Best Radio Format Change
Carolyn’s POV: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me is a great way to spend your Saturday morning, you know while cleaning the house and enjoying time with the fam bam. Dave and I plan on attending the taping on November 17th at the Straz Center. He just doesn’t know it yet. Get tickets here .
Best Tongue Action
Carolyn’s POV: For real? This just cracks me up. Check out this video . It’s for real.
Best local fashion blogger
Move over, Anna Wintour. Jennifer Rand’s Belle de Couture is showing us how girls on a budget can keep up with the latest trends without sacrificing their paychecks on that Alexander Wang dress. Rand’s style blog remains the freshest in the Bay area; mixing vintage at low prices for high-fashion looks, Rand shows readers how to transform those palazzo pants you picked up at your local thrift store into the trendiest outfit in town. http:// belledecouture.com .
Carolyn’s POV: I don’t consider myself into fashion, but hey, I like blogs, so I’ll check this out.
Best Retail Upgrade
The local merchandisers’ and artists’ co-op known for funky events and enviro-friendly repurpose-ification has moved into its own digs on Central Avenue — a spacious, artsy but aesthetically pleasing environment. The conscious retailers are loved on the 600 Block for their “great clothes, knickknacks and energy.” 683 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-557-5812, http://ramblinroseupcycle.wordpress.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Totally my scene. I hope. Too bad it’s over the bridge in the ‘burg.
Best Secondhand Delights
For the past 13 years, YesterDaze has been serving up a wide variety of vintage clothing and accessories for ladies and gents alike. If you can’t seem to find that perfect pair of 1960s tapestry hot pants or that 1980s terry jumpsuit, look no further than YesterDaze. The shop sponsors huge sales events quarterly and has been a ringleader in Seminole Heights’ retail renaissance. 5207 N. Florida Ave., 813-231-2020, http://yesterdazevintage.com .
Carolyn’s POV: I gravitate to anything with Daze in the title.
Best Decorative Odds and Ends
It’s a little bit of Laurie Petrie and Barbarella and a whole lot of Seminole Heights’ funky style. Last winter, Sherry King, owner of Sherry’s YesterDaze, partnered with her husband, David Call, of A Modern Line mid-century modern furniture, and interior designer Karen Brown to bring Tampa an eye-catching spectrum of retro goodies, closeouts and upscale consignments. 6415 N Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-231-2020.
Carolyn’s POV: Totally checking this place out to try to bring some hip into our home.
Best Kids’ Consignment
Buying secondhand items for your precious little ones demands care and attention, what with all the viruses and bedbugs and other germy germs out there wreaking havoc on their tiny immune systems. Stellie Bellies is a safe bet, offering quality brands like Gymboree and Japanese Weekend in clean and aesthetically pleasing settings. Sizes preemie through size 8 are available, and along with clothes the shop sells toys, shoes, books, videos, bedding, baby needs and nursing items. Two locations: 3475 Fourth St. N., St. Pete; 31071 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, 727-330-7785, stelliebellies.com.
Carolyn’s POV: Just taking notes for when the day comes.
Best Yoga/Acupuncture/Baby Boutique Mash-Up
New moms have it rough. We don’t need to tell you about the sleepless nights, the sore nipples, the swollen … well, you get the idea. Sometimes you don’t want to drive all over town. Sometimes you just want to network with (and be around) other moms. Enter Thank You Mama, a retail store (clothing, bottles, toys, accessories) that also features a yoga and massage studio, acupuncture clinic, community workshops, cloth diapering seminars and more. All conveniently located near downtown St. Pete. 1511 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. 727-289-7250, www.thankyou-mama.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Again, just taking notes.
Best Place to Have a Man Shower
Located on 4.5 acres of secluded woodland in north Tampa is a spacious and rustic log cabin that is home to regular yoga classes, massage, workshops, musical performances and Ayurvedic treatments courtesy of The Lotus Pond and its Ayurvedic counterpart, Balance and Bliss. With the recent baby boom at CL, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the grounds of the Lotus Pond also lend themselves to other rites of passage, including baby showers and fatherhood ceremonies (the Man Shower). 6201 Lynn Road, Tampa, 813-961-3160, http://yogalotusroom.com ; http://balanceandbliss.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Dave will thank me. Man Shower. This just cracks me up.
Best Downtown Bike Shop
The full-service shop not only has a slew of cool two-wheelers for sale — Bianchi, Kona, Jamis, Eastern and KHS among them — with parts, accessories, service and repairs, but it has been heavily involved in restaurant and history tours. 212 E. Cass Street, Tampa, 888-484-BIKE (2453) or 813-225-1777, http://citybiketampa.com .
