Dining Guide


Joto Japanese Restaurant, 905 Lithia-Pinecrest Road, Brandon (813-684-0221). Belly up to the sushi bar or grab a seat on the floor while a kimono-clad waitress serves traditional Japanese dishes. Try the special sushi and sashimi platters. $

La Septima Cafe, 140 N. Parsons Ave., Brandon (813-684-1948). You'll find a taste of the original Latin flavors of old Ybor in this quaint little Brandon cafe. Look for large portions and excellent Cuban sandwiches, succulent roast pork and chicken served with saffron rice. $

TampaCarrollwood/Northwest Tampa

3 Palms Grille & Gallery, 8203 N. Armenia Ave. (813-933-2401). A neighborhood favorite featuring an unusually creative mix of ethnic and culinary styles, from crab cakes with banana chutney all the way to mushroom-smothered steak and Southern-style meatloaf. The chef's specialty, different varieties of creamy cheesecake, is the best dessert. $$$.

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. $$

Jazzy's B-B-Q, 5703 W. Waters Ave., Tampa (813-243-8872). Just a single tidy dining room with bare tables, overlooking the big wood-fired grill, but the place produces top-notch fare. Order the slab of pork ribs, add sides of baked beans, creamy potato salad and even a crispy, varied coleslaw, and you have a winner. Save room for the best pecan pie in Tampa, however. $

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 fried 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, North Point Plaza (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.$

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, taco salads and 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

Crazy Buffet, 2702 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa (813-998-9228). At first glance, this looks like your average Oriental buffet, with miles of pot stickers, lo mein, egg rolls, even a design-your-own-dish stir fry station. But a slightly upscale setting and a varied selection of Japanese dishes, from a spread of assorted sushi to an array of refreshing Japanese salads, puts Crazy Buffet into a category even foodies can enjoy. Look for salads like chopped Chinese cabbage topped with slivers of seaweed and rice vinegar, or julienne Asian vegetables dressed with searing hot chili oil, and a good sushi selection. Selection and buffet pricing vary between lunch, dinner and brunch, with Saturday and Sunday brunch priced at $15.95. $$

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 depending on the day, the 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 and other Caribbean touches make for a bakery full of flavor. Good Cuban bread, too. $$

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