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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Author Kristen Hare on things to eat in Tampa Bay before you die

Kristin Hare holds a copy of her book, 100 Things To Do In Tampa Bay Before You Die

Says Kristin Hare: “What I’m always looking for is a mix of fantastic food and a really great experience.”

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When journalist Kristen Hare moved with her family from Missouri to Florida in 2012, she adopted a motto for herself: “Don’t let the tourists have all the fun.”

That meant exploring her new home, visiting parks and beaches, cigar factories and festivals—and of course eating a lot. The result was 100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay Before You Die, now in its third edition. The book serves as a bucket list of sorts; there’s even a bucket on the cover.

“Our time is limited, and we should do and see all of the things we can,” Kristen says.

Dalia Colón, recently visited Kristen at her home in Lithia to discuss the book’s food-related recommendations.

“What I’m always looking for is a mix of fantastic food and a really great experience,” Kristen says.

Whether you live in Tampa Bay or find yourself passing through, check out Kristen’s picks.

Brocato’s Sandwich Shop: “It’s so rich—this rich bunch of devil crab. It’s so delicious. … It’s one of those places where the history is all over the walls, and the food is as great as the atmosphere.”

The Chattaway: “Their hamburgers are some of my favorite in the area. The atmosphere of being in this place that has been around for so long and is very Florida on the outside and a proper British tea room on the inside is just charming.”

The Citrus Place: “You can go there and key fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh key lime pie, jellies, jams, all kinds of delicious things that you’re not going to get probably at your local grocery store.”

Datz: “They have the world’s best grilled cheese. … Very indulgent food.”

Jerk Hut: “This is fantastic Jamaican food.”

Keel & Curley Winery: “Have a glass of wine and a local beer and some appetizers. That’s a favorite thing to do.”

The Library: “This delightful and very unexpected restaurant [on] the first floor of Johns Hopkins [All Children’s Hospital] in St. Pete. … It is not a hospital restaurant. It is a really gorgeous place. It’s very photogenic, and the food is really fantastic.”

Parkesdale Market: “My personal favorite thing to get there is the strawberry shake. You can get it year round. It’s always good. Also, they have the most amazing plants for sale there.”

Seahorse Restaurant: “This is this institution in Pass-A-Grille. People go there for breakfast. They actually line up around the block.”

Wat Tampa: “There is a gorgeous Thai Buddhist temple on the Palm River, and every Sunday, they have a market. You need to take cash. … You can go and have really authentic Thai food with this one-of-a-kind background. There’s a gold-roofed Buddhist temple behind you, and the Palm River. You’ll eat on some picnic benches, and it’s just a one-of-a-kind experience. … It reflects how amazingly diverse Tampa Bay is.”

West Tampa Sandwich Shop: “I had the best Cuban sandwich of my life. … This one is the one that President Obama had when he came to visit, and they put honey on it. I’m a big sweet and salty person. … I ate half of it, and the other half did not make it home.”

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