Brick and Mortar – A great new addition to Central Avenue serving New American cuisine. Brick and Mortar is perfect for a date night or smaller groups, and the dishes are meant to be shared. Jess and I had the Slow Braised Short Ribs with Fat Noodles, which were so rich with velvety noodles and melt-in-your-mouth short ribs. We also tried the Gambas Ajillo (Gulf shrimp) in a white wine, garlic and lemon broth with white beans. It was good but would opt to try something else next time. The Roasted Beet Salad with Shallot and Almond Vinegrette was a perfect compliment to the heavier dishes we ordered.
Annata Wine Bar – The cheese and charcuterie plate at Annata is the best in all of Tampa Bay: Great price, delicious meats and cheeses and plenty of them and the perfect accoutrements. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to grab a glass of wine, a cheese plate and watch the foot traffic on beautiful Beach Drive in St. Pete with views of the water in the background.
Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine – Think you don’t want chorizo in your fried rice? Wrong. You absolutely do. Nitally’s also brings some heat, so don’t be a tough guy (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Their servings are incredibly huge, but that’s not to overcompensate for mediocre food. This place is very eclectic, and the service is not fast by any means but they make a mean Pad Thai and everything tastes so fresh. A milky boba tea will help calm the heat if you didn’t heed my earlier advice.
Bodega – The best cheap eats in St. Pete. Jess is a little obsessed with this place and convinced me to have them cater our rehearsal dinner. She always orders the Pollo Asado sandwich, which is coconut marinated chicken with mango mayo, avocado and fresnos on the most delicious cuban bread they serve all their sandwiches on. Their cuban is also excellent and might just be the best in the bay, which is saying something considering Tampa (not Miami!) invented the Cuban sandwich. Be sure to order a side of maduros and wash it down with a soda fresca. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Bodega has a fresh juice bar in their cafe next door.
The Mill Restaurant – I’ve never dined here, but apparently it’s amazing. It’s been packed ever since opening and remains so nearly two-and-a-half years later. If you go, tell me what you liked. Right now, I’m looking at the menu right now and salivating at the Fish and Grits with rainbow trout, blue corn grits, braised greens, smoked pork Bolognese and a fried egg to top it all off.
Reading Room – Same with this place, which is further west in St. Pete toward the beach. Be prepared to test the boundaries of your culinary experience. This place looks inspired.
Mazzaro Italian Market – I’ve been here probably five times and I don’t know that I’ve ever actually bought anything. It’s fun to just walk around in a market that’s packed shoulder to shoulder and all kinds of Italian delicacies hidden amongst the different rooms just waiting to be found.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare – I’m not saying you’re going to love everything you get from Hawkers, but there’s so much to choose from and so many Asian cuisines represented you’ll find at least one thing you love each visit. You’ll want to order about five or six items between two people and share. The roti canai (a Malaysian flat break you dip into a curry sauce) and Sichuan green beans are two of my favorites.
More to come soon…