Best Of 2023

Shop dogs. They’re the best thing about anywhere, and on the second floor of the Kress Collective in Ybor City there is a nine-year-old very good boy that is the most art-literate, dapper furball in town. His owner, Tempus Projects founder Tracy Midulla, says Augy is a lab-pit mutt mix, and he can be found almost always at her side, sometimes just sitting in a chair and staring into the ether (listening?) as life at one of the city’s most exciting new venues buzzes around him. “Best dog I've ever known,” Midulla told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. One of the best, for sure.
There’s lots of talk of late about career politicians and term limits—that we need common sense citizens embedded in their community. Regular folks who have their ear to the ground. Well, how about a salon owner—that perennial location where friends go to find out local gossip and to vent? Indian Rocks Beach first realized that Cookie Kennedy was this unicorn in 1999 when she was elected to the IRB city commission. She’s now in her third term as mayor and IRB has a million bucks in the bank. “We need an authentic person who understands being a small business person, raising a family, putting food on the table, and creating relationships and partnerships that enhance the quality of life for all our citizens.”
Black-capped capuchin monkey Jack spent a day in the Palm Harbor wilds after escaping from Suncoast Primate Sanctuary last November. During that time, Jack experienced one of Pinellas County’s finest assets, the Pinellas Trail. That’s where Jack ran into local cyclist Natani Daehne, who filmed the encounter and sent the footage to the Tampa Bay Times. Suncoast Primate Sanctuary handlers weren’t far behind. They captured Jack the next day when another cyclist flagged them down. According to Suncoast Primate Sanctuary board member Nancy Nagel, the six-pound monkey was never a threat to anyone on the trail. Truth be told, we were kind of rooting for the little guy to enjoy a few more days of freedom.
For someone who writes, the prospect of losing one’s words is terrifying, but it’s a common occurrence for stroke survivors. Doctors diagnose about 200,000 people a year with aphasia, a condition that affects a person’s ability to process language. The condition results from damage to the portion of the brain that processes language, and it’s not something one can simply recover from. Speech therapy helps, but it’s expensive and it’s not a cure.For those who can afford it, speech therapy helps them maintain the ability to communicate with loved ones. And for those who can’t, there’s Voices of Hope for Aphasia. The nonprofit provides individuals with free aphasia speech therapy. It also provides them with a community of folks to practice their speech with in a non judgemental setting. Though it’s free to visit for people with aphasia, it’s not free to run an organization like this, which is why Voices of Aphasia is lucky to receive support from community members like Marie Haley. Haley donated a stack of crossword puzzle books by her late husband, Merl Reagle, to benefit the cause. She also connected Voices of Aphasia with contemporary crossword puzzle writer Patrick Berry, who created a custom crossword puzzle for the organization’s wildly successful inaugural Crossword Puzzle Gala, in which it doubled the fundraising goal.
Carrying on in the tradition of the original “Hunker Down” man, ABC Action News’ legendary Don Germaise, reporter Paul LaGrone stood his ground in the eye of Idalia just as it passed through Perry, Florida. As gusts increased, trees shuddered and debris flew around him, he nevertheless remained in the storm and on the line with the station’s chief meteorologist—and perennial Best of the Bay winner—Denis Philips, who could hardly contain the exhilaration in his voice as he realized that LaGrone’s team was scoring the ultimate bullseye hurricane footage. Later, LaGrone also scored some touching interviews with refugees from Keaton Beach who were taking shelter in a Perry hotel. @PaulLaGroneABCActionNews on Facebook
Some folks think that all the hi-rises and urban excellence awards are a sign that the Bay area has made it. But really, the should look at Eugenie Bondurant, who last fall made a big splash not just as a Balenciaga model but as an actress in “Fear of Rain” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” but most notably as Azarel in Marvel Studios' "Werewolf By Night" on Disney+. She supports the local scene (just ask La Luchaween organizers who asked her to emcee the film and music getdown), too. And while she gets typecast as a bad guy, she’s known to be one of the nicest people in town. @​​eugbondurant on Instagram
For the better part of the last half-decade, Cafe con Tampa staged its weekly meeting of movers and shakers at Oxford Exchange, but something changed during last spring’s municipal election. The speaker-networking series relocated to Willa’s just a mile away, and had to move again four months later when the NoHo restaurant decided to start offering breakfast. Cafe con Tampa seems to have settled into its new come at The Portico in downtown Tampa where it now spends early Friday mornings (8 a.m.!) bringing together civic-minded Tampeños for spirited discussion about how to be a better citizen for this city we all call home.
Mario Núñez is the kind of guy who can tell you where the West Tampa Sandwich Shop of Carrollwood is (Cafe Caribe), and he can wax nostalgic about nearly every era of Tampa lore without scratching his head. He’ll also argue with you about the phrase “Tampa Bay” and fight like hell to redesign Tampa’s municipal flag (sorry, Mario, I like it!). Núñez’s greatest strength, however, is how he can make you fall in love with the 813 via his television program, “The Tampa Natives Show,” which airs on Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network, and then ruffle feathers on the “Down and Dirty” Friday morning WMNF public affairs program he co-hosts with former Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder and local politico Jason Marlow. At 65-years old, Núñez has seemingly lived enough life for three Tampeños, and the city would be in great hands if there he had a protege or three waiting in the wings.
This is actually an award for how dialed in the Tampa Bay Times newsroom was in the runup, arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. Times staffers were on it and covered the storm better than anyone locally, but its Data Editor Langston Taylor gets extra credit. His byline appeared on “Track Tropical Storm Idalia’s path in Florida,” a seemingly innocuous, informational post about the storm that came with a graphic that looked like, well, something. Readers chimed in with feedback like "labia of uncertainty" and “Idalia Majora.” One user said, “I should call her.” The image of our wet ass peninsula was taken off social media, but it lives on via the Times website. The storm, thankfully, mostly spared our neck of the woods, and we now have some nice art to remember that week when we all got a little more wet than we’d expected.
@langstonitaylor on the social media network formerly known as Twitter
No longer will we pop into Tampa’s Channelside District pre-game and wonder what the hell we’re going to eat. Not since Strategic Property Partners turned the sleepy Channelside District into the vibrant new Water Street Tampa neighborhood. Now, there’s a visible stream of people walking from Sparkman Wharf to Amalie Arena moments before the Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice. And Sparkman Wharf was just the tip of the Channelside redevelopment iceberg. The waterfront neighborhood now has over a dozen fine-dining and moderately-priced restaurants where you can grab dinner before the game. Options include the French Bistro, Boulon Brasserie; The Tampa Edition’s Michelin-star restaurant, Lilac; Proper House Group’s elevated sandwich shop, Lunch Lady; modern Japanese restaurant Noble Rice; The Pearl; and Wagamama. And don’t get me started on all the ice cream options. There are four—Bright Ice, Chill Bros. Scoop Shop, Hampton Chocolate Factory, and Jeni’s Ice Creams. And it’s all within 16 blocks.