At Splash! An Ocean Grill, sounds of satisfaction emanate from guests nibbling on seared lobster, fish, or steak just like the sounds of the sea lapping the shore. A bar, located in the middle of the dining room, glows blue as soft lights evoke an under-the-waves mood and guests sip on a sweet cocktail or full-bodied wine while checking out the wall-mounted photographs. It's these details that inspired the Tampa Tribune to exclaim, "…Seafood done so well," Tampa Bay Illustrated to say, "Splash! shines like a spinning lure," and a mermaid off the bay to lament, "Why can't I grow legs?"
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas?its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries?Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
Rand Packer grew up in Southern California, but his love of food and surfing frequently drew him to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he explored the region’s culinary landscape by stopping at street vendors and tucked-away restaurants. The uniqueness of Oaxacan ingredients, combined with a decade of experience cooking in Hawaii under famed chef Roy Yamaguchi, eventually inspired him to open Mekenita Mexican Grille. There, Rand surprises diners with unexpected creations that fuse Mexican and Hawaiian influences, such as pineapple-plantain nachos with passion-fruit sour cream or wood-smoked pork burritos with pineapple-papaya salsa. Patrons can also customize their meals by taking a lap around the fresh-salsa bar or monogramming their plates.
At Thai Sweet Basil, chefs shun frozen produce and MSG, instead championing fresh, all-natural ingredients for their menu of traditional Thai cuisine. They simmer five varieties of curries, serving them with fragrant mounds of jasmine rice, and fry up classic noodle dishes, such as pad thai and sweet-basil fried rice. They also plate delicacies such as soft-shell crab with green curry and snapper marinated in tamarind. All the recipes and cooking techniques that they use were developed over the centuries in the Thai royal palace. Servers weave between sunny walls and maroon booths bordering a dining room speckled with emerald fronds, exotic artwork, and linens as white and untarnished as a snowman's criminal record.
Britans Yogurt Mill tempts sweet teeth with troves of trans-Atlantic treats and healthy, probiotic substitutes with a regularly-rotating cast of flavors. Britans' stash of Only 8 frozen yogurt, free of fats, sugars, cholesterol, and lava, packs 48 calories per small serving ($2.50) and 64 calories per medium cup ($3.25), letting sweet-seekers indulge without sabotaging waistlines. Churn spoons over gobs of Working Cow Ice Cream ($2.65–$3.95), Florida's own boutique dairy blend brimming with fruit, chocolate, and nuts; or expand horizons with Britans' import selection of candy ($1.25–$5.25) and biscuits from England and South Africa.
"In street food, one can find the true spirit and culture of the local people." With this one statement on its website, the Flight Restaurant & Lounge team sums up the impetus for its entire restaurant. At the modern eatery, visitors can celebrate a cross-section of global flavors and culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations by both written recipes and subliminal messaging in top-40 songs. The menu spotlights dishes from around the world, including Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Pakistan—each crafted with authentic ingredients such as fried plantains and pickled okra.
The perfume of warming spices permeates the vibrant lounge, which often hosts live music and displays the works of local artists in a gallery section. The gallery, illuminated by overhead spotlights arranged in the shape of an airplane, donates 100% of its proceeds to the artists and charities including Instruments 4 Life, Global Community Outreach, and Advocates for World Health.