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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. Local mixologists tackle Drambuie, a whiskey with ties to Bonnie Prince Charlie and Prohibition

    Bars & Spirits


    In July 1746, John MacKinnon helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. In thanks, the prince gave MacKinnon the secret recipe to his personal liqueur, a recipe that many years later would come to be known as Drambuie. An aged Scottish malt whiskey blended with heather honey and herbs — anise? nutmeg? saffron? It remains a secret — Drambuie had become a popular mixer by the end of Prohibition, the anchor to the famous Rusty Nail and a way to make cheap hooch more palatable....

    Ryan O’Neill’s winning cocktail, the Out of the Skye, contained Drambuie, Monkey Shoulder scotch, a cranberry ginger syrup, meyer lemon juice, Angostura bitters, egg white and an oloroso sherry rinse.
  2. No Thanksgiving plan? Head to one of these Tampa Bay restaurants for traditional feasts and more

    Food & Dining

    You realize Thanksgiving is just a week away, right? No pressure. If you don't have a holiday game plan for Nov. 23, let's do this thing. There are still a bunch of options, many traditional Thanksgiving repasts and some a little less conventional. Call ASAP for reservations, but here are some that as of this printing have availability.

    All five Columbia Restaurants in Florida are open for Thanksgiving: Ybor City, St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach and Celebration. The Gonzmart family spins it a little differently, with roast turkey and stuffing great-grandma-style (Italian sausage, ground beef, chopped chicken livers, apples, water chestnuts and raisins), with traditional sides like sauteed carrots and string beans, sweet potato pecan casserole, whipped potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and giblet gravy — all for $21.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. But then in a when-in-Rome move, you can add in a 1905 salad or a cup of Spanish bean, black bean soup or gazpacho ($2.95). Dessert choices include pumpkin pie, key lime pie, pumpkin flan or flan, and the complete dinner menu is available all day if you want to shun turkey altogether. Visit for reservations; walk-ins are accepted....

    Pelagia at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, as it does every year, offers a prix-fixe menu that is a selection of Thanksgiving favorites and less traditional temptations, all the handiwork of executive chef Brett Gardiner.
  3. Oak & Stone with self-serve beer coming to St. Pete, South Tampa's Byblos to reopen

    Food & Dining


    Been to Oak & Stone in Sarasota? In early 2018 we'll get one in St. Petersburg at 199 Central Ave., next to the newly constructed Hyatt Place. The concept is wood-fired pizzas mated with a self-serve beer wall highlighting craft beers (mostly locals like 3 Daughters, Cycle and Green Bench as well as other regional brews). The beer wall will be the largest in the region with more than 60 rotating selections. The owners, Joe Seidensticker and Brett Decklever, long-time friends, chose St. Pete for its great reputation as a craft beer and food destination, as well as its blossoming downtown....

    A customer walks to the entrance of PDQ on Dale Mabry Highway Thursday, Jan 19, 2012 in Tampa. The restaurant opened in October of 2011 and the business partners are looking to expand to several locations in the Tampa Bay area. CHRIS URSO/STAFF
  4. A St. Petersburg artist created the labels for this year's Beaujolais Nouveau wine release

    Food & Dining

    Every year, there are bad things we can count on: taxes and death. And good things: Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November and on the Thursday before, the Beaujolais nouveau arrives. What is less predictable is just how this vin de l'annee ("this year's wine") stacks up.

    Every now and then the young gamay from the Beaujolais region of France knocks the wine world's socks off with good structure, fresh acidity and lush, ripe fruit, all snark of cherry Pez or fake banana Circus Peanuts temporarily silenced. But there is one thing that is a guarantee every year: Beaujolais nouveau labels are some of the prettiest around....

