Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

St. Pete rocks it in Creative Loafing’s 2015 Best of the Bay

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St. Pete fared pretty well in Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay. In perhaps her biggest honor, the Sunshine City was tapped by “reader’s choice” for the best city, beating out Tampa.

“Just learned we won Best City (of course!). Best city, best people. Thank you, St. Pete,” Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote on his Facebook page.

But it was St. Pete’s eclectic food and booze scene that really stood out. Though Tampa is well on its way with incredible spots like Fodder & Shine, Ulele, Roux and so, so many others, St. Pete is still booming with its robust array of densely packed restaurants, bars, breweries and gastropubs.

The Mill in St. Pete, with its overall-clad bartenders, serves up a host of mouthwatering appetizers and entrees ranging from scallops and curried cauliflower mash (a huge win for those of us on low-carb diets) to seared foie gras and frog’s legs with chili brown butter, Chef Ted Dorsey walked away with the top chef award.

And the new(ish) Locale Market in Sundial earned an award for best dining adventure. The high-end market offers more than just upscale grocery shopping. Visitors can eat at a gourmet deli or grab a craft beer or fine wine from an upstairs bar.

Sister restaurants Engine No. 9 and Engine Rose nabbed a handful of honors including “best carnival food not at a carnival” for Engine Rose’s funnel cake fries and “best thing to happen to an airstream. Engine No. 9 won “best fried pickles” and the reader’s choice best burger.

Sea Salt in Sundial, a fine dining seafood spot first opened in Naples, was awarded for its best fried oysters.

Vegetarians and Vegans are well-suited in St. Pete with awards going to The Cider Press Café for best new vegan restaurant and Bodega for “best veggie Cuban with actual, you know, protein.” Bodega also walked away with the reader’s choice best Cuban sandwich.

Trip’s Diner just on the outskirts of downtown won the award for best white cheddar grits, a well-deserved honor. Though, the breakfast hotspot should have probably also been awarded for its oh-so-amazing thick-cut bacon.

St. Pete is home to a number of indy coffee shops like Creative Soul and Kahwa, but Central Perks Café walked away with the “best St. Pete perk me up” award.

Pom Pom’s on Central Avenue where local elected officials and high-ranking city officials are often spotted on lunch break won best “whoa, look at that” for its Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of the restroom. The spot is a must eat for its mouthwatering sandwiches (think Thanksgiving on a bun here) and daily tea specials.

Despite having three professional sports teams calling Tampa Bay home, the St. Pete-based Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up the Best of the Bay best spectator sport. And the SHINE Mural festival that ushered in 14 new (and quite breathtaking) wall murals in and around downtown won best new festival.

St. Pete’s own City Council member beat out numerous local elected officials across the bay and at home for best local politician.

For the St. Pete hipsters, punks and otherwise folks with eclectic style out there, Star Booty salon (where this reporter gets her locks maintained) earned “best place to primp your freak flag.”

St. Pete also walked away with some more interesting awards. St. Pete’s number six ranking from Glenn Beck as one of the nation’s most doomed Godless cities earned the Sunshine City the “best indicator of St. Pete’s rising collective intelligence” award.

Coming in as a win for St. Pete residents excited to see the dawn of a new Pier and a source of consternation for those who had hoped to preserve the inverted pyramid, St. Pete also nabbed the “can’t believe this is happening” award for the St. Pete Pier demolition. Like it or not, it has been 10 years coming.

And to prove yet another reason to love living in St. Pete, we’re just minutes away from St. Pete Beach’s place for the best 360-degree rooftop view at the newly opened Hotel Zamora.

Readers had a chance to rank dozens of categories in an online poll. To name just a few, awards went to Stone Soup Company for best bargain, best sandwiches and best soup, La V for best Pho and Cassis for best outdoor dining.

Some of the awards weren’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows for St. Pete, though. The city walked away with the award for “best shittiest neighbor ever” for dumping more than 15 million gallons of raw sewage into Clam Bayou, shutting down Gulfport Beach.

And Clam Bayou itself won “best place to dump a body.” Though, given the city’s stormwater woes from putting its sewage in the bayou, it may be more appropriately named best place to dump your poo.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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