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Welcome to ‘Feed Your Head’

You’re hungry, and if you eat one more limp submarine sandwich, you’ll go postal. Yet, within close reach are dozens of great, affordable restaurants offering a wide variety of food. This column is the first installment of The Oracle’s new restaurant review feature. I’ve nibbled all over this county, and trust me when I say you never have to eat a stale hamburger again.

This column isn’t just about feeding USF, but finding the elusive essence of Tampa. Tampa has always exuded culture through its restaurants, like the aroma of espresso and fresh Cuban bread wafting over the brick streets of Ybor City. Like USF, Tampa has grown and changed so steadily, that its essential elements often get buried in the stream of events. In the last five or 10 years, Hillsborough County has been inundated with eateries serving fragrant food from exotic places. Where a Spanish café once stood, there now stands a Colombian, Thai or Middle Eastern restaurant. The new arrivals are just as important as the old standbys.

Collectively, Tampa’s restaurants reveal a city in constant transformation. Individually, each represents a victory for its owners. It is not uncommon to find that the friendly baker down the street was once a lawyer, Marine, engineer or computer programmer. Many entrepreneurs go into the restaurant business not just because they like food, but because they love people. They don’t get into the business as a way to make an easy living.

These daring businesspeople, especially those who excel, deserve recognition. Only by word-of-mouth do smaller restaurants survive. They don’t have multi-million dollar ad campaigns swarming over the airwaves. While you dig in to a plate of generic Tex-Mex fare at a formulaic chain, the real deal is just around the corner. That’s where my interest lies. Of course, some people like to eat bland subs every day, and I pity them. It would be like living your life listening to nothing but the Backstreet Boys. In food, just as with music, variety and sincerity are key.

USF presents special problems to the hungry student who wants to dine farther afield. Some students without cars live in the dorms and are campus-bound. Some commute long distances, and never seem to have the time to eat a meal that doesn’t involve french fries. Some refuse to give up their parking spot for fear of never finding another.

Obviously, I can’t help with all of these problems, but I may be able to point you in the right direction. And, I can’t do it alone. I want to hear from you — students, faculty and staff — to find out where your favorite dining spots are. I’m especially interested in the establishments close to campus.

I will review only the smallest local chains. I have no interest in writing negative reviews. I am most interested in distinctive eateries with low to mid-ranged prices, but I will consider all suggestions. Write me an e-mail to suggest a restaurant and point out its specialties, or better yet, share your suggestion with a larger audience on the Florida message board of . This ad-free Web site features message boards where enthusiastic diners can share their experiences and get suggestions while traveling. I’ve posted there regularly for some time, and encourage all to do the same.

Before you reach for that sub, burger or taco, think again. Check The Oracle to see what treasure may be just around the corner.

Check out Feed Your Head on Jan. 22.

Contact Andrew Huse at