Carolyn’s POV: This is a hip bike shop, and they do urban restaurant tours which I need to get to stat.
It’s a classic tale of the little restaurant that could. After years in the catering biz, dabbling with blogging and an online cooking show, chef Greg Baker and partner/wife Michelle Baker decided to open up their own place, focused more on their culinary philosophy than mass appeal. The result was The Refinery in Seminole Heights, a restaurant that uses local ingredients whenever possible, changes its menu weekly and serves the kind of food that chefs like to eat. It also happened to garner a semi-finalist spot on the James Beard Foundation’s nationwide Best New Restaurant list, as well as a cease-and-desist order from McDonald’s because of Baker’s take on a McRib. With the constant menu tweaks and the influx of new customers, the restaurant has had some consistency issues, but for some folks that’s part of the charm. Call me charmed. 5137 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-237-2000, http://thetamparefinery.com .
Carolyn’s POV: The Refinery changes their menu weekly based on seasonal ingredients. Great concept; however I have to time this just right to make sure a vegan option is available.
BEST CHEAP EATS, HILLSBOROUGH
Four words: $3 banh mi sandwiches. And, as an added bonus, they happen to be the best banh mi sandwiches in the Bay area. 3692 W. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-932-0300.
Carolyn’s POV: Do they have a vegan banh mi? That is the question of the day.
Best Interactive Cheap Eats
For $10, you’re provided with a huge plate of meat, foliage, noodles, veggies and herbs to construct your very own fresh rolls, using the accompanying stack of steamed rice paper wraps. Lemongrass beef and curry chicken are favorites, perfect for a fun, inexpensive date. Caution: Newbies may not want to wear nice clothing as the process can involve dunking your creation into a little bowl of fish sauce (that can be made spicy/sweet/salty using table side condiments). 8404 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, 813-885-9424.
Carolyn’s POV: This sounds like a super fun date night for Dave and I.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant Even a Carnivore Could Enjoy
No meat on the menu, no problem; carnivores can’t tell what’s missing. The Cyprus BLT has Syrian cheese, olive tapenade and tempeh bacon on grilled flatbread. The hummus sampler is a great way to try different Middle Eastern flavors — baba ganouj, bessara, tzaziki, or any variety of chick pea hummus listed on the menu. The falafel is made from scratch, served the true Israeli way. A well-thought-out, eclectic wine and beer list rounds out an intriguing dining experience. 119 Second St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-498-8627, http://meze119.com .
Carolyn’s POV: I’ve heard great things about Meze 119, and I can’t wait to try it.
BEST VEGETARIAN DISH AT A PLACE THAT SERVES DEEP-FRIED BACON
Created by noted pork aficionado and gadfly chef Domenica Macchia, Three Birds’ vegetable pie is a rich stew of squash and peppers, with a sizable dollop of creamy mashed potatoes in the center. It is a truly satisfying dish, heavy but lightened by a powerful dose of black pepper — almost as good as Macchia’s deep-fried sugary bacon. 1492 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-895-2049, http://threebirdstavern.com .
Carolyn’s POV: The Vegetable Pie is vegan, but I could craft a meal out of the hummus plate and salad and enjoy the atmosphere.
Best meal that just happens to be vegetarian (or vegan, or raw)
Owner/executive chef Sabrina Aird and her team prove that everything you know about vegetarian, vegan and raw food is wrong. Take, for example, the sweet, rich and satisfying Ginger Chick-un — it’s anything but bland, boring or bird feed. Grass Root also houses one of the Bay area’s best smoothie and juice bars. 4334 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa, 813-839-7668, http://thegrassrootlife.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Grass Roots is delicious, albeit pricey. They are leaders in the vegan crusade in TB, so I support them.
Best Veggieburgers and Fried Chicken
By now you’ve likely heard of Love’s phenomenal fried chicken. Its delicate homemade-style crust is perfectly spicy, keeps the meat juicy and tender, and is served in a portion large enough for leftovers. But Love’s also has a veggieburger that’s equally worthy of adoration. The patties are perfect: fluffy, filled with vegetables, and buttery crisp. Times it by two, then pile so high with fresh toppings that you need both hands. There’s nowhere else in town that can claim the best of both. 4914 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-831-3273, http://lovesartifacts.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Well, they have a veggie burger on their menu, so I’ll give them a try.
BEST CHAIN RESTAURANT
It’s still early days at this nascent chain concept created by the Melting Pot crew in concert with local star chef Chris Ponte — with a second location opening in Carrollwood in October — but early returns are extremely promising. Largely, that’s due to simple things, like perfectly cooked patties and thoughtful burger construction. We’ll see if more outlets means less influence by Ponte, but in the meantime this is a chain we don’t feel guilty supporting. 9664 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, 813-475-5921, http://burger21.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Another veggie burger restaurant, but this one is homemade and I bet delicious.
