Best Of 2017

Best Barbecue Sandwich

I'm on record as a pork devotee, so The Conquistador's marinated, Spanish-spiced 14-hour slow-smoked pork has me swooning. A perfectly toasted brioche bun appears with pulled meat topped with chimichurri, caramelized onions and a fried egg oozing yolk. It's just delicious — and all you could ask for in a BBQ ’wich. —Jon Palmer Claridge

BEST BARKTENDER

What can I say? I don’t weigh in on these things — they’re too much of a popularity contest — but I heart Jen. It isn’t because she gives me big ol’ calf femurs (of course, that doesn’t hurt) but because this place feels like home. There’s not a Wednesday in the world that doesn’t feel right without it ending with me, chewing on a bone, on that big ol’ floor mural of a compass, and I don’t want it to. She’s sort of my secret crush. Don’t tell anyone, OK? People are so weird about dachshund/human love affairs… —Calypso, CL’s Barketing Director

Best Beach Bar Where You Don't Have to Fight For Parking

I love the beach — especially beach bars and cold drinks. What I don’t like, however, is fighting for parking on the beach, which, thankfully, has never been an issue at Crab Daddy’s. With a killer Rum Runner, waterfront views of boats passing by and a comforting breeze, Crab Daddy’s and its bar stools are often my second home on Sunday afternoon. —Chris Fasick

Best Beach Cocktails

The pack of 13 artisanal cocktails, all named after Pass-a-Grille dogs, is inventive and delicious. Their little friend Furby is represented by a sweet concoction of Bacardi, banana liqueur, cherry brandy and pineapple juice. Namesake Grace (which was not named for the swimming dog named Grace who’s pictured on the wall but another Grace altogether) is a tall glass with a colorful blend of 360 Vodka, lemonade and a kick of lavender-blueberry syrup. The Watson arrives like sunset in a martini glass: Boodles British gin, Aperol, St-Germain and white peach balsamic topped with prosecco to add some welcome fizz. Come and be wowed. —Jon Palmer Claridge

BEST BEACHSIDE CRAFT BEER

You don’t have to sacrifice the lazy beach-town lifestyle and venture into one of the Bay area’s urban cores for top-notch local brews — Mastry’s Brewing has set up shop just a few blocks from the sand, and it’s putting out beers that hang with the best our downtown breweries have to offer. The rotating tap list always offers a ton of variety, and there’s a wine list and coffee roasted in-house, too. Next time you want to belly up in a brewery’s tasting room, consider a short trip out to the shore. —Scott Harrell

Best Beer and Food Joint East of I-75

When you first take a seat at The Stein & Vine — which uses just three letters, “PUB,” to identify its purpose inside an inconspicuous strip-mall building — you notice it’s a neighborhood haunt with a friendly atmosphere and a stellar craft beer (and wine) list. Once you get a taste of the spread that’s whipped up inside the small kitchen, however, you’re blown away. The chef-inspired eats are as great as the pints — so great that Coppertail Brewing Co. teamed up with owners Ty and Lacey Mathis on its own on-site kitchen. —Chris Fasick

BEST BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR LOCAL BEER

Bob Sylvester’s been brewing world-class Belgian-style farmhouse ales in Tarpon Springs for more than a decade. Back when he opened up shop in an out-of-the way industrial storage facility, it wasn’t even strictly legal for a craft brewer to sell his own beer in his own tasting room. These days, it’s pretty much required, and in January Saint Somewhere joined the ranks of breweries with top-flight tasting spaces by opening the rustic, homey Brasserie in downtown Tarpon Springs to spotlight its own beers and those of a few other like-minded (and carefully curated) makers. It’s since become not only a mandatory stop for locals, but a destination for dedicated beer tourists from around the world. —Scott Harrell

Best Bread and Butter

If you've come to expect free bread as a welcome gift, you may be reluctant to shell out six bucks for it. But RR’s Daily Bread is a whole-grain sourdough wonder. The dark, thick, chewy crust comes from being wood-fired in an Earthstone oven. Meanwhile, its airy open crumb is substantive and tangy — worthy of house-made cultured butter sprinkled with huge flakes of sea salt. It's enough to make a grown man cry; perfection isn't free. —Jon Palmer Claridge

Best Burritos That Need Their Own Blankets and Birth Certificates

The burritos at this young taco joint seem to defy the laws of science, considering the amount of ingredients that get stuffed into 14-inch flour tortillas on the daily. (Seriously, the size of these things is comparable to a newborn baby. All they need is a blanket and a birth certificate.) The menu’s Xtreme burrito is tightly packed with flavorful fillings, but the Stoner — which includes fries alongside a pound of meat, Mexican rice, black beans, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and fresh mozzarella — is next-level tasty. —Chris Fasick

BEST CHEF FOR ON-THE-SPOT GLUTEN-FREE ENTREES

I’ve spent the year dealing with a celiac diagnosis, and one of the things I’ve had to learn not to hate to do is ask about gluten every time I want to try a new dish. At Brew Bus, that request brought out the chef, Max Sherard, who simply asked me what I didn’t like to eat (other than scrapple, there really isn’t anything) and came back with one of the most delicious invented-on-the-spot things I could have ever imagined. Kudos for his creativity and willingness to make me something tasty and filling, as opposed to, “Well, you can always get a salad, sans dressing and croutons.” —Cathy Salustri