If I could dine at just one place in the area, this would easily be it. And if you know the revered beef mecca, Bern's Steak House (that admittedly looks like a bordello), you'll be shocked to see its sleek, trendy younger sister next door. Bern's is tradition; SideBern's is adventure. Forget meat and potatoes and plunge into a complex menu. We loved the dim sum appetizer: five stacked steamer baskets of Pacific Rim Caesar salad (with chiles and cashews); tempura-battered tuna and salmon with lemon-tamari dipping sauce; tender curried veal dumplings; and more. Other menu options dive into many areas of the globe, so order boldly. Desserts excite as much at SideBern's as at Bern's, because the restaurants share a pastry chef. 2208 West Morrison Avenue; (813) 258-2233. Entrées: $14-$30.
There's not a more magical spot than this cozy dining room with a red rose on each table and the Gulf practically lapping at the front windows. Toast sunset, then empty the bank account on indulgent fare and service. Beach Bistro takes its food seriously but laces its menu with humor. It offers rack of lamb with port-rosemary demi-glace, adding that "the taste tells you the lamb has not been frozen and transported across a major ocean in the bottom of a ship." Though side dishes lacked finesse, the lamb indeed pleased. 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Annamarie Island; (941) 778-6444. Entrées: $20-$47.
This article is from the June 2001 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.