BEST GREASY SPOON/DIVE RESTAURANT
Three Coins Restaurant
When I lived in Seminole Heights, I was a regular at Three Coins, since it´s cheap and good. Turkey and gravy ... awesome. Mom´s Place on Dale Mabry is a favorite too, but the Village Inn near Kennedy Boulevard is an old standby and closer to my current house. I prefer to support independents, but its Country Fried Skillet with Pancakes — (sigh) — I just can´t help myself.
Three Coins Restaurant, 7410 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-239-1256; Mom´s Place, 4816 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-875-2670; Village Inn, 215 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-877-2617, and various locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
BEST PLACE FOR A NICE MEAL (THAT´S NOT MISE EN PLACE)
I start with the Lobster Bisque — Bern´s easily has the best in town — and always get the strip steak, medium rare. Love the effect aging has on the meat; it makes a big difference. In the Dessert Room, King Midas, with moist carrot cake and that awesome macadamia nut ice cream, is my favorite. I also admire Eric Neri´s food at the Maritana Grill at the Don Cesar. I took my wife, Marja, there for our one-year anniversary.
Bern´s Steakhouse, 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-251-2421, www.bernssteakhouse.com; Maritana Grill, 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-360-1881, www.loewshotels.com.MOST INNOVATIVE
All of her restaurant concepts are so creative — like the duck curry at Yellow Door (r.i.p.). She´s also a great person with a great heart.
Cafe B.T./Noodle Lounge, 3324 W. Gandy Blvd., Tampa, 813-831-9254.
BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT
Great spring rolls and pho. I also like the make-your-own spring rolls at Pho Quyen.
Bamboo Flute, 2307 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-258-2858; Pho Quyen, 8301 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-933-7977.
BEST THING TO DO ON A DAY OFF
On my day off, Marja and I sometimes go for the full meal deal: eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner. To burn off the calories, we work on the house and go to the gym.
BEST ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE
Hangar One Kaffir Lime or Pineapple Van Gogh Vodka
I use them to make vodka martinis or mix them with soda. I drink wine sometimes too (giggle).
BEST INGREDIENTS TO WORK WITH
Wacky is good in my book, but it has to work. I cook by feel, not really with recipes. I try to be innovative with my food, mixing in fresh ingredients like fresh tuna, foie gras and quail. Seasonal fruit can also change the structure of a dish. I use it in sauces and as a component of the dish itself.
BEST PLACE TO MEET YOUR FUTURE WIFE
Extreme Total Health and Fitness
I met Marja at Extreme. I had seen her around but finally got to talk to her at the gym. She´s a fitness and health nut, but thankfully she doesn´t judge what I eat.
Extreme Fitness, 936 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-258-2639, www.xtremefit.org.
BEST FRIEND TO A CHEF
My Two Collie Dogs, Damian and Angus
I spend quite a bit of time with my dogs. They relax me and they´re a lot of fun. I named Angus when I was driving to pick him up. I saw a sign that said ¨Angus¨ and it stuck.