Best Of 2022

There used to be a South Tampa seafood shack called Monstah Lobstah. It was good, but all the Boston Red Sox regalia made it almost impossible to eat there for any self-respecting Tampa sports fan. For some reason, Santoro’s, which is covered in New York-centric decor, doesn't upset my stomach at all. It probably has a lot to do with the amazing family-friendly hospitality and no-nonsense New Jersey-style pie that owner Travis Kaiser and his staff provide for customers who regularly pack the NoHo restaurant nearly every night of the week. The subs, wings and zeppoles with cannoli cream are must-tries, too, but even Yankees and Giants haters can’t go wrong with what might be the best slice in the 813. santorospizzeria.com

Food & Drink

Food & Drink
William Dean Brown, aka Bill Brown, left the dot-com world for chocolate long ago. Then he spent time studying chocolate-making with some of the best chocolatiers in the world. Opened in 2007, Brown named his chocolate shop after his father and grandfather, William Dean. Located in Belleair Bluffs, every chocolate is handmade, and it shows. CL food critic Jon Palmer Claridge gave WD five stars in 2012. Consistency isn’t easy, and Wiliam Dean continues to be the best chocolate in town. williamdeanchocolates.com
In November 2021, I was just a wine guy food critic with less than a handful of whiskey. But an invite to the Garrison Brothers dinner changed my life. In just a few hours, a door opened and I tumbled end over end down the proverbial rabbit hole. I’m a taster, not a drinker. But one whiskey book led to three and a growing desire to explore. My collection grew to include Irish and Scotch. Podcasts and more books followed, which meant adding Japanese, Tennessee, bourbon outside Kentucky, plus two kinds of tasting glasses. WTF 2022 is Nov. 8-11. If you can find a ticket, be forewarned.
laxerfamilyfoundation.org
The mid-south section of St. Pete, along 4th and 6th streets, has long been a commercial dead zone. But in the spring of 2021, up popped a restaurant that mixes terrific seafood-centric fare, with good service and generous helping of fun—a winning combination that suggests the place might be around for a while. Mullet’s Fish Camp, set in a 101-year-old house, offers indoor and outdoor dining and has an area in the back with a small stage where live acoustic acts perform. By the way, the “Mullet” in the name refers to the cheesy men’s haircut, not the (nasty-tasting) fish. How Campy is that? mulletsfishcamp.com
Winner: SoHo Juice Co.
2. Sweet Soul
3. Raw Smoothie Co.
Winner: Bern's Steak House
2. Rooster & the Till
3. The Black Pearl Dunedin
Family-owned and operated since 2009, Taste of Punjab is some of the best Indian food in town. That’s right, some of the best Indian food is hidden in a plaza off Walsingham in Largo-almost-Seminole. Samosas, butter chicken, plus extensive vegetarian offerings. Chief amongst them? Taste of Punjab’s Aloo Gobi. Cauliflower and potatoes simmered in tomatoes, onions, and spices. Served with basmati rice, but I recommend you invest in some of the fresh naan for dipping. There’s an entire bread menu: chutneys, curries, all the good stuff. tasteofpunjabrestaurant.com
Winner: Yummy House
2. Hawkers: Asian Street Food
3. Ichicoro Ramen
Winner: St. Pete Bagel Co.
2. Clearwater Bagels
3. Dunedin Bagels & Deli
Winner: Mazzaro's Italian Market
2. La Segunda Bakery
3. Gulf Coast Sourdough