For the Spring Arts issue, we wanted to focus on the places that not only hit the nail on the head with food and service but with aesthetics, too, natural or man-made. But these locales aren’t just pretty faces; they’ve got the brains to back up their good looks. —Arielle Stevenson
ANISE GLOBAL GASTROBAR 777 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 813-225-4272, aniseglobalgastrobar.com. As Jon Palmer Claridge makes clear in his review on p. 29, Anise is a prime destination for savory buns and craft cocktails. Located across from Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa, it’s also one of the most beautiful spots in town to watch the sun set as it dips below the University of Tampa’s spires and the light flickers off the Hillsborough River.
CAFÉ GALA AT THE DALI MUSEUM One Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, 727-823-3767, thedali.org. Take a beat, grab a glass of wine (or bottle) and some tapas plates from Café Gala inside St. Pete’s Dali Museum. Sip and nibble while staring up at the incredible atrium or dine al fresco alongside Tampa Bay. It’s a gorgeous spot to visit, even if you’ve already seen “The Hallucinogenic Toreador.” Walk off charcuterie calories in the museum’s labyrinth.
CAJUN CAFÉ ON THE BAYOU8101 Park Blvd. N., Pinellas Park, 727-546-6732, cajuncafeonthebayou.com. Deliciously done authentic Cajun food on the waterfront of Cross Bayou in Pinellas Park. It feels like a secret spot only a few know about whenever you’re there. And the plentiful selection of craft beers, from local breweries to international brands, is just the icing on the crawfish. Be sure to check for special events, like the quarterly beer festivals.
CASA TINA’S 365 Main St., Dunedin, 727-734-9226, casatinas.com. The longtime Dunedin staple serves up a mean plate of authentic and fresh Mexican food. And while you sip your organic agave margaritas, take in the multitude of Dia De Los Muertos relics owners Tina and Javier Avila have collected over the years. Go on Friday and Saturday evenings for live cirque performances inside the restaurant. It’s a feast for the eyes, stomach, and spirit.
CIRO’S SPEAKEASY 2109 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, 813-251-0022, cirostampa.com. Make a reservation, get the password, knock on the door and enter into another world. Just a few blocks from South Tampa’s crowning jewel, Bayshore Boulevard, Ciro’s Speakeasy is a dimly lit cocktail haven from another time. People don’t walk in, they slink. Private booths, beautiful people, tasty craft cocktails and delicious plates make for a pretty terrific view.
GREEN BENCH BREWING COMPANY 1133 Baum Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-800-9836, greenbenchbrewing.com. Green Bench Brewing is St. Petersburg’s newest place to be. The brewery’s tasting room extends outdoors into what has to be the prettiest patch of green in town. Bring a blanket and cozy up to the fire pit, or grab a spot inside at the high-ceilinged concrete bar facing toward Central. Top it all off with some pints of local brew and you’ve got yourself a lovely evening.
MOON UNDER WATER 332 Beach Drive N.E., St. Petersburg, 727-896-6160, themoonunderwater.com. For St. Petersburg locals, Moon Under Water is the spot to take out-of-towners for a real pop of our city’s beauty. The British Colonial tavern serves up Indian and British food just a few steps from Tampa Bay. Watch the strolling foot traffic and sparkling bay while noshing on perfectly cooked fish and chips.
SALT ROCK GRILLE 19325 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores, 727-593-7625, saltrockgrill.com. A visit to Indian Shores’ Salt Rock Grille feels like walking into the swankiest beach party you’ve ever been to. Flickering tiki torches, fine dining table settings, and top-notch menu items keep folks coming back for more. The fact that the intercoastal waterway and Gulf of Mexico are only steps away only adds to the ambience.
THAI TEMPLE 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, 813-621-1669. Tampa’s Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple may the be the most stunning “hidden” spot in town. Hugging the Palm River, which connects to the Hillsborough River, the temple is the site of a massive feast every Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. It’s all by suggested cash donation and be sure to arrive early; word has spread. Still, there’s no other place in town where you can score a bowl of homemade noodle soup, sit on the river, and listen to monks chant nearby.
THE CHATTAWAY 358 22nd Ave. S., St Petersburg, 727-823-1594, thechattaway.com. It doesn’t get more Florida than claw-footed tubs filled with shrubbery, Christmas lights strung up year-round and lots of random dining “room” tables. The Chattaway is a touchstone of St. Petersburg dining. Get a juicy “chattaburger” and wash it all down with a frothy pint of brew. The food, service, and friendly down-home atmosphere are rarities in today’s foodie economy.