Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar

WHERE: 3601 W. Swann Ave.

WHAT: A modern movement for good food and good times. Carmel’s menu of Mod Med (modern Mediterranean) is a perfect match of classic elements made in an innovated way (like chicpea fries and seafood gyros). And Carmel’s vibrant decor designed around group gatherings and revolutionary ordering system make it a taste of what we are sure to see coming from the restaurant world - iPad menus that show images and appropriate wine pairings for all menu items. Guests can also use Carmel’s iPad menus to search for wines, find food to match and place their orders.

WHY: Because you don’t have to limit yourself to one or two glasses of wine. Carmel offers wine servings in sizes of 3, 6 and 9 ounce glasses. So you can sample selections of their deep and varied wine collection without compromise.

WHO (To Take With You): Someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Carmel is the perfect place to bring a friend or group of family members (or any combination of both) to have a meal and catch up. Thanks to an interactive menu and great selection of sharing plates, Carmel makes it easy to sit, eat and reconnect without much interruption.

WHEN: Every Sunday and Monday from 5-9 pm. Every week, Carmel offers a crazy good special prix fixe Dinner for Two menu. For $24.95, the meal includes a first course choice of one starter to share, second course choice of salad for each guest, third course choice of two small plates and fourth course choice of one dessert to share. The menu will include seasonal favorite selections from Carmel’s menu so it makes it hard not to go on both Sunday and Monday.

HOW:  p. 813-964-6889 | CarmelCafe.com | Facebook 

Carmel Café & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Seasons 52

WHERE: 204 North Westshore Blvd.

WHAT: One of the few franchises you’ll find featured on Dive In. You know that Tampa loves to support the local community so it might seem strange that we are promoting Seasons 52 – a restaurant group based out of Orlando. But when you learn a little bit about this fresh grill, it all makes sense. Seasons is locally influenced and produced. Their meats, fruits and veggies comes from nearby farms (whenever possible) and are chosen to suit the seasonal items that grow and define our area — all while supporting our local community.

WHY: Because Seasons 52 corporate actually cares about their customers, community and coworkers. They cook with real flavors and ingredients – not butter, so patrons can enjoy a menu with no meals over 475 calories. They incorporate as many green, sustainable, and natural foods and processes as they can to decrease their carbon footprint. And in their corporate offices, they hide the elevators so more people choose to take the stairs, pushing their employees toward a healthier and more active lifestyle.

WHEN (To Go): When you want to do something good for yourself – every season of the year. If you haven’t put the pieces together, Seasons 52 is built around the four seasons and 52 weeks of the year. Every season, the menu changes to reflect seasonal flavors and fresh food availability. Additionally, the fresh grill changes sometimes weekly to bring in foods that may only be available for a limited time – like the Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon that was only offered for seven weeks. (Which, considering it was the best salmon I’ve ever had, is sad but true.)

WHO (To Take With You): If you have no problem admitting you’re wrong, bring your vegetarian friend. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’re wrong, but you will be eating your words – and some tasting veggies and tofu – right next to your vegetarian friend who has been pushing you toward their meatless lifestyle for years. Seasons 52 has menu items that will make you see the light on bites like grains of life, roasted tofu, chili rellenos and roasted vegetables.

HOW: (813) 286-1152

www.seasons52.com

Menu 

Row Boat Mediterranean Cuisine

Where: 1820 N. 15th Street – Ybor

What: An open window (or door) into Mediterranean life. Having a meal at Row Boat is like walking into a traditional Mediterranean household and sitting down for dinner (or lunch or a late night snack). This isn’t just another gyro stand – it’s inviting, authentic culture and cuisine that will make even the most unadventurous eater a diehard fan of falafel.

Why: Because the cooks wake up early so your food is fresh. Just about everything at Row Boat Mediterranean is homemade daily – not mass produced and purchased. The hummus isn’t from a jar – it’s from freshly blended chickpeas and garlic. And the falafel – it’s packed with crunch and flavor because it has just come out of the kitchen not the package. And the daily specials are all specially prepared first thing in the morning to ensure each plate is to the highest degree of deliciousness.

Who (To Take With You): The friend who is afraid to order something they don’t know how to say. Row Boat Mediterranean is the best place to start stepping out the box and trying something new because you don’t have to worry about being let down. Take your taste buds on an adventure and find out that there is life beyond the burger bar and grill.

When (To Go): When you are on your way to grab a slice of pizza after a night out. Two things usually attract people to Ybor – food and nightlife. Well, with Row Boat you get the best of both worlds – a delicious day food spot and a late-night craving kicker. Row Boat is open late on weekend nights to cater to the crowds of hungry Ybor party patrons and offer an after-hours alternative to pizza. But wait there’s more….

R Bar

What: Row Boat’s side kick bar and lounge. R Bar, located next door, serves the same menu offering along with drinks from a full liquor bar.

Why: Because the patrons are laid-back, the staff is friendly, and the alcohol-soaked maraschino cherries are free.

