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Tampa Bay's Best New Restaurants That Opened In 2012

Between the presidential election, the Olympics in London and Tampa's own Republican National Convention, 2012 shaped up as one of the most eventful and action-packed years of recent memory. The same holds true for the local gastronomical world, as this year signified a major step. Tampa has transformed the restaurant scene into one that accents the local, organic and refined. While we await the opening of all 2013 has in store, we can savor the new additions from 2012.

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Best new experimental food:

Edison Food + Drink Lab
912 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 254-7111

With an official motto of "product + technique + creativity squared," Edison's Chef Pierola serves up a modern take on American cuisine. An equally modern and industrial interior, mixed with some touches of comfort, allows diners to enjoy fine wines and sophisticated small plates in a relaxed atmosphere. A wide selection of microbrew beers and wines from around the world will satiate any connoisseur's palate. Of course with such delicacies come somewhat higher prices, but well justified for the quality and inventiveness of the options, which include lobster gazpacho, potato-crusted oysters and the delightful hummingbird milkshake, a combination of banana, pineapple, cream cheese ice cream and nuts.

Best new Brazilian and Spanish cuisine:Samba Room
1502 S. Howard Ave.
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 251-4022

What it lacks in service, Samba Room more than compensates for in cuisine. This newly opened restaurant found its home in the palatial former space of Ceviche on Howard Avenue, after the latter's move to Azeele Street. Chef Felicia Lacalle dishes out a clever combination of Brazilian-inspired meals and classic Spanish favorites. With a choice of paella, pulpo, oysters, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, roasted pork and other tapas favorites, the wide variety on the menu ensures any fan of Latin fusion cuisine a heavenly experience. Beware of steep prices for some items and also remain patient with the staff, as the restaurant continues to work out the initial kinks inherent in the opening of any new kitchen.

Related: Best Chefs Heating Up the Tampa Bay Culinary Scene

A bundle of holly is displayed for auction prior to the annual Mistletoe and Holly Auctions held at Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, central England on December 4, 2018. - The auctions, which have been held in Tenbury Wells for over 100 years, attract a range of buyers including florists, stately home owners, grocers, market stall holders, hoteliers, garden centres, and members of the public looking to decorate their homes for the Christmas season. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Best new brunch restaurant:

Oxford Exchange
420 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 253-0222

Oxford Exchange can feel a bit foreign upon one's first visit. An expansive, marble-floored entryway greets customers with a boutique of curious antiquities from the last century, a Buddy Brew coffee shop and a selection of TeBella loose teas. After the gauntlet of caffeine and retro oddities, one arrives in a grand, open solarium that serves as the dining room. While the food can come as a hit or miss, depending on what one orders and individual expectations, Oxford usually pleases the mass of its visitors and makes them excited to return. Sometimes a bit simple and predictable, the menu is punctuated with original inventions, such as the crispy chickpea appetizer and a salted caramel latte.

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Best new American bistro:

901 W. Platt St.
Tampa, FL 33604
(813) 254-7070

Known for its flatbreads, the OMG burger, inventive appetizers and decadent desserts, Boca reinvents classical dishes using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. A true gastronomical destination, Boca's unique ambiance and responsive staff will attend to even the most discerning clients' expectations. Given the quality of the food and its presentation, one cannot complain too much about the wine and food menus' relatively less-accessible prices. Reservations become obligatory during peak hours to avoid an hour-long wait, especially on weekends.

Immigrant Families Celebrate Thanksgiving In Connecticut
STAMFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 24: Central American immigrants and their families pray before Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 2016 in Stamford, Connecticut. Family and friends, some of them U.S. citizens, others on work visas and some undocumented immigrants came together in an apartment to celebrate the American holiday with turkey and Latin American dishes. They expressed concern with the results of the U.S. Presidential election of president-elect Donald Trump, some saying their U.S.-born children fear the possibilty their parents will be deported after Trump\'s inauguration. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Best new fast food:

12650 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33618
(813) 443-8336

The newest member of the Outback Steakhouse family of restaurants, PDQ (an acronym for Pretty Darn Quick) offers a contemporary, fresh re-imagination of the fast food restaurant concept. There is a bright, open dining hall with a sink in the center, allowing patrons to wash their hands after enjoying various arrangements of grilled and fried chicken. Chefs make their presence known by working proudly on display rather than hidden in the back of a closed-off kitchen. While the menu remains somewhat limited, with only a half-dozen or so dishes total, PDQ does all of its options well with perfectly crisped fried chicken on top of fresh salads and some delicious milkshakes. Plus, a space-age soda fountain machine serves up a multitude of flavors.

Related: Budget Dining: Best Kids Eat Free Deals In Tampa Bay

Head to CBS Tampa's Best Of pages for more local tips on family fun, shopping, nightlife, food, culture and more!

Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he's excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at

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