Best Of 2017

Best Consistently Surprising, Consistently Excellent Restaurant: Rooster & the Till

Best Consistently Surprising, Consistently Excellent Restaurant

Sure, Rooster & the Till wins BOTB awards every year, it seems, so it’s not as if chef Ferrell Alvarez or his Seminole Heights restaurant needs any more laurels. But the thing is, Alvarez isn’t resting on those laurels — he’s still exploring culinary possibilities, still offering dishes that surprise you with their ingredients, and, more importantly, with layers and layers of flavor and texture. Don’t be deceived by appearances. The crispy cobia collar may look like fried bat, but it tastes like heaven (after you dig into the surprisingly meaty fishflesh). The Okinawan sweet potatoes served with scrumptious wild boar are, yes, blue, and, yes, also scrumptious, even if you, like me, resist blue food. And a recent dessert that looked more like a science experiment in a petri dish turned out to be a sublime mix of coconut banana pudding, Thai basil tapioca, five-spice butterscotch, macadamia crumble and we think (if memory serves us right) some kind of green tea foam — the result being a concoction so good we we wanted to lick the bowl afterwards. Nicest surprise of all: The most expensive dish on the menu is 21 bucks. 6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. 813-374-8940, roosterandthetill.com. —David Warner