Just moved down from New York City and am grateful to all you Tampa Bay chowhounds for giving me a great head start. Still more to explore, but thought I'd share some early thoughts.
First, the ubiquitous grouper sandwich. Last weekend a couple friends and I did a taste-test between the Hurricane and Dockside Dave's and, although it's a couple dollars more expensive, the Hurricane was the clear winner. A thicker, more succulent filet, greaseless crispy batter, moist and delicate flesh. We'll be back for more. Dave's onion rings can't be beat, but we found the fish tougher and the batter (we had "batter-fried"--should we have opted for 'country-fried' instead?) heavy. We also tried it blackened--good, but still on the tough side. A question: Dockside Dave's advertises "Black Grouper" on the menu; the Hurricane (and other menus we've seen) don't seem to specify. Is there a difference in grouper types? Could this account for different fish experiences?
Places we're looking forward to trying: Mid-Peninsula Seafood and 4th st. Shrimp company. Other suggestions in this category?
Next, sushi. It was a Monday night, and it seemed that the highly recommended Koba's was closed (at least they weren't answering the phone), so we headed to Joto. I have to admit I was a bit suspicious at first of the two-pieces-per-order thing: the prices just seemed too low for good sushi--but we were very pleasantly surprised. Standouts were fantasic amberjack sashimi appetizer (a special), meltingly good yellowtail, superb amaebi (raw sweet shrimp) with bonus deep-fried shrimp heads, succulent scallops, and compelling conch (new to us). We loved that they serve traditional bite-sized pieces (small pillows of perfect vinegared rice) instead of the monsters that show up all too often on our sushi platters. Later this week tried Tokyo Bay in St. Pete. Seems to be more of a crazy-mixed-rolls kind of place, but unfortunately the rice is well below par--rough, poorly seasoned, falls apart (sushi rice shouldn't be too sticky but should hold together), and, at least in the nigiri, too much rice in proportion to fish. Good news is that the fish is nice quality. Good yellowtail, tuna, and salmon, conch again (a new favorite), scallops a bit on the strong side for my taste but pristine. Will probably return for sashimi and perhaps a "Tampa Roll" (fried grouper and mayo--better than it sounds!). Also had some wonderful baby octopus.
Skyway Jacks: this place is dangerously close to where I'm living, and I'm doing all I can not to develop an addition to their sausage gravy and biscuits. If there's any place around where they do it better, please don't tell me. That would be the end. Their patty melts also rock.
Markets: Had a chance to check out Mazarro's and Dong-An (Vietnamese market on 30th Ave. North)--both impressive. Still need to find a Japanese market (I heard there's one in Tampa--anyone know it?) and, though Dong-An has lots of Chinese stuff, would be great if there's a dedicated Chinese market around.
Chinese: help! Any suggestions? Looking for anything from a local take-out joint where you can get a decent beef-with-brocolli to a dim-sum place to seafood spot. Any advice appreciated.