Best guilt-free pizza
Pizza Fusion serves pies you can feel better about for two reasons. First, their additive/preservative/hormone/pesticide/trans fat-free pizza is made with only organic ingredients and can include options like whole grain crust or all vegan ingredients. Second, their stores are all LEED certified, 100 percent of their power consumption is offset with renewable wind energy certificates and they deliver their goods in hybrid cars. So have that extra slice and don’t feel as guilty about the carbon emissions you’re creating by driving to one of their locations. 777 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 813-463-1600; 9556 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, 813-792-1516, http://pizzafusion.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Yup, this pizza is off the hook. I like the farmer’s market, sans cheese. I don’t do vegan cheese. Ew.
Best place to get your peanut butter fix
As if its roles as restaurant, bar, coffee house, art gallery, music venue and event space weren’t enough, The Bricks also serves the best PB&E (i.e. everything) around. Whether you like it smooth, crunchy, organic or otherwise, they’ve got you covered with everything from sandwiches (try the Amsterdam with gouda) to the George Washington Carver (a PB-flavored double-shot latte) to Brickin’ Nuggets (sliced apples and bananas topped with PB, granola, agave nectar and raspberry sauce). Choosy diners choose The Bricks. 1327 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-247-1785, http://thebricksybor.com .
Carolyn’s POV: The Bricks is a fav of mine. And now that the hubs office is moving to Ybor, I think we’ll be making some lunch dates in the near future.
Best trend to FINALLY hit Tampa Bay
About damn time. Tampa is one of the most awesome cities in the Sunshine State and we just now finally have mobile gourmet food trucks. We as a city were more than ready for them; within hours of the announcement of the upcoming first Tampa Food Truck Rally on Sept. 24 (see p. 95 for details), there were hundreds of supporters on the Facebook page, and thousands of hits on various websites containing information about the event. Wicked ’Wiches helped pioneer the local scene, and a great number of trucks began popping up shortly after. We’ve got some work to do to catch up to Miami, but the market certainly exists.
Carolyn’s POV: About damn time. That’s right.
BEST NEW BUS STOPS
The fine people at TBARTA could learn something from Chef Rene and his rapidly expanding Taco Bus empire. From humble beginnings serving excellent tacos and Mexican fare out of a stationary bus on E. Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, the Taco Bus now has a stop in St. Pete near the Trop and a just-added third location in downtown Tampa. Residents are lining up to get on board this bus. If only HARTline would add taco fixins to the free wi-fi provided by their city buses, rapid transit might finally take off in the Bay area.
Carolyn’s POV: I can’t believe I have yet to make it to Taco Bus, but I need to get there sta.
Best Coffee Break
For those of us who live in St. Pete and work in Ybor, life sure has its percs, and access to all the great Bay Area coffeeshops is not the least of them. Honorable mention here goes to Kahwa South, Cafe Bohemia and Cafe Hey, but there is definitely something magical about sipping the best espresso in the Bay while people-watching on Ybor’s Seventh Avenue. King Corona, 1523 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-241-9109, http://kingcoronacigars.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Another one in Ybor. YES! Convenient to the casa and now Dave’s work. Perhaps, I’ll have to move my work-from-home office there one afternoon.
Best tea party that has nothing to with the tea party
Now here’s a tea party we can all get behind. TeBella Tea Company is one of the newer tea stores to crop up, and once you get hooked, you’ll forsake the tea bag and learn how to make your own loose leaf brew at home, with the help of some of the nicest customer service around. Owner Abigail St. Clair has a tea for every palate. For those seeking a twist on a classic, try the Lavender Fog, which infuses the traditional Earl Grey with lavender and jasmine. Herbal fans will enjoy the delicate floral hints in the Magnolia Oolong, while those trying to beat the heat can rehydrate with an iced Mango Melange. With such a wide selection, you can literally spend months trying every new blend (we’ve tried). Oh, and if you think no tea experience is complete without something to nibble on, TeBella commissions a Bern’s pastry chef to make mouth-watering cupcakes, scones and macaroons. Seating is limited so stake your claim early and get your $2 Tea of the Day special. Honorable mention: Hooker Tea Company. 227 E. Davis Blvd., Davis Islands, Tampa, 813-254-1212, http://tebellatea.com
Carolyn’s POV: Davis Island is a great place, and now with the addition of TeBella, it gets even better. I look forward to stopping here after a trip to the dog park with the Hardy Party.
