Paisano's Italian Bakery serves up an array of Italian cookies, cakes and breads, but we're partial to the lobster tail--the crispy, flaky pastry crust is shaped just like its name and filled with a mixture of not-too-sweet custard and cannoli cream that manages to be both decadent and light. It's big enough to share, but we totally don't blame you if you eat it all yourself.
Someday we might be able to visit Fuzzy's Taco Shop without ordering the Texas-based chain's bang-up spicy pork nachos ($6.99), but that day likely won't come for many, many years. Perhaps decades. The nachos rank among the region's very best tortilla chip-based dishes, with layers of juicy shredded pork, pico de gallo, cheese and a creamy garlic sauce that adds some subtle sugar to the mix. Drool.
Tropical Shores Gourmet Popcorn is a haven for lovers of popcorn--the little shop on Siesta Drive offers flavors ranging from loaded baked potato to Key lime pie. But we're partial to the salted caramel ($3.99 and up), which is sweet, salty, perfectly crunchy and totally addictive. It comes in a cute little bag that's perfect for gifting--or, you know, for munching at your desk at work.
After a highly focused morning of antiques hunting in the funcky-historic downtown district of Arcadia, we collapsed in vintage chairs at Mary Margaret’s Tea and Biscuit parlor and ordered a quintessential ladies’ lunch--tomato stuffed with herbed chicken salad, served on a bed of fresh greens and surrounded by local fresh fruit. At $10, it was light but substantial, healthful and so pretty on an heirloom plate. Young female servers wore jaunty sherbet-hued fascinators with their uniforms and the maitre’d wore a tux and greeted us gallantly. The whole experience was a step back in time.
We wouldn't send you to Tampa unless it was for something really special, and Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Buddhist temple on the Palm River, has a Sunday market that's worth the drive. The market features multiple stands serving everything from papaya salad and fresh spring rolls to fried bananas, grilled meats, exotic curry dishes and even dessert noodles. We're partial to the noodle soup (pick between pork, beef or veggies, $6 for a small and $8 for a large), but the line gets long, so make sure to get to the soup stand early. And grab a couple glasses of Thai tea ($1) or coconut water ($1), too, which are nothing like the store bought-kind that you might be used to.