    Georges Duboeuf hires a new artist to design labels every year, and in 2017 that artist is St. Petersburg mixed media artist Ari Azzopardi Robinson. Azzopardi Robinson?  s work, ?  Candy Coated,?   was selected from hundreds of submissions in a social media contest this spring.
  5. Restaurant review: NuMex needs to tell its story better to stand out among St. Petersburg's taco scene

    Food & Dining


    I seldom have been so perplexed about a new restaurant. The prospect of NuMex's opening in the Grand Central District swirled more than a year ago and I watched the hip little building come together. The spelling of the name itself was confusing: Was this the food of New Mexico, or more nuevo Mexican? Turns out neither precisely.

    It's a restaurant in homage to the subspecies of Anaheim chile pepper seeds first bred at New Mexico State University, the ones that are used for chile rellenos and other deliciousness. Hmm, this seemed like good news, because NuMex was gunning for a spot smack dab in Taco Alley: Casita Taqueria, Nitally's, the very recently departed Taco Bus, Red Mesa Mercado, even Punky's does Taco Tuesday....

    The restaurant only has about 20 seats inside and a similar number on the sidewalk in front.
  6. Proper in downtown St. Pete to close as Park & Rec takes over its space

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Next week, something almost unprecedented is happening in St. Petersburg's restaurant scene.

    Park & Rec, the game-oriented concept from Stephen Schrutt's Hunger + Thirst Restaurant Group, will expand Nov. 17 into a second building. It will take over the space that has been Proper Kitchen & Cocktails, which sits next to Schrutt's original concept, the Avenue. Two side-by-side spaces, one concept....

    Park & Rec is expanding into the Proper Kitchen & Cocktails space on First Avenue S in St. Petersburg.
  7. Help name Big Storm's new toffee chocolate stout, made with William Dean

    Taste Test

    Collaborations between brewers are not new. Nor are collaborations between brewers and distillers. Or beer brewers and coffee brewers. It makes sense: Use a barrel for one thing, then it in turn imparts interesting flavors to the next thing that's aged in it. Sometimes the same barrel has been known to go back and forth — a spirit infusing a beer, and then vice versa. But here's something that seems all new....

    Big Storm Brewing in Clearwater approached Bill Brown, the owner and chief chocolatier at the justly famous William Dean Chocolates in Belleair Bluffs. What if the two companies teamed up to make a chocolate-inflected specialty beer? Bill Brown, not a huge beer drinker, was intrigued. And then, he thought, what if I produce chocolates that are infused with Big Storm Brewing beers?
  8. Calling food fans: This weekend has food festivals in Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach and more

    Food & Dining

    Let's hope you've been in an abstemious mode, maybe even fasting this past week, because things are about to get real for Tampa Bay foodies.


    One of the biggest events this weekend is the Tampa Greek Festival at St. John Greek Orthodox Church and School in Tampa. It's the festival's 37th year celebrating Greek heritage and culture with Mediterranean cuisine, church tours, a play zone, full bar, shopping and Greek dancing. $2, 11 and younger free, and free Friday until 4 p.m. Benefits LifePath Hospice. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, until 6 p.m. Sunday. 2418 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 876-8830.

    Pinellas Chocolate makes a variety of flavored chocolate, including salted lime, cinnamon, orange and dated pepper.
  9. Don't want to cook on Thanksgiving? Where to pick up every part of the meal in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    Some years you're feeling it. The peeling of the pearl onions, the procuring of the chestnuts, that one creepy moment when you're nearly elbow-deep trying to locate the bag of giblets. Thanksgiving is the most important cooking holiday of the year, the one that has you scribbling a week's worth of to-do lists, the one for which you need to allocate fridge space and oven time.

    Unless you don't....

    You can order a turkey for Thanksgiving at many places in Tampa Bay.
  10. Naples is a dining destination worth visiting, rich with newcomers and long-standing favorites

    Food & Dining


    Naples Restaurant Week is a semiannual promotion celebrating the region's best dining at an affordable price, with lunch and dinner prix fixe meals available for either $25 or $35, depending on the location. This year it's slated for Nov. 30 to Dec. 13, with 60 restaurants on board. I'm a big fan of restaurant weeks — Sarasota, Orlando, New York, wherever — because it's a tidy organizing principle for a quick trip (assuming your tourism, like mine, revolves around meals), and menus are usually great deals....

