Dining Guide

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NK Cafe, 4100 W. Kennedy Blvd. (813-287-1385). A longtime Bay area favorite, NK (for natural kitchen) proves that healthy can also be tasty. Whether your focus is vegetarian or omnivorous, you'll find something to satisfy your taste. Try the best fruit salad in town, delicious smoothies, great salads. Hearty lunches, like turkey, reuben sandwiches or vegetable cashew saute. $$

Ruth's Chris Steak House, 1700 N. West Shore Blvd. (813-282-1118). This is one of the only local steak houses specializing in U.S. Prime-aged steaks. Potatoes, vegetables and desserts are served in large, quality portions. There's a state-of-the-art wine list featuring good wines by the glass. Service and attention are consistently excellent. One of 78 successful restaurants by Ruth Fertel, a pathfinder in the industry. $$$

Shula's Steak House, 4860 W. Kennedy Blvd. in the Wyndham West Shore Hotel (813-286-4366). This place is just what you'd expect from a football great; an emphasis on sports and red meat in an elegant masculine setting. Outstanding steaks including the 48-ounce Porterhouse (finish it at one sitting and your name goes up on the wall). Also recommended: barbecued, bacon-wrapped shrimp, carpaccio, lobster cocktail, gorgonzola-tomato salad. Voted Best Business Lunch in 1996. $$$

Thailand Restaurant, 5252 S. Dale Mabry (813-837-1793). Some of the best spicy Thai cuisine in Tampa. Start with the hot and sour soup or the shrimp lemongrass, and then graze on a few appetizers like the satay with a slightly hot peanut sauce and cucumber salad dip, fried shrimp with sweet and sour sauce or the all-encompassing combo appetizer platter. $$

Trattoria Lauro, 3915 Henderson Blvd. (813-281-2100). The venerable old Lauro's has reinvented itself with a more relaxed, affordable, family-dining atmosphere. Enjoy Northern Italian cuisine with homemade pastas, breads and fabulous desserts, and a wine list to complement any dish. $$

Yoko's Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, 3217 S. MacDill Ave. in Beechwood Plaza (813-835-4311). Great sushi bar, comfortable seating with an innovative dinner menu and plenty of fresh sushi and sashimi. The house roll is a winner. Sample lunch specials for some of the best eating around. $$

Tampa Int'l Airport/ Courtney Campbell Causeway

Armani's, Hyatt Regency Westshore, 6200 Courtney Campbell Causeway (813-281-9165). A romantic Italian enclave of fine dining. You must not leave without trying the awesome antipasto bar, the homemade pastas and their decidedly decadent desserts. The cuisine is prepared by a master chef, trained in Italy, who keeps getting better and better. Pasta dishes are excellent, as is the fresh seafood. Have an after-dinner drink on the cozy outdoor patio. Good wine list. $$$

Castaway, 7720 Courtney Campbell Causeway (813-281-0770). Seafood is the popular fare here, especially the chef's creations, including a luscious grouper Capri, a filet baked in an herb and wine sauce topped with a sun-dried tomato-basil cream sauce and sauteed shrimp. Also noteworthy is swordfish with island fruit salsa. Carnivores will savor the choice center-cut New York Strip. $$$

CK's Revolving Rooftop Restaurant, Tampa International Airport atop the Marriott Hotel (813-878-6500). CK's will make your head spin with its stellar view, atmosphere and cuisine. Great seafood pasta packed with mussels, lobster and scallops in a pesto pomodori sauce. Don't leave without a slice of their Key lime pie, a many-times Best of the Bay winner. $$$

Oystercatchers, 6200 Courtney Campbell Causeway, in the Hyatt Westshore complex (813-281-9116). Oystercatcher's incredible Sunday brunch buffet has it all: a nearly unlimited assortment of salads and antipasto, made-to-order omelets, waffles, pastries, grilled steak, fresh shrimp and oysters, great coffee and champagne, and the Dessert Table To Die For, with everything made from the finest ingredients. Seating in a beautiful seaside dining room and attentive service make this all-you-care-to-eat buffet a serious luxury. Costs $26 for adults, $14.50 for children 4 to 11 years old, free for children 3 years old and under. $$ brunch/$$$ dinner

Roy's, 4342 Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa (813-873-7697). This chain restaurant bases its menu on the cuisine of famed Hawaiian chef Roy Yamaguchi, who describes his style as French-inspired Euro-Asian. So look for plenty of Pacific fish, such as opa, ono, butterfish, seared mahi mahi (dolphin fish) with grilled fresh oyster Chinese black bean sauce, or seared Hawaiian fish in roasted macadamia lobster sauce. Beef lovers will go for slow-braised and charbroiled short ribs of beef with natural jus and butter sauce. A large, well-executed wine list complements the menu. $$$.

Town N Country

Nicki's Omelette & Grill, 6805 W. Hillsborough Ave. (813-888-9365). This unpretentious little diner serves bargain-priced breakfasts that will fill you up for under a fiver, seven days a week. Folks line up for the fluffy omelets. Choose from a huge menu variety or design your own omelet from a list of meats, cheeses and vegetables. $

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