Best Of 2018

Best calamari
Shanna Gillette

Salt and pepper calamari is acclaimed as a signature dish. If you ever doubted the power of these two common seasonings, which are at the center of all kitchens — so much so that they’re taken for granted — don’t miss this one. Yummy House South smartly uses the larger tentacles in two-inch lengths instead of cutting across the squid’s body into ubiquitous rings. The result is a revelation. The dish’s coating is crisp and appealing with an inside soft and tender. The team kicks the whole thing up a notch with a complex, yet balanced, garnish of minced green onions, cilantro, roasted garlic and chiles. 302 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. 813-513-4788, yhschinabistro.com. —Jon Palmer Claridge

Previous Winners

Food & Drink: Feast on this massive celebration of local comestibles and imbibables.

Food & Drink


Best All-Around Restaurant
Todd Bates


  • Runner Up: Ulele
  • Runner Up: Columbia Restaurant
Best Asian dessert
Chip Weiner

Eastern minimalist Asian desserts are usually too simple and underwhelming for a Western culinary sensibility. Happily, Pin Wok & Bowl’s choice to combine Banana Coins with coconut ice cream is an inspired mashup. Slices of banana are wrapped in little phyllo packets, fried till crisp and golden, then drizzled with honey and topped with a light sprinkle of white-and-black sesame seeds. House-made coconut ice cream is creamily scrumptious, drizzled with lightly caramelized condensed milk and paired with some fresh whipped cream. I urge you to try them together as we did by serendipity. It’s a match made in heaven, or at least downtown St. Pete’s version of Bangkok. 445 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-575-7167. —Jon Palmer Claridge

Best Asian starter
Meaghan Habuda

Thuy Le’s kitchen produces nuanced plates are often revelatory, and same goes for the edamame appetizer. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had plenty of these soybean pods over the years — and they’re mostly the same: steamed, sprinkled with salt and pleasant, yet notmemorable. Asie’s version knocks me on my ass. They’re simply superlative. The spicy pods are slightly charred and in a viscous soy-garlic sauce that’s as surprising as it is delicious. As if that weren’t enough, they’re garnished with tiny bits of crispy pork belly. Don’t miss ’em. 437 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-898-4300, asiepanasian.com. —JPC

Best Bagels
Shanna Gillette


  • Runner Up: Clearwater Bagels
  • Runner Up: Dunedin Bagels & Deli
Best Bakery (Bread)
Cathy Salustri


  • Runner Up: La Segunda Central Bakery
  • Runner Up: Publix
Best Bakery (Pastries)
Nicole Abbett
click to enlarge Best Bakery (Pastries)
Cathy Salustri


  • Runner Up: Alessi Bakery
  • Runner Up: Publix
Best Banh Mi
Julio Ramos


  • Runner Up: La V
  • Runner Up: Mazzaro's Italian Market
Best Bar Crawl
Courtesy of Brew Bus


  • Runner Up: Bad Santa Bar Crawl - St. Pete
  • Runner Up: Tampa Noles Pub Crawl - Ybor
Best Bar Food
Courtesy of Dunedin Brewery


  • Runner Up: Engine No. 9
  • Runner Up: Clear Sky Draught Haus