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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. Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

    Food & Dining


    A Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a second location in South Tampa in early summer.

    The 3,000-square-foot bakery and cafe at the redeveloped 4001 W Kennedy Blvd. shopping plaza will offer seating for the first time, both indoors and outdoors, a barista coffee bar, to-go window and parking. ...

  2. Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and that's good

    Food & Dining


    Seldom have I paid such close attention to a restaurant closure, remodeling and reopening. Byblos Cafe began a major renovation last year, keeping the restaurant open as long as possible during the summer with some nifty temporary walls to shield diners from the mess. After Hurricane Irma they closed to do the heavy lifting, reopening early in December.

    It wasn't that I was a hyper-diligent journalist, shoe-leathering the heck out of my beat. It was that Byblos was on my morning running route. It was like a very sweaty time-lapse clip: I watched the outdoor fountain go in, wondered about the new Stonehenge-like pillars out front (they shield patio diners from noise on MacDill Avenue), saw the space shift from one of Tampa's most long-standing Middle Eastern "ethnic restaurants" to something that seemed altogether modern and in many ways more mainstream. ...

  3. Top Chef's Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

    Food & Dining

    The Tampa Bay restaurant scene has hit a certain kind of critical mass. For several years, rumors have swirled that the nation's celebrity chefs were considering this part of the Florida peninsula as "the next big thing," a place to colonize and set up shop.

    Now, we've learned that Fabio Viviani, best known for his television debut on Bravo's hit reality series Top Chef — earning the season five "Fan Favorite" title — will open Osteria in downtown Tampa this spring. To be located in the bottom floor of the new luxury high-rise Nine15, Osteria is a joint project between Viviani and the Nocturnal Group, the group behind Tampa's Franklin Manor....

  4. Tijuana Flats now sells a 'take-home burrito meal kit' and Rattle N Hum offers BOGO shots

    Food & Dining


    For the second year, Patrick Green is putting on the St. Pete Beer and Bacon Festival at Vinoy Park from 1 to 6 p.m. Jan. 20. Last year more than 5,000 people showed up to celebrate both B's. Why this particular dynamic duo?

    "Beer and bacon — both ingredients are so versatile, really. There's even bacon-flavored beer. Bacon can be in desserts and can be put in anything. Who doesn't love it," Green asks. "And the craft beer movement has really caught, especially here in the Tampa Bay area." ...

  5. The future of food includes insect cuisine, edible packaging, sea vegetables and more

    Food & Dining

    Insect cuisine. Edible packaging. High-tech rooftop gardens. The future of food is around the corner.

    With a current world population of 7.2 billion, the United Nations is projecting an increase of 1 billion people over the next 12 years, and 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet the population's needs, our food system is in transition. We need to produce, transport, sell and prepare more food, more efficiently. But which foods, and what kind of transportation? ...

  6. La Segunda Bakery to open new South Tampa location — with seats

    Food & Dining

    A Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrate that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a second location in South Tampa in early summer of 2018.

    The 3,000-square-foot bakery and cafe at the redeveloped 4001 W Kennedy Blvd. shopping plaza will offer seating for the first time, both indoors and outdoors, a barista coffee bar, to-go window and parking. Still, the showstopper will be the state-of-the-art exhibition hearth where customers can watch La Segunda bakers doing what they do: Forming 18,000 Cuban loaves daily, about 36 inches long, with a zipperlike seam topped with the remnants of a palmetto leaf (used during baking to hold the top of the bread together and create the signature crack along the top). You'll be able to watch them do other things, like make deviled crabs, chorizo rolls, empanadas and flan....

  7. Tampa's JoAnne Tucker takes a win in Pillsbury Bake-Off


    The Pillsbury Bake-Off is serious business and big bucks. Since 1949, the country's most competitive home cooks put their thinking caps on: How can I use one of the designated Pillsbury products in a new, original — and here's the tricky part — outrageously delicious recipe? Contestants can't be professional chefs, can't be graduates of culinary school and can't have been a finalist in three or more Bake-Offs....

  8. Restaurant review: Ichicoro Ane brings ramen, Japanese small plates and a whole lot of fun to St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    When Station House restaurant opened on Christmas Eve 2014 it was a totally reinvented space, Steve Gianfilippo's vision for the basement level of a 104-year-old, five-story, 30,000-square-foot building he'd bought for $3 million. For years, that space had been Cafe Alma — some good years, some less so, with a couple of sets of owners and a legendary Bloody Mary bar. But this new iteration was swish, glamorous and forward-thinking, the perfect anchor to Gianfilippo's plan for co-work spaces, some retail, a private club and a bunch of other 21st century synergy throughout the rest of the building. ...

