1 — TREBLE MAKERS
6034 Wesley Grove Blvd.
The Grove at Wesley Chapel
When Treble Makers Dueling Piano Bar & Restaurant was getting ready to open in the new Village at The Grove, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the food — that is, until I met with co-owner Jamie Hess and Executive Chef Kevin Maggard.
Then, I couldn’t wait for it to open.
Maggard promised delicious, tender steaks (like the perfectly seasoned filet shown in the top photo), fresh fish and seafood and unique, inspired appetizers and in the six months or so that Treble Makers has been open, he has more than delivered on that promise, at least in one editor’s opinion.
His seared, sesame-crusted ahi tuna appetizer (photo, left) is as good as there is in the area, and although it hasn’t always been as crispy as the perfect first time I had his sweet & spicy calamari, there’s no doubt that it’s different than you’ll find anywhere else. People we’ve spoken with also rave about his imperial crab dip and homemade potato gnocchi appetizers.
In addition to the coconut curry grouper and the filet, definitely also try the seared diver scallops, the tender veal or chicken Marsala and I still plan to try the NY strip and prime rib steak options.
And of course, please also check out the dueling piano shows and other entertainment options at my favorite for 2020!
2 — TROPICS at SADDLEBROOK
5700 Saddlebrook Way
When Dempsey’s Steak House at Saddlebrook resort closed for much-needed renovations in 2020, it was a little easier for me to move Treble Makers up to this year’s top spot in Wesley Chapel, even though much of the Dempsey’s menu is still available at the resort’s The Tropics restaurant. Another factor in dropping the only non-chain restaurant in Wesley Chapel to offer a tomahawk ribeye steak (photo) is affordability. Treble Makers definitely isn’t cheap, but The Tropics is still primarily a “big night out” kind of meal for almost anyone, especially for a certain news magazine editor.
3 — GRILLSMITH
2000 Piazza Ave #100
The Shops at Wiregrass
I honestly don’t remember when Grillsmith first added its “short trip” fish entrée (above), but Jannah and I have been much bigger fans of this Tampa-based mini-chain ever since. We’ve had everything from grouper and mahi to corvina and amberjack since then and we’ve never been served anything but nice-sized portions of fresh, delicious fish. We’re also really fond of the smashed cauliflower side shown above, as well as the crunchy tuna appetizer, the lemon feta chicken, port wine filet and the outstanding service we always receive at the spacious bar. I also enjoy the skirt steak chimichurri entrée and the desserts.
4 — ZUKKU-SAN SUSHI
25916 Sierra Center Blvd
While I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you about why I love Zukku-San so much — my full-length review of this elegant, new and delicious sushi-and-so-much-more restaurant located just west of I-75 on S.R. 56 appears in our latest issue — I will tell you that it also is Jannah’s 15-month-old granddaughter Rosie’s favorite place to eat in our area, so we’ve been going there a lot. And, it’s definitely not so much about the sushi, which is excellent, as much as it is about creativity. The dish shown above — a semi-spicy raw bluefin tuna appetizer topped with caviar and served with golden grape tomatoes — isn’t on the menu, yet…but I’m guessing it will be soon.
5 — ROCK & BREWS
26000 S.R. 56
Directly across S.R. 56 from Zukku-San is Rock & Brews, which is owned in part, and inspired, by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the rock group KISS. But, Rock & Brews is a really delicious restaurant offering everything from “sweet heat” chicken (photo) and a really good 8-oz. filet mignon, to crispy calamari, unique Brews-chetta, blackened redfish, wings, blackened chicken pasta and even the “front row” pizzas. And, even though it also opened during the pandemic, it seems that a lot of local people agree with me when it comes to the made-from-scratch food, the atmosphere and the live music on weekends (please call about availability). Jannah and I love the covered outdoor bar.
6 — OMARI’S GRILL
Lexington Oaks Golf Club
26133 Lexington Oaks Blvd.
Omari’s Grill at the Lexington Oaks Golf Club is still (sadly) one of Wesley Chapel’s best-kept secrets. And, even though you can only get co-owner/chef Anass El-Omari’s perfect grilled mahi-mahi topped with mango salsa (above), crispy, but tender chicken parmigiana and filet mignon with cream sauce as Friday night dinner specials, the regular golfer-oriented menu for lunch and dinner is delicious, too. From burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches to salads and wings, everything is made from scratch and it shows. You can even give it a try for free as a first-time visitor to a Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel meeting on Wednesdays at noon.
7 — FLORIDA AVENUE BREWING CO.
2029 Arrowgrass Dr.
When you think about craft beer breweries, you may not think of delicious food, but in the case of Florida Avenue Brewing Co.’s location in the former Sports + Field building on S.R. 56, you’d really be missing out on something yummy. With small plates like perfectly sesame-seared, Szechwan ahi tuna, excellent Chinese sticky ribs, Buffalo cauliflower and the jumbo lump crab cakes shown above (with zesty remoulade sauce), a variety of flatbreads, Korean-style bibimbap bowls, braised short ribs and Gulf grouper fish & chips, Florida Ave. has great chef-created food to go with a unique variety of craft beers and hard ciders and seltzers.
8 — BUBBA’S 33
26340 Silver Maple Pkwy.
Bubba’s 33, which is an entirely different concept restaurant from Texas Roadhouse, features sports bar prices with restaurant-quality food. Delicious starters include the crispy wings in a variety of sauces and dry rubs to unique items like “Big O”(onion) Rings, crispy fried pickles, Bubba’s fiesta dip (with bacon, ground beef and refried beans), plus tasty hand-tossed pizzas, excellent bacon grind bacon burgers (photo), plus everything from California grilled chicken to Southern fried chicken and chipotle chicken & shrimp pasta. There’s even two different Texas Roadhouse-quality grilled and marinated signature ribeye steaks and outstanding drink prices.
9 — LONGHORN STEAKHOUSE
2647 Creek Grass Way, Lutz
When Jannah and I feel like a delicious filet at a fair price, with great sides included, Longhorn is the first place we both usually think of — and not just because it’s the closest steakhouse to where we live. From the tender Flo’s filet (photo) to the NY strip or the recently added bone-in “outlaw” ribeye, Longhorn’s steaks are always done to perfection and if you’re somehow ever not happy, the management will always make it right. We love the salad, the crisp-crust bread and always-fresh veggies, too. Jannah also loves the parmesan-crusted chicken. And, although we wish the bar area was a little bigger, the bartenders and drink prices are outstanding.
10 — AUSSIE GRILL
25340 Sierra Center Blvd.
You have to hand it to Bloomin’ Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, for coming up with this fantastic fast-casual concept. Even though it opened in the middle of the pandemic, the new Aussie Grill — ours is the first freestanding unit — with its super-easy drive-through and order-ahead pickup options, was the right concept at the right time. The food is Outback-quality — from the topped, grilled chicken (photo) and seared beef tenderloin large plates, to the bacon “bomb” burger and braised brisket sandwich and more — Aussie Grill has been a welcome addition to our local dining scene. With a larger menu, it could have finished even higher on this list.