. The Italian bread will keep you from ever buying bread at a supermarket again, and the Polish rye will make you think you died and went to Polish heaven; as George Costanza's mother once said, "People take buses for this rye." Oh, and don't forget, M&G is also a European grocery store, with everything you need and more, including delicious baked goods. (Try their burek while you're there.) Hint: Get there early when the breads are still warm, or the other babushkas will buy it all up before you. —Colin O'Hara

Best Brunch Buffet

By night, New World Brewery has always been thee destination to see up-and-coming bands play small shows before breaking big. On Sunday mornings, it's the best reason to wake up, smell the roses, eat a ton of artisan breakfast, then go home for a nap. Credit Maddie Spinks and her crew for filling the spread with endless varieties of scones, grits (chorizo and cheddar, mmmm), quiches, panna cottas, pot pies, pancakes and more. The biscuits and gravy? Ermahgerd. —Ray Roa

Best burger with an Old Florida vibe
Arielle Stevenson

It’s not a fancy new gourmet burger, but the ambiance is pure Old Florida, so this should be on your must-do list. You can eat inside, but why would you when the outdoor dining area is an oasis of trees and flowering plants? There’s a babbling brook, a koi pond, and planters made from old clawfoot bathtubs replete with murals. The Chattaway is a welcome step back in time — a botanical paradise with a classic burger. —Jon Palmer Claridge