Who (To Take With You): Your friend who is up for a good game of Connect Four or Uno. R Bar has taken some of the best old school board games from your past and made them into bar games – plus there is a ping pong table.

When (To Go): When you finally feel like getting out and trying something new. It will be worth it.

How: 813-248-0001, Find it on Facebook, www.rowboatybor.com

Row Boat Mediterrean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Guide to Harbor Island

From the shore, Harbour Island may seem out of range. Yes, there are monstrous mansions that surround the water-front property and almost all of the residential communities come with a security guard and famous Rays, Lightning, Yankees, and/or Buccaneers player resident. But even if you can’t afford to live on an island with Tampa’s elite, you can visit their local establishments and indulge in a nice meal or cocktail in one of their local waterside restaurants.

Harbour Island Restaurant Guide

Cafe Dufrain – Contemporary waterfront bistro where food isn’t just about eating, its about tasting. www.cafedufrain.com

That’s Amore Restaurant – Romantic Italian restaurant with beautiful views of downtown and live jazz on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. www.thatsamorerestaurant.com

Pizza Pazza – Pizza doesn’t always have to be just cheese, dough and sauce. Try one of Pizza Pazza’s specialty pies and spice up that slice with caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, dried cranberries or glazed walnuts. www.pizzapazzapizzeria.com

Jackson’s Bistro – Dine by day, party by night at this waterfront sushi-serving, DJ-spinning Bistro and Nightclub. www.jacksonsbistro.com

Ragin’ Grill

***Ragin’ Grill is now closed.***

WHERE: 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd.

WHAT: Everything that is good about barbecue. So many restaurants claim to be the king of barbeque – but have no meat to back it up. At Ragin’, it’s real. And there’s a method to this delicious madness. All of the baby back ribs, beef spareribs and St. Louis-style spareribs are seasoned with dry rub, smoked for over five hours, glazed and grilled to a caramelized bubbly-perfection before making their way to the plate and falling off the bone.

WHEN (To Go): Before an event at the Forum. Don’t waste your money on overpriced arena food when you can get a better bang for your buck (and taste buds) with a pre-game meal at Ragin’. Plus if you are up for little walk through the Channelside district, you can save some more cash by parking at the garage above Ragin’ and avoiding the expensive around-arena parking fees.

WHO (To Take With You): Your whole family or group of friends. You can feed a table of four with a Family Pack or fill a crowd of ten with a Ragin’ Picnic. It’s a cheaper way to enjoy a BBQ feast with friends on a night out and an easier way to feed a group at a gathering with a pack of plenty ribs, sides, and rolls to go around.

WHY: Because you’ve had enough fried foods. Only one of the regular menu items at Ragin’ is fried, so you can add sides that are filled with flavor – not grease. Like the bona fide macaroni and cheese – so gooey and delicious that cheese actually stretches from the plate as you take a bite. And that’s just one of the savory side order choices. Choose from list of traditional BBQ sides like collard greens, roasted corn cob, baked beans and more country-style classics.

HOW: 813.223.9006, http://ragingrill.com/Find it on Facebook

PARKING: Park for free for the first two hours in the Southside parking garage off of Madison St.

Ragin Sports Grill on Urbanspoon

The Green Lemon (The Lime)

WHERE: 915 S. Howard

WHAT: Mexican food without all the gimmicky hoopla and cheesy mariachi band. By keeping authentic ingredients and flavors, losing nacho cheese drenched food fillers, and adding the flashy flair of night out on the town, The Green Lemon has succeeded in modernizing Mexican without losing what makes the masses move toward the border.

WHEN (To Go): Taco Tuesdays. At just $2 each, you can mix and match a line up of Lime Street Tacos – authentic corn tortillas with fillings that range from seasoned ground beef and crispy battered mahi mahi all the way to habanera shredded beef and avocado glazed buffalo chicken.  It gets better.  Coronas are just $2 bucks too.

WHO (To Take With You): The friend that never wants to join you for Mexican because they are counting calories. While most Mexican options tend to weigh heavily on a weight watchers point index, The Green Lemon offers a variety of menu items – like Fiesta Bowls made with a base of fresh veggies, rotisserie meats, citrus jasmine rice and cabbage – for the calorie conscientious.

WHY: Because the guacamole is fresh out of the avocado. Order The Green Lemon’s guacamole appetizer and you don’t get a little dish of green stuff – you get a guac engineer who arrives to your tableside to prepare a fresh batch of chip dip, with your choice or fixings, just for you.

HOW: 813-868-LIME, www.thelimetampa.com ; Find it on Facebook

Lime on Urbanspoon

Stacked Burgers

**Stacked Burgers is now closed.**

WHERE: 1617 W. Platt Street.

WHAT: An achievement in Burger engineering. The kitchen of Stacked Burgers is a culinary construction zone where chefs amazingly stack two quarter-pound steak burgers, cheese, and extra toppings that include choices of lettuce, tomato, onion, sautéed onions, chili, sauerkraut, mushrooms, and salsa between a sesame seed bun.

