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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

  1. Where to pig out for National Bacon Lovers Day

    Food & Dining

    That's right: Sunday is the national day devoted to all things bacon, National Bacon Lovers Day. Which, really, isn't too different from the other 364 days of the year. But here's a little roundup of some special places to celebrate everyone's favorite meat snack (seriously, even vegans have a grudging respect for bacon's splendors).


    The bacon king and queen are Datz (2616 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 831-7000) and Dough (2602 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 902-1979). At Dough you'll find bacon-topped doughnuts and at Datz you'll encounter, oh, just about everything with a side, garnish or topper of bacon. Current obsession: the MacDaddy, a creamy bacon- and jalapeno-infused macaroni and cheese....

    The Brunch Bloody Mary, served at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, sports a skewer as long as a samurai sword impaling two doughnuts, a chicken and waffle assemblage, a hard-boiled egg and a bacon-wrapped sausage
  2. Restaurant review: Grace in Pass-a-Grille is a beachy Florida charmer with ambitious big-city food

    Food & Dining


    Sometimes we luck out. Someone who has had remarkable professional success elsewhere in the country says, "You know what, I'm tired of [Cleveland's winters, say] and I want to dig my feet in the Florida sand." They move, they retire. And then they can't stay retired.

    Lisa Masterson and Marlin Kaplan moved from Cleveland to Tierra Verde 3 ½ years ago. Kaplan, a longtime restaurateur, worked for some time with his buddy Ken Hamilton at the Palm Pavilion in Clearwater Beach. But then he got an itch. He wanted to do one more nice restaurant, his 10th, before he hung up his pots and pans....

    At the top of the cocktail list of the restaurant by the same name is Grace, which includes vodka, lemonade and a lavender-blueberry shrub.
  3. Holy guacamole: Taco Bus announces four new Tampa Bay locations

    Food & Dining

    It was the first Tampa Bay food truck to be known nationally.

    The original outpost, a school-bus-turned-restaurant in Seminole Heights, was actually called El Taconazo but known affectionately in the neighborhood as Taco Bus. It even predated longtime owner Rene Valenzuela, who bought it from Roberto and Monica Morfin in 2007. But it is Valenzuela who has expanded and expanded again, announcing on Wednesday the debut of four new locations as well as a new state-of-the-art ordering system and drive-thru options....

    Customers stand in the lunch line at Taco Bus at 2324 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg Friday, November 22, 2013. LARA CERRI  |   Times 

  4. New Ford's Garage location to open next week in Westchase

    Food & Dining

    Before it motors into downtown St. Petersburg at the site of what was the Rowdies Den, Ford's Garage opens another location next week in Westchase. The first Ford's Garage opened in 2012 in Fort Myers, and expanded to Cape Coral, Estero, Brandon and Wesley Chapel.

    The concept is a tribute to Henry Ford, the first one just minutes away from where Henry Ford frequently wintered in Fort Myers. Ford's Garage combines the look of a 1920s service station with the feel of a modern-day premium burger/craft beer emporium. Look for burgers like the Ford's Signature, Model A and the Distinguished Gentleman, all served on brioche or European pretzel buns, and Ford's lists the meat itself: a choice of USDA Black Angus beef, American Kobe beef, open-range bison, sushi-grade ahi or grilled portobello. They've also got the shock-and-awe thing going: Henry Ford's Hub Cap is a show-stopping burger that can feed a crowd, as big as a Model T wheel, with 10 pounds of beef. Oh, and 5 pounds of fries on the side....

    Ford’s Garage patrons in Brandon fill up at the burger and craft beer joint. Next up? A location in Westchase.
  5. Restaurant review: The Restorative in Dunedin is doing its own thing, exceptionally well

    Food & Dining


    The white bowl cradled at its bottom a passel of little house-made tortellini tucked in among a perfect brunoise of summer vegetables (tomato, zucchini, yellow squash), bits of fresh herbs and a few swirls of sauteed spinach ($10). A server brought over a small white pitcher and poured over it a blush-colored broth, richly tomato flavored but more like a consomme. Every flavor was lively, the vegetables' texture snappy against the plushness of the fresh pasta with its savory-umami bean puree center. Brilliant....

    Toasted focaccia bread is topped with smoked trout, salmon roe and sea beans.
  6. Happy Dough and Dough Nation are bringing the edible cookie dough craze to Tampa

    Food & Dining

    Think back to your greatest childhood memory. Mom making chocolate chip cookies, the kitchen cozy and fragrant. She hands you the beaters, you stand and lick them clean. Ignore the part where somebody admonishes you both about the risks of eating raw egg.

    Fast forward to college when cookie dough ice cream became your solace by the pint. No judgment, just a gold mine of cookie clods.

    Cookie dough is back. In New York City's Greenwich Village, there are lines down the block at Do, shades of Dominique Ansel's cronuts. Online, there are the Cookie Dough Cafe, Edoughble and Unbaked: A Cookie Dough Bar....

    Do is one of the hottest New York City dessert shops, serving up raw cookie dough like ice cream along with other sweet treats. Tampa is getting two cookie dough shops soon. (Photo by SARA DiNATALE | TIMES)
  7. Inside the Box Cafe to open a new Tampa location in Times building


    The ground-floor retail space of the Tampa Bay Times building in downtown Tampa has been leased by Inside the Box Cafe & Catering, the company has announced.

    Expected to open mid-September, this location in the newly renovated lobby at 1000 N Ashley Drive will be the third Inside the Box outpost in the Tampa market. The Tampa-based restaurant has existing locations in Westshore Center and Tampa International Airport (the original N. Tampa St. location has closed)....

