Bangkok Jazz Thai Restaurant is all about unexpected pairings. Thai statues stand alongside saxophones and photos of jazz legends hanging from the walls. In the dining room, a small raised stage creates an intimate performance space in the midst of a casual dining environment, with free live jazz performances on Fridays after 6:30 p.m. And amid the quintessentially American music comes a parade of traditional Thai cuisine. Outdoor seating is available, and the restaurant is located is down the street from the University of South Florida.
Like an aromatic dance, servers nimbly carry plates piled with five kinds of curry, pad thai, and signature dishes such as Jazz Sextet: a bed of pineapple and sauteed veggies in special sweet and sour sauce. Nearby, bartenders pour wine, beer, and sake to complement the food, which the kitchen can prep at four levels of spiciness. But meals often end on a chilly note, and another memorable combination. Bangkok Jazz Thai Restaurant ice cream teams a fried banana with a generous mound of coconut ice cream, sourced from the frozen palm trees that grow in Antarctica.
Mayuri Indian Restaurant's servers dole out traditional Indian fare?including numerous vegetarian entrees?in a casual dining area with two flat-screen TVs. The menu includes regional specialties such as northern Indian paratha, or flatbread, and southern Indian dosa, or black-lentil crepes, as well as a smattering of Chinese fried-rice dishes. For large groups, chefs can tote sprawling catering spreads to on-location events or host up to 100 people at an onsite banquet hall.
During World War I, Greek immigrant Louis Pappas served in the Army as a personal chef to General John Pershing. To give the hungry general some extra nutrition, Louis began adding scoops of potato salad to his traditional greek salads. When Louis returned to the United States, he opened up his own restaurant, Louis Pappas Riverside Café, where he would re-create this signature dish using fresh produce from his own ranch in Tarpon Springs.
Today, Louis Pappas's grandson continues his grandfather's old Florida family tradition at Pappas Ranch. There, he and his kitchen serve up a new menu of fresh seafood, poultry, sandwiches, street tacos, hand-cut steaks, and barbecue dishes whose "family flair" has been lauded by Metromix Tampa Bay. They continue to scoop savory housemade potato salad into their internationally renowned Louis Pappas Famous greek salad, tossing it in massive bowls that serve as many as four diners. Bartenders dole out glasses of locally brewed craft beers and wine or mix cocktails and martinis at the full center bar with flat-screen TVs.
The restaurant's decor channels that of the original Pappas family ranch. In the dining room, spacious booths are surrounded by rustic wooden walls, and outside is a covered outdoor patio.
As a server lifts the lid off a diner's straw-woven mesob basket, waves of ginger, garlic, cardamom, nutmeg, and fiery pepper aromas waft across the table. Instead of using utensils, guests scoop simmered vegetables and stewed meats off the family-style platter with spongy pieces of homemade injera bread. While this ritual remains the same for all Ethiopian meals, diners can customize the experience by ordering mildly spiced servings or tongue-scorching entrees, which teach disobedient taste buds a lesson they won't soon forget. In addition to orders of free-range chicken, lamb, and beef, the chefs can whip up vegan- and vegetarian-friendly dishes by simmering lentils or root vegetables in the region's signature spice blends.
Sunlight streams through the dining room's gauzy white curtains and illuminates the orange, plaster-textured walls. Occasionally, the restaurant hosts live reggae performances, and its gift shop helps visitors replace their pantries' stock of expired powdered astronaut meals with Ethiopian spices and coffees.
Owners Spencer and Sabrina Aird parlay a passion for nourishing vegan fare into Grass Root Organic Restaurant, which CBS Tampa named one of the best veg restaurants in the city. Carmine walls envelop diners in the cozy café space, creating a soothing atmosphere punctuated with vivid abstract paintings hung along the wall. While settled into high-backed wooden chairs, each topped with a lattice design, diners dig into a menu that features cooked vegan dishes as well as raw dishes. Raw vegan pad thai, guacamole, and spinach and basil pesto, among others, star on the restaurant's roster.
The Airds also run a customizable meal delivery system that sends clients fresh meals from a rotating weekly menu several times a week. Sabrina teaches occasional classes on how to replicate her culinary expertise and mimic items on Grass Root's menu by sitting very still on an oversized plate.
Mike Diogostine left his high-school job serving hot dogs at Frankies to attend the University of Tampa. While he went after his academic pursuits, he also pursued the same mouthwatering taste of foot-long hot dogs he'd left behind in his hometown of Connecticut—but nothing compared to Frankies. After college, Mike, along with his brother Joe and his roommate Tyson, opened up his own Frankies to ensure that other coeds wouldn’t suffer the same lack of delicious hot dogs that he did.
In the kitchen at Frankies, the cooks top foot-long franks with chili, nacho cheese, bacon, or Chicago-style accoutrements—tomatoes, pickles, celery salt, and peppers. Other handholds include half-pound burgers, fried shrimp po' boys, and chicken-parmesan grinders. On Tuesday evenings, diners can juggle mini corn dogs with wings slathered in housemade garlic butter sauce while they answer questions during in-house trivia tournaments.