Welcome to The Short List. Each week we'll pick a topic and share our favorite — or, in some cases, maybe our least favorite — things about the Bay area.
With about 50,000 people expected to descend on Tampa for the Republican National Convention at the end of August, you may have someone ask, "What's the one restaurant I need to visit?" Of course, plenty of smaller eateries offer local cuisine, but this list is geared more toward high-end dining experiences. (Check with restaurants for availability.) Here are our top five:
Columbia Restaurant, multiple locations — Tampa's oldest restaurant is also the most traditional. Open in 1905, The Columbia features authentic Spanish cuisine, plenty of sangria options and flamenco dancers. The 1905 salad is a must. The Columbia now has seven locations statewide, including its original home on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
Bern's, 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa — Tampa's signature steakhouse features hand-cut steaks and a wine cellar too vast to imagine. Visit the dessert room upstairs for a decadent dessert or end your meal with a tour of the wine cellar and kitchen. Its "companion" venue, SideBern's, is less pricey, but its new-age cuisine is just as appealing.
The Refinery, 5137 N. Florida Ave., Tampa — Greg Baker, a James Beard Award semifinalist, and his wife, Michelle, don't concern themselves with fussy décor, but it's no matter when the food is this good. The eclectic menu changes often, so be ready for some pleasant surprises. Diners rave about their craft beer selection and the eatery touts their inexpensive wine list.
Armani's, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa — Overlooking Old Tampa Bay and Tampa International Airport, Armani's offers twin views of sunset and takeoff, plus crack professional waiters and fancy linens. Don't want to spend a lot? The antipasto bar is a meal in itself, paired with a nice glass of wine.
Mise en Place, 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa — A haven for modern American cuisine, the downtown business community can grab a nice lunch, and visit later for dinner specials. Quiet but comfortable, it's an ideal place to celebrate an anniversary. The restaurant celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.