Dining Guide

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Satsuki Japanese Cuisine, 5537 Sheldon Road (813-884-4128). This small, refined little restaurant is at once exotic and homey, clean as a whistle and affordable. The sushi bar seats eight, serving fresh, well-prepared sushi with daily specials. Menu offerings include soba and udon, delicious Oriental noodles in spicy broths. Try tempura-udon, well-prepared shrimp tempura served alongside a bowl of thick noodles in hot, fragrant broth. Asian beers, hot or cold sake and green tea ice cream round out the meal. Dinner entrees under $10. $

Tampa — Busch Gardens/USF/ Temple Terrace

Angithi Fine Indian Restaurant, 2047 E. Fowler Ave. (813-979-4889). Discover a whole new world of delicious exotic flavors at this north Tampa find. Sample the crisp samosas, succulent, moist tandoori-baked meats, and hot and spicy curries. Cool the fire with a smooth and fruity mango lassi drink. Plenty of vegetarian selections and a nice lunch buffet for a mere $6.95. $$

Bombay Masala, 4023 W. Waters Ave., North West Plaza (813-880-7511). This casual Indian Cafe offers good, healthy food cooked with plenty of herbs and spices. Try delicious breads, especially naan stuffed with nuts and raisins; shrimp madras with fresh coconut, roasted spices and curry; or fill up at the Tuesday night "all-you-can-eat" vegetarian buffet. $$

Mel's Hot Dogs, 4136 E. Busch Blvd. (813-985-8000). The Vienna beef that owner Mel Lohn buys are skin-popping good. In our opinion, these are the best in town. Have it all-the-way! $

Sawatdee Thai Cuisine, 10938 56th St. N. (813-985-2071). This humble little cafe is a neighborhood favorite in the university area for its inexpensive lunch buffet and a dinner menu that mixes a melange of Thai and Indian flavors. The cooking's not fancy, but it's fresh, filling and nicely spiced. Try Pla Shu Shi, deep-fried fish filets in a spicy Thai chili sauce garnished with dried lime leaf and bell peppers or Pra Ram Lonmg Srong, chicken, beef or pork stir-fried with mixed vegetables and topped with peanut curry sauce. Most entrees range from $6.95 to $11.95. $$

Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road (813-971-0666). Skipper's has always been the place to kick into high gear with killer reggae, blues, rock and world beat, but did you know it's also the place to kick your taste buds into high gear? Spice up your night with smokehouse favorites like hickory-smoked alligator ribs and new wild flavors, like lobster stirfry with soy/ginger sauce over linguine, Florida crab cakes with black bean salsa and orange-crusted perch with mango salsa. $$

Taj, 2734-B Fowler Ave. (813-971-8483). Regulars will tell you it's the best Indian food in town. There are a number of good curries, from sweet kormas to spinach, prepared with vegetables, lamb, beef or seafood. Have plenty of naan, their addictive bread, and some luscious ice cream. $$

Trang Viet Cuisine, 1524 E. Fowler Ave. (813-979-1464) and 8502 N. Armenia Ave. (813-931-5119). Lunch and dinner daily. Tasty, healthy Vietnamese cooking with a French flair, featuring fresh, home-grown herbs and daily market specials. Weekday lunch specials are a bargain. Lively dinner menu, like "cook your own" seafood fondue, or chicken in a clay pot. Homemade desserts are special. Try banana cake (banana and coconut cake topped with peanuts). Beer & wine. $

Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, 9255 N. 56th. St., Temple Terrace (813-987-2720). 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. $

Tampa — Ybor City

Bernini, 1702 E. Seventh Ave. (813-248-0099). Chef Thomas "Bob" Barfield presents innovative Italian cuisine in a classy, sophisticated setting. The menu changes daily, so expect surprises, but favorite standards include gourmet wood-fired pizzas, especially the one with marinated chicken, smoked mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and oregano and a spicy three-chili oil, and Chef Bob's lamb shank, slow-braised in Marsala and red currant lamb broth. $$$

Carlino's, 1915 14th St., Ybor City (813-241-4646). Adult dining does exist in Ybor. You'll find it at Carlino's, tucked away inside the restored Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn. Chef John Eric Kern tempts mature taste buds with fully defined flavors in dishes like pan-seared Chilean sea bass with creamy mushroom risotto, chestnut-crusted rack of lamb and filet au poivre with foie gras. An excellent wine list offers an array of choices for first-rate food and wine pairings. $$$

Cafe Creole, 1330 Ninth Ave. E. (813-247-6283). If you're into Cajun or Creole cuisine, this is perhaps the very best Tampa has to offer. Whether it's Andouille sausage or one of the best etouffees and gumbos in town, you can find it at this popular spot in Ybor. Great bar and lots of fun to boot. Louisiana oysters and crawfish are among the very best. $$

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