Best Way to Buy Local
When you choose to buy locally, you help our community by keeping dollars circulating nearby. As a bonus, locally grown produce is healthier, saves energy, and supports small farms. Amy’s Fresh Delivery takes the work out of buying local by delivering your hand-picked grocery list right to your doorstep. The Bay area’s freshest fruits and veggies are only a few clicks away. http://amysfresh.com .
Carolyn’s POV: I’d prefer to have a kick ass farmer’s market in Tampa instead of home delivery, but if I have to use Amy’s Fresh, I will.
Best buy-in-bulk grocery store for which you don’t need a membership
This huge warehouse caters to Latin and Asian restaurant owners, yet is open to the public. You can find fresh bok choy, pork belly, duck and every type of rice and dried legume you can imagine, all at rock bottom prices. Many of the items are sold in small quantities so you are not required to purchase a five-gallon bucket of soy sauce, although they have it if you need it. 2621 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, 813-234-8428, http://siwffarmersmarket.com .
Carolyn’s POV: With the Costco membership expiring and no desire to renew, I’m going to check out this place. Something tells me they won’t have tubs of hummus or organic carrots.
BEST JAZZ WITH A SIDE OF BREAKFAST
The Hangar is worth the trip just for the good food and stellar views of aircraft taking off and landing (and sometimes crashing) at Albert Whitted Airport. On Monday, Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant sweetens the deal with live jazz in its second-story dining room. Take in the swinging sounds while gorging yourself on The Hangar’s excellent chicken and waffles. It’s like eating breakfast and dinner while hanging out at a cool jazz club past midnight — all at the same time! 540 First St. SE, St. Petersburg, 727-823-7767 http://thehangarstpete.com .
Carolyn’s POV: At first look the menu seems a little ‘greasy’ for my liking, but there is a roasted veggie sandwich that I can make vegan by asking for no feta. I’ll try it for the jazz.
Best People-Watching on a Friday night
You can dine outside on the patio and get a good view, but if it’s too hot out, ask for a booth by the window inside, where you can peer out upon the Centro Ybor corridor. One recent Friday, the booths offered views of cellulite-ridden hoochies with skirts so high they revealed ass cleavage; a modest Indo-Asian couple; South Tampa yuppies in their finest Tommy Bahama; gangsta kids with droopy drawers; and a slew of overly made-up and awkward college-age women. The grand marshal of this parade: the Castle-flocking goths, looking like Marilyn Manson run amok in the Dollar Store.
Carolyn’s POV: Hey, maybe I’ll get my show licked. See item above: Best Tongue Action.
BEST NEW ADDITION TO THE YBOR RESTAURANT SCENE
It seemed an unlikely site for a white-tablecloth, three-meals-a-day place: next door to a rock club (the re-located Orpheum) on an outlying block of Seventh Avenue. But the airy interior, welcoming attitude and good cooking — a mix of comfort food (BBQ meatloaf sandwich, spiced rum banana French toast) and more sophisticated fare (panko-crusted oysters, lobster gnocchi) — has been winning raves. The restaurant’s name, by the way, has nothing to do with the day of the week; the chef/owner is David Sunday, whose Long Island fishing roots are reflected in the menu’s emphasis on seafood (including a very tasty variation on a lobster salad roll called a Knuckle Sandwich). 1919 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, Tampa, 813-248-4000, http://sundaysfinedining.com
Carolyn’s POV: I walked by this place the other day with Dave and it looked promising; however, the vegan/vegetarian options are slim pickings. Bummer.
BEST BUDDHA WITH A SIDE OF EGGROLLS
Ever wondered why Buddha is always depicted as overweight? Our guess is he’s been bellying up to Wat’s terrific Sunday Morning Market, which offers a great selection of authentic Thai dishes (Phat Thai, chicken curry, guiteow, etc.) to believers and the just-hungry alike. The market takes place at Wat’s beautiful three-acre complex in the Palm River area of Tampa. Come for the God, but stay for the egg rolls. 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, 813-621-1669, http://wattampainenglish.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Having lived in a small village in Thailand for 2 years, I can confidently say this is the real deal. And the only place in town I get to use my Thai language.
BEST MUSEUM TRANSFORMATION
Hank Hine and Yann Weymouth, as director and architect, respectively, helmed this year’s most memorable art happening: the January debut of the stunning new Dalí Museum on St. Pete’s waterfront. With the support of many colleagues and collaborators, Hine and Weymouth realized the museum’s dream: a secure home for its priceless collection of art by famed surrealist Salvador Dalí and an extraordinary building that would make its namesake proud. the http://dali.org .
