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Frenchy's Grouper Sandwich--What makes it so Special?

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I've heard many people rave about the grouper sandwich at Frenchy's Cafe... I've never had the opportunity to visit, so could someone please help this Yankee understand what makes it so special? Is it the fish, the bread, is there a sauce? Could you please describe this sandwich for me? I understand you can get it grilled, fried, or cajun, which I assume just means blackened, so I would assume its not the cooking method that's important. Please let me know your thoughts!

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  1. For the life of me I don't understand the lure of this particular sandwich. I found the breading much too thick; in fact, it might have been thicker than the filet it was wrapped around. I prefer Dockside Dave's on Madeira Beach; pretty much an old-fashioned seafood shack with a huge slab of grouper (I like the blackened, but the fried is exellent). The Hurricane in St. Pete Beach isn't as good as it used to be, but I still like it better than Frenchy's, with the added advantage of not being on busy, touristy Clearwater Beach. Frency's has its fans, though, so let's hear from them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bergerman
      Tandoori Girl

      Part of the draw is that it's often hard to find a fresh grouper sandwich anywhere. My personal favorite is in Tampa at Mott & Hester deli. I like their bread and tartare sauce.

      Frenchy's has grouper tacos that are good. Also, Frenchy's beachside is a nice location on the Gulf in Clearwater.

      1. re: Tandoori Girl

        From my perspective in Chicago, it's hard to beat a bigass piece of fresh, "day-boat" grouper on a bun, with the beach in the distance, all for the price of a drink and a bad pastry from Starbucks.

        Outside of the Gulf, and particularly the Gulf coast of Florida, fresh grouper is hard enough to come by. CHEAP fresh grouper that is well handled (that is, minimally handled)is simply not available.

        Original Poster, it's sort of like a lobster roll in Maine: pristine seafood that is elsewhere a luxury, served in a very humble way.

    2. I've downed many a Frenchy's Grouper sandwich, at both the Original Cafe location and at Rockaway Grill, the blackened or the fried being my preferences. They are very, very good, and have won several Best of the Bay awards from an alternative paper, Weekly Planet. The Frenchy's restaurants have their own fishing boats, claim to handle the fish well and that they never serve frozen fish. Certainly they do a tremendous volume, which suggests competence in preparation. I believe the raves come because grouper is a mild tasting, meaty textured fish, that appeals to many. Bun is nothing special at Frenchy's, sauce is a pretty basic tartar sauce, fine. They do a pretty good job at marketing, the restaurants seem pretty well run, and they are fun destinations.

      1. Nothing, in my opinion.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Little T.

          I agree. It's good, but there are plenty of others on the beach that are just as good (or better). It is hardly nirvana on a bun, and too heavily breaded for my taste.

          I had a parmesean crusted grouper cheek sandwich at Keegan's on Indian Rocks Beach a couple of weeks ago, and it was the best grouper sandwich I've had lately.

        2. just ate here yesterday for dinner AND today for lunch, before leaving tampa back to NYC. i'm a discerning yankee NYC chowhound, and i have to say i LOVED frenchy's. the grouper is locally caught and the batter is quite thick, but it's not overly fried noticeable b/c the batter is sort of soft and flavorful and doesn't take away from the fresh flaky juicy fish filet. i actually really liked the bun, which was i think a potato hamburger bun with onions on top. both the coleslaw and chips (side options) were good. kettle chips, super crispy. crunchy coleslaw. i can honestly say it was the best fish sandwich i've ever had.

          we also had the seafood gumbo (incredible), super cheap dozen oysters ($8.95) and yummy fresh fried cracked conch. we were lucky to be there on taco tuesday, so half price $1.25 tacos were DELISH and plentiful.


          1. I don't really get the hype about the grouper sandwich. It's just a fish sandwich. Period. Anyone that tells you different is just being defensive. Besides, grouper is a rather mild fish anyway. Just as Chicago has it's own hot dog and Philadelphia has a cheesesteak sandwich, Tampa has the grouper sandwich.


            2 Replies
            1. re: UptownKevin

              The grouper sandwich is more St. Pete/Clearwater than Tampa. Thr grouper sandwich was specialliy designed to appeal to tourists who know nothing about seafood AND to market what was considered a trash fish until the mid to late 1970s. amazing how many trashj fishes have risen to the top of the food chain because we ate all the better ones. Tuna, anyone?

              I think the recent articles about all this "fake" grouper are amusing (St. Pete Times). Somehow eating fried tilapia is less desirable? most restaurants lie about the fish they're serving (sea bass, yeah right), and the practice will not change. Wild seafood will be extinct in a few years anyway, and we'll all be eating the same bland fish.

              I have nothing against a good grouper sandwich. I have many friends who worked at Frenchy's. Everyone there seemed to be stoned--- except for the customers, anyway.

              1. re: UptownKevin

                i didn't know Frenchy's was a popular restaurant and i can't say i can compare it to other local grouper sandwiches. i'm not being defensive by putting the grouper sandwich on a pedestal. it was my first time at Frenchy's and i just have to say i thought it was delicious. plain and simple.

              2. I think the answer is pretty simple. While eating the grouper sandwich you can see the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. That's what makes a grouper sandwich taste good.

