Best Of 2018

Best Florida day trip
Meaghan Habuda
click to enlarge Best Florida day trip
Meaghan Habuda

Pile into the car, fill up that gas tank and head to Weeki Wachee — not for mermaids, but for an in-person taste of NJoy Spirits. Part of the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, Natalie Joy and Kevin Goff’s 80-acre Goff Ranch is home to this spirited destination in the woods, which has opened to the public for the first time. NJoy is a deep dive into the great outdoors of Florida, making it the perfect alternative to crowded amusement parks and endless social media feeds. The Goffs happily provide visitors with a tour of their off-the-beaten-path facility while allowing them to sample (and purchase) the farm-to-table artisan spirits they pride themselves on crafting, including American rye whiskey and gold sipping rum. NJoy operates 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment throughout the week. 13243 Commercial Way, Brooksville. 352-592-9622, wildbuckwhiskey.com. —Meaghan Habuda

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