  9. Our food critic's tips for eating out and not gaining weight in 2018

    Food & Dining

    There's a three-panel comic circulating on social media right now. In the first panel is a stick figure with a Santa hat, the caption, "festive." In the second panel a pudgier stick figure is wandering, confused, with a wedge of cheese in his hand. In the third, the stick figure stands, demoralized and rotund. Ah, the holiday season in a nutshell for many of us.

    This is the week new gym memberships skyrocket and many of us make extravagant claims about our revised eating behaviors for 2018. I've been a restaurant critic for about a quarter of a century and have witnessed this cultural pivot for longer than that. We're not immune: Phyllis Richman, the fabled restaurant critic at the Washington Post, went to a weight-loss spa for two weeks each year. It was in her contract. You make your living thinking about food, writing about food and, darn it, eating food, and you're bound to be heavy, right?...

  10. Restaurant review: Pin Wok and Bowl in St. Petersburg blends Thai and Japanese for familiar but solid fare

    Food & Dining


    Take a look at the map. There's Thailand down there, Myanmar up above it and Cambodia below. Japan, on the other hand, is way up there, Taiwan and a whole lot of other stuff in between. So why is it that in these parts Thai food is so often partnered up with Japanese sushi? Sure, it could be because the Japanese love to visit Thailand or because there's a hefty Japanese expat community there. But I think it's this: In the late 1980s when Thai restaurants first started to proliferate in American cities, restaurateurs were hedging their bets. Who knew if diners would take to the kaffir lime leaf and galangal and green papaya? Better to have a back-up plan: California rolls!...

  11. Urban farm could be late addition to Tampa's Encore project


    TAMPA — If all goes as planned at a meeting with the Tampa Housing Authority on Jan. 4, a 2-acre working farm will become a late addition to the city's Encore project.

    The 40-acre mixed-use redevelopment district being erected downtown close to the intersections of Interstates 4 and 275 has brimmed with ambitious components, including apartments, condos, retail, restaurants, hotels and services. But this brings something vital that continues to elude many big-city urban renewal projects: access to local, organic and affordable produce, meats and dairy....

  12. Dining planner: New grocers and shops for last-minute holiday shopping

    Food & Dining


    Just in time for a little holiday shopping, a new confectionary comes to WestShore Plaza, offering classic candies alongside craft sweets and chocolates. Called Shelby's Sugar Shop, it's the first of its kind, named after a fictional girl, Shelby, who journeys from the country to the big city (the store has bridge installations and animation marking the transition)....

  13. We talk to Tampa Bay cookbook collectors about their beloved books


    It was 1985 and my tastes ran to pegged jeans, oversized sweaters and firm-hold hairspray (seriously big '80s hair). I had never owned a cookbook, didn't really see the point. But there it was, wrapped up prettily and presented to me by my mother's business partner: The Silver Palate Cookbook, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso's blockbuster, only 3 years old at that point, its chicken Marbella not yet cemented as a dinner-party titan. The country was still hazy on what pancetta was and not quite sure how to pronounce "arugula."...

  14. New high-profile restaurants debut in Tampa, Richard Gonzmart heads to Longboat




    The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa debuted its newest venture on Friday. Presided over by newly appointed creative culinary director Frank Anderson, the Rez Grill is a 120-seat American grill concept, the name a nod to an American Indian reservation. The restaurant is part of a multi-million-dollar, multi-phased expansion and renovation that began at the start of the year. A grand opening celebration is planned for the weekend of Jan. 5....

  15. American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

    Food & Dining


    Paul Greenberg and Rick Mijares believe something. They believe that millennials are nostalgic for a time they didn't live through. American Social, the long-anticipated waterside restaurant adjacent to Jackson's on Harbour Island, reads like a sports bar from 1995. There is unironic use of plaid, Life magazines framed and crowded onto brick walls, a tomato-soup paint color that every New England dining room sported in the mid-'90s, brass multi-armed light fixtures with frosted glass, judicious use of blue and red neon and AMERICAN SOCIAL BAR & KITCHEN spelled out in a clean, serif, all-cap font. Plus, televisions everywhere. In short, it is the sports bar of my youth....