                1. I lived for awhile on Island Estates (the last right you can make going over the bridge before you get to Clearwater Beach), and have had grouper sandwiches at a lot of the local places. Frenchy's is okay, but I find it no better than many other joints that serve them.

                  I'd rather have a burger and a few beers at Tommy Duff's in any case. :)

                  1. rhnaultt hit it on the head: Frenchy's locale and ambience MAKe their Grooper samwich better. Personally, I think Winghouse does a pretty good Grooper Samwich because they put a huge slab of fish (Grooper?) on the bun.

                    Sometimes when I read the criticism's of various places on here, it seems kind of SNOBBISH. I guess it is not kosher to actually LIKE the food ata popular place like Frenchy's. Having eaten at many, many beachy places in Pinellas County, including the Hurricane (old and new), I just cant see where there is any that is head adn shoulders above Frenchys. To each his own, I suppose, but if you are going to drive all te way to the Hurrican, don't do it because 20 years ago they claimed to have the best grouper sandwich.

                    1. Frankly, I think you hear so much about them because they claim to have the best grouper sandwich. This restaurant markets to tourists....that's why you've heard of it.
                      Tourists come down and think "I've got to get a grouper sandwich".
                      Grouper is a very mild fish; actually without much taste.....that's it's appeal. Everyone can eat it, even if they don't really like seafoood.

                      1. I must say most people that have responded here have lackluster taste buds. I think their idea of a gourmet fish sandwich is well satisfied at McDonalds. So dont bother with those replies. I will say I have eaten at Frenchy's since the 80's and that back then, their grouper sandwich was a glorious thing to behold. I believe they used to have their own fleet of boats that would catch the grouper, and serve it super fresh. It was in a beer batter, served on a fresh onion roll with lettuce and tomato, and tartar sauce, and was better than sex. However, in the past few years, their grouper sandwich has noticeably declined. Most people (like the taste-bud deficient people that have responded here) probably think its still as good. It is not. They definintely aren't serving the same quality of grouper they used to, i dont care what anyone says. Another fantastic thing they had was the best buffalo shrimp on earth. It is still good, although i have run into a few bad experiences with those as well.
                        Anyway, to answer your question, the ONLY thing that made that sandwich legendary around here was its freshness. Once that went, to discerning taste-buds like mine, it was over, and now its just a decent fish sandwich. You can make your own better than Frenchy's by getting a filet from a grouper so fresh that it was swimming earlier that day or yesterday at worse, breading or batter dipping it, serving it on an onion roll, with lettuce and tomato, and a fresh homeamde tartar sauce. Good luck :)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dantampa

                          I don't think you blame people's tastes buds when they have never had the grouper you speak of 25 years ago.

                          1. re: dantampa

                            dantampa's comments are 100% correct. I live in the northeast and have been going to every Frenchy's stone crab festival for over 15 years and have been eating their grouper sandwiches at the original Frenchy’s since the mid 80’s and they aren’t the same now as then. Even the stone crabs are sometimes questionable. Last year we went to Cooters (next door to Frenchy’s Saltwater Café at 419 Poinsettia Avenue) and their stone crabs were better, bigger, same price and they didn’t run out early in the evening. Frenchy’s, although generally still good, I’m sorry to say being a long time supporter with many “Frenchy’s Stone Crab Festival” tee shirts hanging in my closet, is losing their quality reputation as “the best”.

                            Frenchy's Cafe
                            41 Baymont St, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767

                          2. I am a foodie. I had the grilled grouper sandwich my first time there, and it was very good. But it's not like some Holy Grail of the St.Pete/Tampa area that needs to be experienced. I could've had it at Chili's or Bennigan's and not have been the least impressed.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Gigglecream

                              Ah, yes, Frenchy's.
                              I kind of agree with dantampa, Frenchy's once offered a glorious Grouper sandwich. It's still pretty good, a thick piece of real grouper covered in beer batter or blackened, served on a toasted bun with tomato, lettuce, onions, lemon wedges and tarter on the side.
                              Nowadays, the draw to Frenchy's is sitting on the pristine beaches of Clearwater, leisurely sipping on a Margarita in your bathing suit (some should cover more than they do), watching the glorious Gulf of Mexico sunsets.
                              My Hubby and I visit Frenchy's about once a year, for the nostalgia really. The oysters on the 1/2 shelf are very fresh, the she-crab soup is always good, and the Grouper sandwiches remind us of when we first started dating.
                              He lived directly across the street from the beachside Frenchy's during the late eighties and took me to Frenchy's on one of our beginner dates because he learned of my love for Grouper sandwiches.
                              The orignal Frenchy's always seems to hold their food at a higher calibur, affording the beach location to focus on the tourists.
                              As for those that do not have the privlige of feasting on Grouper daily; it is a firm, mild bottom-feeder fish, that gets quite large in size (the largest can exceed 300 lbs and are prohibted from being fished) and puts up a good fight before being caught by fishman.
                              I do love Grouper. It is my favorite fish, but I think that is due to the fact that I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico and ate weekly at little fishman dive shacks, peeling boiled shrimp that was being hauled from the boats and cracking blue crab caught from traps sitting just off the docks.
                              You should certainly have the expereince of Frenchy's and the famous Grouper sandwiches. The views are beautiful, if nothing else. Except for the damn tourists in banana hamocks. When is that trend going to die, for christ's sake.