Carolyn’s POV: I’m a little creeped out by Dali’s art, but this museum looks pretty damn cool. I would love to try out their Yoga + Dali Sunday’s.
BEST NEW DIRECTION
Since its reopening in February 2010, TMA’s offerings have included a series of noteworthy contemporary art showcases — from films and videos by Jesper Just (a traveling show from Brooklyn) to the museum’s latest offering: Syntax, an exhibition of witty and playful artwork incorporating text and symbols, on view through Sept. 25. Three years into his tenure, director Todd Smith isn’t exactly new to the scene, but under his leadership the museum has settled into a new direction — one that we like a lot. http://tampamuseum.org
Carolyn’s POV: I spend lots of time at the Cutis Hixon Park, and the closest I’ve come to the Tampa Museum of Art is thinking how cool it would be to crash a wedding there last weekend. I’m mean seriously. Stroll right up, grab a beer and mingle. I’ve seen the movie. It can’t be that hard.
Best under-the-radar arts pro gramming
HCC-Ybor’s thoughtfully curated performing arts series has hosted the likes of modern dance collective cakeface and jazz great Ira Sullivan, as well as championing local arts and music through such events as the amazing first Ybor Jazz Festival, the annual Festival of the Moving Image, the Cuban Sandwich Art Show, Four Days of Dance and the Pre-Heat Music Showcase. Follow the season on Facebook at Theatre Ybor. Palm Avenue and Republica de Cuba Avenue, 813-253-6490.
Carolyn’s POV: Performing Art is rad. I especially like crazy, weird dance troupes. I need to check this place out. Maybe my Profession of a husband can get us discounts.
Dios Mio! Casa Tina’s Dia De Los Muertos Festival at Pioneer Park in Dunedin was a grande, free, outdoor, weekend-long fiesta that included live mariachi music, kids’ crafts, piñatas, 18-foot-tall mojigangas (puppets) and a performance by Ballet Folklorico. Attendees sampled Casa Tina’s loaded rice and beans and tamales, browsed candy skulls and visual art, and competed for best ofrendas (offering altars) and Frida Kahlo-look-alike. http://casatinas.com .
Carolyn’s POV: Casa Tina’s is probably the most vegan friendly restaurant around. By vegan friendly, I mean my parents will agree to dine there as they can still get their chicken fajitas. And by around, I mean over 2 bridges and 45 minutes later.
BEST MUSEUM WE FINALLY WENT TO
This is embarrassing. We count ourselves as hip, cultured citizens who know what’s up in the Bay area, but all we really know about local history is that the town was founded by a pirate and the local football franchise won the Super Bowl in — wait, when was that again? Helping us shed our ignoramus status is the Tampa Bay History Center, a one-stop shop for learning all about the rich history and tradition of the Tampa Bay area, from the early exploration of the region, to Jose Gaspar’s fateful landing, the ’20s cigar boom and the massive growth of the late 1900s that created the rich urban landscape we enjoy today. 801 Old Water St., Tampa, 813-228-0097, http://tampabayhistorycenter.org .
Carolyn’s POV: I’m not particularly fond of history, nor can I remember history, but Dave can. So maybe I should just send him in, and then he can give me the cliff notes. I kid. I kid. This place has a pretty impressive building on an even more impressive piece of land near Channelside.
Best Psyche Rock Band for the 21st/22nd Century
Not only do Sons of Hippies produce tones and textures that sound like they come straight from the psychedelic future, their sonics man and unofficial fourth member Dave Byrd can run the band’s front-of-house and monitor mixes from anywhere in the room via an app on his iPad. Sons of Hippies may call Sarasota home, but we like to claim them as our own, if only because they make Tampa Bay seem so cutting edge. http://sonsofhippies.net .
Carolyn’s POV: Love me some hippie music. End of story.
Best Refresh of an Old Fest
“Been to one Heatwave, been to ‘em all” was the running inside joke — that is, before the 2011 edition of WMNF’s largest and most well-attended fundraiser of the year. For the 30th annual edition, organizers shrugged off complacency and brought on Brokenmold Entertainment to help with booking talent. The result was a refreshed bill (Bright Light Social Hour, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Carolina Chocolate Drops) that drew a big eclectic crowd to match.
Carolyn’s POV: What of my favorite’s played there last year, the Ryan Montbleau Band .
Best ad in The Best of Tampa Bay 2011 Edition <- My thoughtful contribution.
Carolyn’s POV: Oh, and toy drive. If it was more than a mile, I might consider it. In this swimsuit.
Have you checked out any of these places? What do you think? Where should I begin?