WHEN (To Go): When Staked has it out for the keg. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting at 10pm, Stacked hosts “Kill the Keg.” Order a burger entrée and you can drink for free until the keg runs dry.

WHY: Because everyone needs a break from their diet. Indulge in a trip to Stacked and treat yourself to a banging burger as well as every other fried food you can possible crave. Whether your need curly or sweet potato fries, chicken wings or tenders, fried pickles, shrimp, zucchini or onion rings – Stacked has you covered.

WHO (To Take With You): The friend with an fixation on a good food challenge. Staked Burger has got a fast-paced food challenge fit for the friend willing to chow down. One pound (four patties) of burger, 4 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and two side items is free if eaten in two minutes or less. Sounds impossible? Bring the friend crazy enough to try!

HOW: www.stackedburgers.net; Find it on Facebook

Stacked Burgers on Urbanspoon

Datz Delicatessen

WHERE: 2616 South MacDill Ave.

WHAT: A field day for culinary arts. Indulging in a fine brunch, lunch or dinner at Datz is just the beginning. You can also enjoy an array of top shelf  liquors, wines and craft beers; buy high-quality cooking ingredients and imported cheeses; and enjoy a deep selection of desserts, gelatos, cakes, cookies and cupcakes.

WHEN (To Go): Well, for starters, check the Datz Event Calendar. This “Gastropub” hosts events like Chef’s Kitchen interactive cooking demos and three-course Food and Drink Pairings.

WHO (To Take with You): Your dine and whine friend. Everyone has one – that friend who turns up their nose at 90% of food that finds their plate and constantly complains about Tampa being so far behind the restaurant renaissance of bigger cities. Take them to dinner at Datz and you can be sure to enjoy a pout-free meal. And because Datz changes their dinner menu nightly, you can keep bringing them back for more.

WHY: Because Datz has converted the comfort foods that you remember from your family’s kitchen into culinary achievements worthy of top-chef status. Datz serves modern (but still classic) versions of meatloaf, chicken and waffles, chicken pot pie and shrimp n’ grits so good even your grandmother would approve.

HOW: p. 813-831-7000; www.datztampa.com ; Find it On Facebook

Datz Tampa on Urbanspoon

Monstah Lobstah

WHERE: Hyde Park – Platt Street (Next to the Rack)

WHAT: A little slice of the New England life. Monstah Lobstah could have very well been air lifted off of the New England seaboard and dropped in Hyde Park. This quaint little food hut, serving quality seafood in a simple way, and its abundance of outdoor seating make it feel just like a fisherman’s dock spot serving the freshest catches right out of the bay.

WHY: Because the Lobsters took a long trip to make it to your plate. The supply of Lobsters  are taken right from the cold waters of Maine and flown to Florida. You can say hello to a giant tank full of the crustaceans, that range in size from 1 to 6 pounds, in the Monstah Lobstah dining room.

WHO (To Take With You): Your friend visiting from out of town. You can convince any non-local that Monstah Lobstah is a Tampa legacy. Sure, it has only been in its new location in Hyde Park since mid-September, but the character and the details inside the dining room and outside on the patio, along with the friendly and helpful staff, make this new locale feel like it has been around for generations.

WHEN (To Go): When it’s all you can eat. Whether its Tuesday’s AYCE Snow Crab for $20.99 or Friday’s AYCE Fish Fridays for $9.99, you can’t go wrong when seafood this good is unlimited.

HOW: 813-837-0800; www.monstahlobstah.com; Find It on Facebook

Monstah Lobstah on Urbanspoon

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant

WHERE: 2500 West Azeele

WHAT: One of the few places where you can order multiple plates from the menu without fear of overindulgent judgment or guilt. Ceviche serves over 100 different tapas dishes – small plates of Spanish cuisine similar to appetizers – so it’s perfectly acceptable to be excessive in ordering from their menu filled with different variation of tapas made from chicken, eggplant, potatoes, mussels, shrimp, fish, clams, mushrooms, anchovies, asparagus and every other delicious ingredient in existence.

WHEN (To Go): Tuesdays. Get a whole lot of bang for 4 bucks every Tuesday as Ceviche hosts Tapas Tuesday. Over 30 different tapas are specially priced at $4 each. It gets even better – glasses of Sangria, which come in red and white, are also priced at $4.

WHO (To Take With You): Your friend that can’t make decisions. Ceviche is the place where if you can’t decide on what to order, you get both. Tapas takes the pressure out of ordering because you can order two or three plates. It’s safe to try something new and you never have to settle for one or the other.

WHY: Because it’s a great place to gather. Tapas is meant to be shared, so invite your friends, fill your table to the brim with plates of delicious tapas, eat, drink and be merry.

HOW: 813-250-0202, http://www.ceviche.com/, Find it on Facebook

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon