Dining Guide

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Evos, 609 S. Howard Ave. (813-258-EVOS). Who says fast food has to be bad for you? This is the scene for some of our favorite fast food, like crispy air fries, all-fruit smoothies and great tasting, healthy burgers and chili, so flavorful, you'll never believe they're low in fat and cholesterol. $

Gourmet Pizza Company, 610 S. Armenia Ave. (813-258-1999). The word "gourmet" gets tossed around far too casually. We think it should be reserved for places like The Gourmet Pizza Co. where quality, creativity and flavor really shine. The classic pie is great. That's a given. But give your taste buds a thrill with specialty pies like Thai chicken, with crisp veggies and spicy peanut sauce, or the steak gorgonzola, with sliced rib eye, caramelized red onions and fresh mushrooms sprinkled with tangy blue cheese. Green salads, pastas and stromboli-like cazollis round out the menu. Twelve-inch pies range from $10.70 to $12.90. $

Hugo's Spanish Restaurant, 931 S. Howard Ave. (813-251-2842). A friendly Spanish/Cuban eatery on bustling Howard Avenue. It's not "gourmet city" and it's not fancy, but it's darn good. Black beans and yellow rice are among the best in town; a whopping plateful easily feeds at least two hungry caballeros. $

Le Bordeaux, 1502 S. Howard Ave. (813-254-4387). For Provencale cuisine, you can't get better. Meats and fish are fresh, and a blackboard menu that changes daily always has a great selection. $$$

McHale's ChopHouse Barbecue With Style, 808 S. Howard Ave., next to Tuscan Oven (813-250-9809). Don't let a few classy touches, like cloth napkins and big, comfy booths, fool you. This is bodacious, down-home barbecue. Juicy, succulent Texas brisket, authentic St. Louis-style ribs, smoked duck, great grilled steaks, even pan-seared salmon are all done right and served with fresh, homemade dipping sauces. Try the aged prime rib, dry rubbed with fresh spices and herbs, and slowly roasted over a hardwood fire, served with mashed potatoes and rich beef gravy subtly flavored with Cajun spices. Sandwiches cost $6.25 to $7.99, and entrees range from $11 to $17. $$

The Old Meeting House, 901 S. Howard Ave. (813-251-1754). For more than a half-century, this beloved institution has been delighting people with good old American diner food. Blue plate specials, such as tasty meat loaf, roasted chicken and roast beef are served on blue plates at prices around $5. We love their big, thick hamburgers. Hearty breakfasts are served till 11 a.m. Treat yourself to a malt with homemade ice cream. Cash only, with an on-site ATM. Open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. Breakfast served till 11 a.m. $

Royal Palace Thai Restaurant, 811 S. Howard Ave. (813-258-5893). You'll eat like royalty at this Thai restaurant, where they show off one of the best curry sauces for seafood we've ever tasted. Any dish that promises "crispy" is a delight, from the delicate, crispy duck breast to the flash-fried red snapper. More traditional dishes show that Thai flavors can be subtle as well as spicy. Expect delicious food, a lovely interior and polite, if unpolished, service. Entree prices range from $7.95 to $14.95. $$

Sally O'Neal's Pizza Hotline, 1319 S. Howard Ave. (813-251-0220). Wrap your mouth around a piece of pizza that will please you plenty. The Pizza Hotline is a longtime favorite in Hyde Park, turning out first-rate pizza made with top-quality ingredients. A favorite is the chicken artichoke pizza: a white pizza that has layers of ricotta, mozzarella and provolone; a dash of Romano and feta; with onions, garlic and herbs. Good calzones and pastas, too. All together now: "Yuuuuuuum!" $

Sole Mio, 3201 S. Dale Mabry (813-902-1222). Forget about those tasteless, cardboard-crust franchise pizzas. This is pie the way it should be: crisp, fragrant, hand-tossed crust topped with rich, homemade red sauce and deli-quality toppings like real Parma prosciutto, ripe tomatoes, fresh arugula and basil. We love the deep, rich flavors of the chicken and artichoke pie. To really indulge, be sure and ask for a cup of the homemade garlic butter sauce. Twelve-inch pies range from $6.95 to $10.45. Try their great deli sandwiches and antipasto too. $

SideBern's, 2208 Morrison Ave., Tampa (813-258-2233). Chef Jeannie Pierola, one of the shining stars of Tampa Bay's dining scene, creates a cuisine that is both luscious and lustrous and serves it in a sophisticated setting that manages to be both worldly and witty. The chef grabs premier ingredients from around the globe and blends them into deeply flavorful and texturally exciting dishes, like a mignon cut of tuna and rare Kumomoto oysters wok seared with shiitake mushrooms in a cognac sauce, served with truffled potato puree and baby bok choy, or, for meat-eaters, a duo of short ribs and hanger steak with an orange rosemary ginger steak sauce, horseradish glazed potatoes, and a side of roasted carrots and parsnips. From soup to nuts, it's a tour de force of fine dining at surprisingly affordable prices. Menu entrees range from $13.91 to $18.91 $$$

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