Dining Guide

HILLSBOROUGH

Tampa

Carrollwood/
Northwest Tampa

Kaisen Sushi, 12785 N. Dale Mabry, in Mission Bell Square (813-969-3848). This friendly, casual and tiny cafe offers exceptionally fresh, artfully prepared, delicious and value priced sushi. What more can you ask for? A must-try is the calamari, thick slices of succulent grilled squid served in a dark, smoky sauce. Sweet grilled eel and seared tuna are excellent, and ask if they have toro, the choice, fatty tuna. Bargain "no-sushi" dinners offer enormous portions of tempura and teriyaki. $$

Jasmine Thai Restaurant, 13248 N. Dale Mabry (813-968-1501). No doubt this is one of Tampa's best Thai eateries. The dominant Thai influence, Indian-Chinese, with an added emphasis on fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, garlic, lemongrass, mint and chilies, make this a cuisine to savor; almost like no other. $$

Southern Mill Bread Company, 15213 N. Dale Mabry (813-968-8366). Quality bread made with premium natural ingredients. From their flavorful, primo, white, round, 2.2-pound loaves, to the aahhh-inspiring onion, rye and herb combination, these folks bake this stuff just right. $

Sukhothai, 8201 N. Dale Mabry (813-933-7990). Thai dishes and an elegant Eastern ambiance combine to create a romantic adventure. A class operation. $$

Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, 13731 N. Dale Mabry (813-264-7691). The Jimenez family puts plenty of tasty dishes on the table, all served with zesty homemade salsa and guacamole. Large portions of well-known favorites like chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos and taco salads make up most of the long menu, all made with better ingredients and fresher flavors than you'll find if you run for the border. Dinner platters will fill you up for under a tenner. Smaller lunch portions start at $3.50. $

Central/West Tampa

Donatello, 232 N. Dale Mabry (813-875-6660). Some of the area's best Northern Italian cuisine also exhibits some of the finest service in town. Favorites include capellini d'angelo, agnolotti with cream and Parmesan and an excellent prosciutto di Parma. Be sure to have at least one of the desserts: Neapolitan cake, chocolate-drenched profiteroles, tiramisu, or fresh fruit tarts. $$$

Jimbo's Pit Bar B-Q, 4103 W. Kennedy Blvd. (813-289-9724). Real down-home pit barbecue is gussied up with Jimbo's own secret seasonings and sauces and served in heapin' portions. Fill up on smoked pig ribs, chicken, sliced pork or beef and ham, along with homemade beans and cole slaw and always a hot slice of homemade apple pie. Dinner plates range from $6.95 to $9.95. $

La Caridad Bakery, 4425 W. Hillsborough Ave. (813-884-2822). Whether it's flan or a great selection of holiday pastries you're looking for, this tiny Cuban bakery has as good a selection as you'll find. Guava, mamey and other Caribbean touches make for a bakery full of flavor. Good Cuban bread, too. $$

La Teresita, 3248 W. Columbus Drive (813-879-4909). Eat at the counter at this authentic Cuban restaurant with complete meals for under $5. Some of the best black beans and rice in town. Check out the revamped Pinellas location at 7101 66th St. N., Pinellas Park (727-546-5785). $

Mambo's, 4423 N. Armenia Ave. (813-873-1995). This classic "fonda," or neighborhood cafe, is one of the best places to taste the home cooking of Puerto Rico. Step into the cafeteria-style serving line and choose from savory entrees like plantain fritters stuffed with seasoned, ground chicken or adobe-seasoned pork roasted with green bananas, as well as traditional treats like octopus salad. Flavors are fresh, portions are generous and prices are low. Dinners cost $4.99 to $8.95. $

New City Diner, 1002 N. Himes Ave. (813-877-2088). Like a blast from the past, hot cups of joe and heaping platters of food are served up in the bustling atmosphere of an old-fashioned stainless steel diner. But there's nothing old-fashioned about the menu. Look for Roger Lenzi's first-class, creative New American cuisine on a menu that changes daily, all at low-dough prices, with entrees priced between $5.95 to $14.95. Look for dishes like nouvelle meatloaf with wild mushrooms, Cajun-spiced pork roast Mediterranean grilled lamb. Diner food just doesn't get any better than this. $

Tampa — Davis Islands

Estela's Mexican Restaurant, 209 E. Davis Blvd. (813-251-0558). Enjoy traditional Mexican specialties while dining al fresco or inside this charming cantina. Excellent fresh salsa, smoky enchiladas and tasty margaritas are menu highlights. Great lunch specials and no less than 25 dinner combinations. Fresh fruit and carrot juices are squeezed to order. $

Pink Flamingo, 210 E. Davis Blvd. (813-251-2928). The Islanders know this is the place to go for breakfast or lunch. Wake up to a "Healthy Start," a big bowl of fresh, seasonal fruit tossed with low-fat strawberry and banana yogurt, topped with granola, and your choice of a jumbo muffin or bagel for $5.65. Your mouth will water for hot-off-the-grill sandwiches, like the Island Club, packed with turkey, ham and bacon, sliced avocado, tomatoes and melted Swiss cheese on pumpernickel bread with a light, creamy mustard sauce. Breakfasts range from $2.45 to $6.75., lunches from $4.75 to $6.45. $

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