The Best Local Restaurants in West Coast Florida

Florida is more than just beautiful beaches and sunny year-round weather; they have delicious local fare, too. I ate my way through West Coast Florida —check out my top 10 picks.

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Osteria Bar & Kitchen: Tampa

Located in the heart of downtown Tampa, Osteria Bar & Kitchen serves Italian food with a sophisticated approach. Chef Fabio Viviani (Top Chef Season Five fan favorite) features an exceptional menu of homemade pastas (including the squid ink pasta pictured here), slow-cooked meats, seafood, pizza and a collection of wine and cocktails that you can sip in their hip, late-night bar.

Bern's Steak House: Tampa

You can't go to Tampa without visiting the famous Bern's Steak House. Although a steak house may sound expensive, it's quite a good deal because every entree comes with French onion soup au gratin, a baked potato, vegetable of the night, salad and onion strings. Aside from the array of steaks to choose from, they have fresh seafood, the largest wine collection in the world (take a tour of the wine cellar and kitchen while you're there) and an internationally famous dessert room where you can enjoy a huge selection of sweets from inside an intimate cubby that resembles a wine barrel. It's no wonder it's been around since 1956 — it's one of the most unique culinary experiences in the country.

Lolita's Wine Market: St. Pete

Calling all charcuterie board lovers. Lolita's Wine Market has a build-your-own charcuterie board menu where you can put a checkmark by the exact items you want to build your perfect board. And, it wouldn't be a wine market without wine. Sample a variety of wines, and you can even ask your knowledgable server which wines pair well with your charcuterie of choice. Aside from delicious cheeses, you can indulge in interesting desserts in jars like the ricotta infused with lavender and honey.

Armature Works: Tampa

What was once the storage and maintenance facility for Tampa's Electric's streetcars in 1910 is now the food hub in Tampa's historic waterfront neighborhood, Tampa Heights. Armature Works, a public market filled with local fare, co-shared workspaces and event spaces, attracts locals and tourists alike. You'll find something for every palate in the 22,000 square foot building, from refreshing açai bowls to satisfying burgers. Think of it as an indoor food truck park. While there, you may even be able to catch a "Show + Tell" workshop that hosts cooking classes, wine tastings and pop-up dinners.

Ulele: Tampa

For local Floridian fare, trek on over to Ulele on Tampa's Riverwalk. The menu ingredients are a fusion of Florida waters and land once home to Native Americans including Ulele, a young princess. The food is just as visually appealing as it is delicious. Save room for dessert because you can't miss their house-made toasted coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell.

Goody Goody Burgers : Tampa

Goody Goody Burgers was a Tampa tradition from 1925 to 2005, and is one of the restaurants known for helping create Tampa's identity. Richard Gonzmart of Columbia Restaurant Group revived it to its former glory, recreating the same flavors and style as back in the day. Enjoy their burger patties morning, day and night any way you like it while dining in a casual diner atmosphere in Tampa's historic district, Ybor City. I highly recommend getting your patty with the Cuban toast they get from La Segunda Bakery right down the road.

Bodega on Central: St. Pete

Bodega is dedicated to serving the freshest ingredients. You'd probably pass right by its unassuming storefront in St. Pete's EDGE district if it weren't for the swarms of hungry visitors. It's one of the first restaurants in St. Pete to serve Latin food and most definitely a favorite. Wash down one of the delicious sandwiches with a freshly-squeezed juice or smoothie.

Il Ritorno: St. Pete

Il Ritorno is Italian for "The Return," which marks the homecoming of owner and executive chef David Benstock. Chef David adds elegance to traditionally rustic cuisine. Every ingredient is high quality, making the dishes tasty yet unfussy. The five-course meal is well worth the price.

Oxford Exchange: Tampa

Visiting Oxford Exchange is more of an experience than just eating at a restaurant. It's also a bookstore, design studio, coworking space and event venue. It's a great little spot to enjoy a fresh, seasonal breakfast, brunch or lunch or afternoon tea (with plenty of loose-leaf options, too) in an elegant setting with rich colors and luxe textures and art.

Katch Twenty-Two: Lecanto/Crystal River

Katch Twenty-Two combines Chef Richard's love for water and creative, delicious food. Located in Florida's Gulf Coast, the menu features locally-sourced seafood, fresh veggies and craft beer and wine. This quaint restaurant is the perfect way to unwind and enjoy a quality meal after a day of swimming with the manatees in nearby Crystal River.

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