For Las Vegas Cafe owner Francies Vega, cooking is about putting smiles on people's faces. So when she designed her menu, she didn't stick to just one cuisine, but instead incorporated all the dishes that make her happy. The result is a fusion of Cuban and Italian recipes such as chorizo spaghetti, vegetable breakfast crepes, and Cuban-style fried rice sprinkled with ham, peppers, and eggs. Vega's signature dish is the chancellor fish fillet stuffed with ham and cheese and fried until it's as crisp as the first day of autumn.
Living up to your dad's legacy can be tough when your dad was George Steinbrenner's go-to guy. Malio Iavarone often hosted "The Boss" during his tenure as the Yankees manager, serving him steaks at the original Malio's Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry. Today, Malio's son Derek works to produce similar hype at a new, swankier location in Rivergate Tower, where the one-word difference in the venue's name—"Prime" hints at the USDA Prime beef cooked within—belies the recipes’ faithful adherence to tradition.
Each steak, from the New York strip to the filet, receives a simple yet meticulously scattered dash of salt and pepper. Couples can even go all-out with a 40-oz. prime porterhouse for two, admittedly a more filling romantic dinner than catching and swallowing each other’s blown kisses. Aside from tender cuts of beef, the menu at Malio's boasts lamb and veal chops as well as lobster tails and Chilean sea bass cooked several ways, including blackened, Theresa-style, and pan-fried.
Like the patrons who like their steaks rare, Malio’s Prime Steakhouse seems enamored with the color red. Broad red columns stand between the windows overlooking the waterfront, and framed works by Joe Testa-Secca—Art Professor Emeritus at the University of Tampa—hang over the crimson semicircular booths. The reds from a list of more than 200 wines complete the motif.
The Bricks serves up a menu of unconventional comfort cuisine in a laid-back, edgy setting. Taste-bud-teasing starters such as the kinky tuna, a wasabi pea and pistachio crusted ahi, seared rare and topped with lemongrass cream ($12), segue finely into main courses such as the bird and pig sandwich, which nestles its tastily terraformed layers of roasted chicken, bacon, brie, crispy apples, and agave nectar between Hawaiian sweet bread ($8). Alternately, the amsterdam clothes a naked baguette with a delicious ensemble of crunchy organic peanut butter and melted, smoked gouda ($5). Feel free to customize your own crusts by mixing and matching breads, spreads, and toppings at the peanut butter bar ($3–$4.50).
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.
At Big City Grill Co., patrons can experience metropolitan life without journeying far from home. The eatery reconstructs American dining by presenting a menu packed with signature foods from throughout the country, like Hawaiian honey-glazed chicken and Boston fried shrimp. Additionally, the dining areas capture urban life with black-and-white cityscape murals, subway-car replicas, and tourists shuffling around the room asking each other for directions.
Texas de Brazil blends the steak-centric cuisine of Texas with the traditional churrasco method of slow-roasting meat over an open flame grill to form a luscious meaty mélange. The full dinner ($39.99) marches out a cavalcade of choice cuts, allowing diners to welcome continuous windfalls of flavorful proteins. Brandish your table's provided card, green on one side, red on the other, and it will function as a meat traffic light that summons servers to either send stacks of seasoned beef, pork, or lamb skewers or halt plate traffic like a decorated culinary crossing guard. Or feel free to substitute greens for the grill by stepping into the sprawling salad-bar conga line ($24.99), two-stepping through toothsome goodies such as imported cheeses, steamed asparagus, and dozens of other hors d'oeuvres.