     Chef Vincenzo Betulia makes a risotto at Osteria Tulia in Naples on Monday, October 30, 2017. Osteria Tulia is a part of the Campagna Hospitality Group.
  11. After multiple delays, American Social opens on Harbour Island

    Food & Dining

    It was August 2015. Jeff Vinik's highly anticipated Channelside construction was much in the news. Curtis Hixon and Tampa's Riverwalk were recent additions and all of downtown seemed rife with new promise and energy.

    Paul Greenberg, Rick Mijares and Rick's parents, Tony and Laurie Mijares, took notice, targeting Harbour Island for their third location of American Social Bar and Kitchen. And on Oct. 30, the sweeping restaurant finally opened its doors, more than a year past a target date....

    Paul Greenberg and Rick Mijares have opened American Social Bar and Kitchen at 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd., with more than 9,000 square feet of interior space and 5,000 square feet of bay-front patio dining. Harper Edgcumbe, the Dana Agency.
  12. The Rez Grill is the latest celeb-chef concept coming to the Seminole Hard Rock

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Newish Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa president Joe Lupo sat across the table from newly appointed creative culinary director Frank Anderson. In the private dining room of Rise Bakery on Tuesday, they paused before unveiling the dining concept that will "rise" in this space Dec. 14. It's one of a whole raft of sweeping changes on property that Lupo hopes will turn the hotel and casino into a dining destination in Tampa Bay....

    The 5,000-square-foot Rez Grill will be a creative collaboration between designer Lawrence Lee Associates and architect Klai Juba Wald. Modern and rustic details will be juxtaposed with design features including driftwood beams and of-the-moment mosaic tiles. Courtesy of Hard Rock.
  13. Tampa pizza restaurant Hampton Station banned kids, and some parents are not happy

    Food & Dining

    Last week, a sign went up. It caused a lot of other stuff to go down.

    Hampton Station, a neighborhood craft beer and pizza spot in Seminole Heights put the notice up on Oct. 24, on the front door in fat all-caps.


    It's a local piece of a national conversation. As American breweries and bars become increasingly welcome to families, with laid-back atmospheres, food, games and grassy knolls, should business owners be able to draw the line?...

    Hampton Station, a beer garden and pizza restaurant, came under fire recently when it banned customers from bringing in kids. The restaurant said it's a safety issue, that the busy road is no place for kids to be playing, and that a recent incident prompted the decision. But the community is angry. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
  14. Restaurant review: Bulla Gastrobar is solid, especially for brunch, but is there too much tapas competition in SoHo?

    Food & Dining


    Bulla Gastrobar, the fifth location for the Florida-based chain by Centurion Restaurant Group, opened Sept. 28 in the densely competitive South Howard corridor. Inspired by the famous gastrobars of Spain, the casual 172-seat tapas bar offers indoor and outdoor seating, and Luna Lounge, a rooftop bar, one of the area's few, will open at the end of the year.

    It has a lot going for it, its interior the top draw, with an attractive long bar, great use of sleek woods and wrought-iron screens, and an open-to-the-street feel that will be lovely as the season continues to cool. They've assembled an eclectic staff, some young and some less so, some service veterans and some less so, but the service flow in general works remarkably well for such a young restaurant....

    Bulla Gastrobar in Tampa is a casual 172-seat tapas bar that offers indoor and outdoor seating.
  15. These giant robots can pick strawberries. What does that mean for humans?


    DUETTE — It stands in the dirt-floored barn. Its 16 arms, with fierce-looking spikes at the ends, emit pneumatic hisses as they punch downward. It is 30 feet wide, 12 feet long, 14 feet tall. It's like Optimus Prime, if the Transformer became a majestic steed with tractor-tire hooves.

    The robots have arrived. And they'll be picking crops in Florida fields soon.

    Robots can do things humans can't. They can pick all through the night. They can measure weight better. They can pack boxes more efficiently. They don't take sick days, they don't have visa problems....

    Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Wish Farms in Plant City.