Best Of 2022

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.
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.
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?
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.
When the Garrison Brothers Bourbon Dinner changed my life last November, I became immersed in a very complicated subject and wanted to taste as widely as possible to fill in the gaps in my woefully inadequate whiskey tasting experience. I compiled a list of dark spirits that were hard (or expensive to obtain) and headed to Haven to indulge and taste some special whiskies that piqued my interest. My tasting could not have gone more smoothly. Erin was also a great fount of knowledge and kindly indulged my chit-chat while seamlessly caring for her other customers without breaking a sweat.
I’ve wondered what I look like in the window, when someone walks by on the sidewalk outside Bandit as I take my first few bites of the chorizo breakfast burrito, which has a little american and cotija cheese sprinkled into a pillowy tortilla wrapped around chili lime potatoes, pico, and baby soft scrambled eggs. This is the stuff hangovers dream of, but I’d eat it seven days a week regardless of whether or not I went on a bender the night before.@banditstpete on Instagram
In a sea of ultra-legit Vietnamese restaurants in Pinellas Park, one cafe truly stands out. Thuy Cafe, nestled in between Cho Lon Oriental Market and Ha Long Bay restaurant, dishes out some of the best (and most affordable) banh mi and boba tea around. Alongside its menu of made-to-order dishes like its beef lemongrass banh mi, egg rolls and wonton soup, is its cold case filled with unlabeled Vietnamese delicacies like homemade kimchi, soy milk, macarons and other desserts. Locally-grown fruit, like coconuts, mangoes and jackfruit, are typically for sale, too.
Alton Brown kicking off his 2022 tour in Tampa was the best thing to happen to the celebrity chef because it meant he would have to spend a few days rehearsing at the Straz Center before it all started. That meant he followed his intuition to downtown Tampa’s Supernatural, just a few blocks away. There, he tried not just the famous cinnamon-sugar sourdoughnut, but Tampa’s favorite bacon, egg and cheese sando. “The best I’ve had,” Brown told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “The best ever.” He’s not lying. You’re welcome, chef. @supernaturalfoodandwine on Instagram
I deemed this downtown St. Pete hole-in-the-wall one of the best Tampa Bay restaurants of 2021, but obviously my love for Sid’s stacked Jamaican plates spans all time and reason. There’s always ‘80s love songs playing on the TV (Whitney Houston or Teddy Pendergrass, usually) and a handful of dishes are typically crossed off its menu in sharpie, but there’s something incredibly endearing about the simplicity of it all. My go-to order is the oxtail, but if they’re sold out go for the jerk chicken, curry goat or beef patties instead. If there was a “Heaviest to-go container in St. Pete,” award, I’d give it to Sid’s in a heartbeat. 727-321-4000