Five Courses: 'Now open' signs hit Tampa & more

Bel Mar Saloon, new sushi-slingers and others are offering the region's latest in food and drink.

click to enlarge South Tampa's Bel Mar Saloon has debuted along Manhattan Avenue. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
South Tampa's Bel Mar Saloon has debuted along Manhattan Avenue.

In South Tampa, an intimate joint called Bel Mar Saloon has joined the area’s brigade of neighborhood watering holes. The younger sibling of the Southern-style Soho Saloon opened at 3501 S. Manhattan Ave., the former home of Toast Wine & Cafe, a month or so ago.

Though the menu mainly offers sandwiches, it’s a casual mashup of classic fare and more nontraditional bar finds. Eats such as pressed grilled cheese with bacon, roasted redskin potatos, chilled cucumber salad and a trio of meatballs are featured, as are three flatbreads — four cheese, the signature Bel Mar and veggie.

There’s a good selection of craft beer and wine, as well as darts and multiple HD flat screens to accompany the indoor seating. Outside, the bar’s deck area, with three tables and a counter with extra seats, faces El Prado Boulevard.

Sunflower Cafe at 3452 Lithia Pinecrest Road recently launched in Valrico. Serving sushi and other family-friendly tastes, the cafe’s cozy, colorful space highlights sushi bar and regular dining room seating.

Its extensive sushi menu lists items like small, “chef special” and cone-shaped hand rolls, plus sashimi and nigiri. (Some have hometown shout-outs in their names — look for the Brandon and the Buccaneers). Lunch dishes include the Sunflower Burrito with chicken, shrimp or steak add-ons, bento boxes, and ramen, while dinner brings more appetizers and rice/noodle plates, hibachi, and entrees such as chicken katsu.

• In Tampa, Osaka Sushi & Grill cooks up Asian fusion offerings alongside its sushi at 14428 N. Dale Mabry Highway. The Carrollwood restaurant’s large bill of fare is divided into categories like starters from the kitchen and sushi bar (Korean barbecue beef short ribs, giant tuna wraps, pan-fried gyoza), build-your-own hibachi combos, and premium fusion entrees (miso Chilean sea bass, panang curry chicken, grilled filet mignon).

• Three other sushi-slinging newcomers have added rolls into the mix: Tampa’s Ginza is specializing in endless sushi and hibachi at 6417 E. County Line Road, Akira Hibachi & Sushi Bar’s range of classic Japanese dishes can be found in Riverview at 13420 Boyette Road, and City Buffet opened to Seffner with sushi, salad and hibachi at 790 W. Dr. Martain Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Santa Fe Mexican Grill, which, like Bel Mar, has its “now open” sign displayed for curious passersby, is delivering reasonably priced Mexican cuisine in Largo. With its flagship headquartered in South Carolina, the restaurant at 800 Clearwater-Largo Road N. carries a selection of chimichangas, fish tacos and more. Pad Thai and avocado softshell crab are among the popular items at 27427 Wesley Chapel Blvd. inside Wesley Chapel’s Arroy Thai, whose mascot is an adorable green elephant donning a chef’s hat. And in Trinity at 2910 Little Road, Florida-based burger franchise BurgerFi has lauched its latest location.

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