    A Cuban sandwich is displayed at Inside The Box in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, January 12, 2017. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  8. New restaurants: Bento Asian Kitchen comes to St. Pete, FlameStone opens second location

    Food & Dining




    Orlando-based Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi, a quick-casual pan-Asian restaurant with nine locations throughout Florida, is poised to introduce its concept to downtown St. Petersburg. The location is set to open any day at 330 Third St. S in the AER apartment building near the University of South Florida St. Petersburg....

    Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi is an Orlando-based quick-service restaurant serving pan-Asian cuisine. Its menu includes sushi, rice and noodle bowls, bento boxes, and teas. Founded in 2002, Bento has plans of continued growth with several locations across Florida, and a team of over 400 individuals.
  9. A boiled peanuts restaurant called Tasty Nutz just opened in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    Boiled peanut fans, listen up.

    "Food engineer" Albion Williams Jr.'s Tasty Nutz Peanuts were initially created in 2011 and sold the traditional way — at a roadside peanut stand. Following the enthusiastic reception of his product, Williams decided it was time to expand his endeavors.

    In 2012, Williams created a vacuum-sealed, flavorful product that is cooked, packed and shipped fresh the day of ordering....

    Boiled Peanuts
  10. Dr. BBQ and HSN: A match made in meat heaven?


    ST. PETERSBURG — Squinting, the lead food stylist peered upward. Silent thumbs up: All clear.

    Ray Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ, had passed the nostril check. Ten seconds later, a host swooped onto the set, and Lampe's first ever HSN segment was underway.

    "I am joined by the man they call Dr. BBQ," Alyce Caron intoned, flipping her short, dark hair behind one ear. And on Sunday morning at 10 a.m., she and Lampe began as a team to sell Lampelicious pulled pork and spicy Texas sausages....

    A cooking pot containing Ray Lampe's Lampelicious pulled pork is seen on set at HSN's on Sunday, July 30, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ,  debuted on HSN with Lampelicious, a line of sausages, burgers and pulled pork the same day. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  11. Restaurant review: GrillSmith's reimagined menu and refined look give it a more modern vibe

    Food & Dining

    CARROLLWOOD — At its acme, GrillSmith had six outposts, now only four: Clearwater (the first location in 2004), Lakeland, New Tampa and Carrollwood. With a tagline "craft by fire," it has held its own among grill-centric contemporary American restaurants like Stonewood Grill, FlameStone Grill and bigger guns like Outback. The concept has just undergone a renovation, logo update and rebranding, a prime opportunity to see how GrillSmith is faring in this competitive sector of the market....

    The Roasted Beet Faro Salad is on the menu at Grillsmith located on 14303 N Dale Mabry Hwy in Tampa on Thursday, July 27, 2017.
  12. Knives 101: How to choose and maintain the right knives for your home kitchen


    One of my editors, soon to be married, asked me about knives for her registry. I responded with one text, then another. Soon, a novel in texts:

    "Don't buy the set in the knife block (seriously, slide a slightly wet knife down in that slot and it's a haven for gross bacteria and your knives may rust)."

    "Don't reflexively go for Zwilling J.A. Henckels or Sabatier just because you recognize the names. There are plenty of good brands out there." ...

    Wooden drawer inserts prevent knife damage and keep fingers away from blades. Wall-mounted magnetic strips are also a good choice.   [Photo by CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  13. A new app will help you find your favorite Tampa Bay food trucks

    Food & Dining

    What's new: Food tech

    Local food businesses are embracing new technologies and partnerships to bring us extra deliciousness.

    Michael Blasco of Tampa Bay Food Trucks says that everyone always asks if there is an app to help find their favorite food trucks. And now there is, available for iPhones and Androids.

    "The hardest thing is to get the truck owners to do all the paperwork," Blasco says. "This app is designed to scrape our schedule, so the issue of people going to a location where a food truck was supposed to be, but isn't, is no longer a thing."...

    Michael Blasco of Tampa Bay Food Trucks says that everyone always asked about an app to help find their favorite food trucks. There is, available for iPhones and Droids.
  14. Restaurant review: Food and beer pair nicely at the Eatery at Brew Bus Terminal and Brewery

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA - Tampa Bay's craft beer scene is perennially in flux. New breweries open, others close or get scooped up by bigger breweries, some reinvent themselves so they can sell beer off site, and still others build on kitchens and add food to give enthusiasts another reason to sit tight.

    The Brew Bus Terminal and Brewery has an interesting story. Anthony Derby was raised in Carrollwood, went to University of Colorado in Boulder and came back on vacations to work at Cigar City, where his mother, Toni, was president. Revved up about the growing beer scene in the area, he bought his first bus when he graduated in 2012 and conducted brewery tours based out of Cigar City. In 2014, he started doing contract brewing from Cigar City's facility, and he got up to four buses. These days, Brew Bus has six buses with tours spread across six cities....

    Patrons enjoy drinks at the bar at the Eatery at Brew Bus Terminal and Brewery in Tampa.
  15. Tampa Bay chefs go head to head and Disney Springs gets another James Beard winner

    Food & Dining

    Epic Chef Showdown: Feeding Tampa Bay

    The Epicurean Hotel is in the middle of its third Epic Chef Showdown to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay. It's a seven-week competition pitting eight of the Tampa Bay area's top restaurants against one another in a friendly cooking competition judged by a panel of local celebrities. Each week, two competing chefs receive a mystery box of ingredients not commonly prepared together, and will be challenged to create two unique dishes under the pressure of the clock. When time is up, each dish will be judged and one restaurant will be eliminated, with the winner moving on to the next round. Remaining competition dates are Monday and July 31 (qualifying rounds), Aug. 7 and 14 (semi-finals) and Aug. 21 (finale)....

    Disney Springs will jettison Portobello Country Italian Trattoria and in its place Terralina Crafted Italian will debut this fall