BEST ACUPUNCTURIST/ BODY WORKERMichael Pagani
Michael isn't just someone who read a book or took a course to get his license; he went to China to get classically trained. He doesn't just do acupuncture; he does a lot of different healing arts. He meets all the state professional requirements, but he's just a very spiritual soul. I go about once a month, maybe, if I'm not feeling well, or just for general well being, and sometimes to just make sure that things aren't out of alignment. If anyone thinks this will hurt my political aspirations, as Americans we spend about $80-million on alternative medicine. So I'm not the only one using this stuff.
Meridian Wellness Center, 3522 W. Azeele St., Tampa, 813-998-9200.
Dr. Susan Welsh
She has an office in north Tampa, and does chiropractic work for the Bucs and Lightning. I had chronic pain in my upper back, just to the right of my left shoulder, for years. I saw her one time and she got rid of it. It's been OK for about five weeks now.
Dr. Susan Welch, 5121 Ehrlich Road, Suite 109, Tampa, 813-962-2489.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT FOR A ROMANTIC DINNER
It's small; there are probably 20 tables. The wait staff really serves the clients without intruding too much. They're funny and charming. The place is intimately lit. The food is great, but I'm more interested in the ambience. I had dinner there about three weeks ago, and it was quite nice, quite romantic. Oh, and the owner occasionally entertains as a singer.
Spartaco, 3215 S. MacDill Ave., Suite B, Tampa, 813-832-9327.
BEST DOWNTOWN TAMPA RESTAURANT
Spain Restaurant and Tapas Bar
They do Spanish food, of course, in a very kind of New York cool atmosphere. The décor is all white. Yet it's a great value; it's not very expensive. I like their tapas. My favorite is the octopus, Pulpo a la Gallega.
Spain Restaurant and Tapas Bar, 513 N. Tampa St., Tampa, 813-223-2831.
BEST AVANT-GARDE MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Viva La Frida Cafe y Galeria
I love this place for a couple of reasons: this vision that the owner had to take a rundown used car lot in a part of town that could use redevelopment and have the vision to create what essentially I would call a work of art. Also, she's just very community spirited, provides a venue for poets, musicians, actors — all of the arts are performed there on a regular basis. On top of all that, you get some decent food.
Viva La Frida, 5901 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-231-9199.
In Front of the bar at Mise en Place
I like to go there, grab a spot on that couch, and eat their gourmet two-for-one appetizers with a glass of their special reserve wine. Two people can eat a good, light meal for under 40 bucks. Mise en Place prides itself in getting interesting wines from all over the world. They have different reserve wines all the time.
Mise en Place, 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-254-5373.
BEST POWER BREAKFAST
If you want to have a business breakfast, you can have it in a nice, discreet place. It's the coffee shop within the hotel. Nothing fancy at all: eggs, toast, ham and sausage and stuff. The waitresses just make you feel at home.
Tahitian Inn, 601 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-876-1397.
BEST POWER LUNCH
Malio just makes everyone feel special. And it's a great value.
Malio's, 301 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-875-3927.
BEST POWER DINNER
The Palm Restaurant
The general manger there is the best. Everybody makes you feel special. I can't resist the surf and turf.
The Palm Restaurant, 205 Westshore Plaza, Tampa, 813-849-7256.
I love starting my meal with the traditional 1905 Columbia salad, followed by a hearty portion of their wonderful paella — a yellow rice dish full of seafood and usually some chicken and Spanish sausage — and eating it while watching the talented flamenco dancers who put on a show there.
Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813-248-4961.
Sangria's Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant
The sangria has just the right balance of ingredients and tastes — and the atmosphere makes it taste that much better.
Sangria's, 315 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-258-0393.
The best I've ever had.
Bernini, 1702 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813-248-0099.
BEST COOLEST NAMED RESTAURANT
The Laughing Cat
The chef's energy and personality live up to the coolness of the name. The lunch buffet is one of the best values in town.
The Laughing Cat, 1811 N. 15th St., Ybor City, 813-241-2998; 13134 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-265-8333.
BEST ISLAND CHIC
St. Barts Island House Restaurant
Incredible French Caribbean food in an understated, elegant setting.
St. Barts Island House Restaurant, 1502 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-251-0367.
Eddie's Custom Cleaners
I was taking my shirts to this place that charged 99 cents. When I picked them up, they were hardly pressed. I went back and said, "This isn't acceptable." The woman said, "What do you expect for 99 cents?" I said, "You've been very helpful," and I never went back. I bought an expensive blazer — too expensive, really — and asked the people at the store where I should get it dry cleaned. They told me about Eddie's. It's not the cheapest, but I'm told they're very careful to keep their machinery up to date and their chemicals fresh. Whenever I go to pick up a suit, I know it's going to come back looking great.
Eddie's Custom Cleaners, 529 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-875-6700; 4528 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-288-0500.
BEST UPSCALE MEN´S CLOTHING STORES
Greiner's and George LTD.
I bought my first suit at George Ltd. when I was 16 years old. Occasionally I splurge, which means I pay retail, but usually I wait for them to have sales. I like Hugo Boss suits and they have a good selection there. There's a guy named David Kahn there, who used to work at the Boss store in International Mall; he's very helpful. Greiner's has other brands I like. I like to get some guidance about color combinations and the like, and owner Chris Blowers is really good.
Greiner's Fine Men's Clothing, 117 E. Whiting St., Tampa, 813-226-3207; George LTD, 4215 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-282-8446.
BEST POLITICAL UP-AND-COMER
She's the chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party. I think she brings a new energy to a local party. She strives to be inclusive and brings an excellent energy to the party. She's not only worrying about the present but also the future, by recruiting young talents like Omar Khan, last year's president of USF's student body, and Faruk Mitha, whose worked with Jim Davis, Alex Penelas and Bob Buckhorn. Both are very active in the Kerry campaign.
BEST PLACE TO GET FRAMED
Michael Murphy Gallery
Great selection of frames and very creative staff.
Michael Murphy Gallery, 2722 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-902-1414.