By now you know that I'm a fan of the Zagat ratings, so it won't come as a big surprise when I tell you how psyched I was yesterday to read in Jeff Houck's Tampa Trib food blog that he had possession of Zagat's America's Top Restaurants 2011. It features diner ratings and reviews of over 1,500 of the top restaurants around the country, and Jeff, the Trib's food editor, was none too happy with some of the restaurant omissions in the Bay area.
The big surprise to me was that Donatello beat Armani's for a place in the top 10. We dined at Donatello a few times - over 15 years ago - and it was very good, but we haven't thought about the place since moving back. It is sort of a forgotten landmark on S. Dale Mabry. Nobody in the area ever mentions it anymore, but I bet they will now. Armani's did, however, make the list of recommended establishments.
Then, of course, there's Bern's and Mise en Place. I've dined at Bern's a few times, but again, years ago. Mise en Place was a wonderful anniversary destination a couple of years back. It's been around a long time and manages to stay innovative; I'm glad to see its name on the list. Pane Rustica, which I reviewed here, also made the top 10. Awesome! Roy's and Capital Grille, both upscale chains, round out the Tampa spots listed.
Is it fair to include the chains? I don't know. Are they among the top restaurants in Tampa? If so, then it's fair. What does it say about the food scene in Tampa when Bonefish Grill joins Armani's and SideBern's on the list of "noteworthy restaurants?" Good for the locally based OSI corporation for getting them there, but I'm shaking my head at that one. Where is the creativity? Bang Bang Shrimp is the same here as it is anywhere else. Is this list representative of the best we have to offer? I think not.
See Jeff's blog, The Stew, for the complete list, which also includes a few Sarasota and Clearwater eateries, and for his commentary about who's missing.