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St. Pete Beach and Tampa Recommendations

Hi everyone - DC 'hound here looking for advice.

I'm staying in St. Pete Beach at the Sirata Resort with my Beloved for MLK weekend. He lived in Tampa as a kid many moons ago, and has some fond memories of the place, particularly of the Colombia Restaurant and Shell's. He also has a craving for Cuban sandwiches that we just can't quite satisfy here in DC.

I've looked the the board here, and it looks like people have mixed reactions to Colombia, and that the preference seems to be the Ybor City location. Is that still true? Does the view/atmosphere beat the one in St. Pete Beach?

Shell's -- well, it seems like folks on this board aren't so keen on that restaurant. I've seen other suggestions for seafood places, namely:

Philthy Phil's
Ferg's Beach Shack

Any other suggestions? A decent seafood place with good live (blues preferred) music would be ideal, as the Beloved loves good blues as well.

I'd really like to make this trip special for him since we'll be taking a hike down memory lane during a much needed getaway from the chill up here, so I would be eternally grateful for any suggestions.

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. If you're looking for a funky place with music and seafood (typical Florida chow), try Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa. Mostly blues instead of jazz, but always something interesting going on.


    As far as the Colombia is concerned, the original location in Ybor is still the best. A bit heavy on tourists this time of year, but they updated the menu a few years back and the service is still first-class. Don't know if they still do the flamenco show at night? If you want good roast pork, however, stay away from the Colombia. The best in Tampa is one of the Pipo's locations. Typical cafeteria-style but always great roast pork.

    1. Also maybe drive up the beach a bit and hit Salt Rock Grill. It's worth the 20 minute drive. I would skip Shells altogether. One of my favorite beach hangouts is Caddy's on Treasure Island.

      1. There is a Shells just down the road from the Sirata on Gulf Blvd. I think it's connected to the Travel Lodge. What few people know is that you can walk to the Swigwam, a bar with music on the wknds., at the back of the Travel Lodge (or whatever the hotel is) on the beach and order from Shells. They drop it off and you can eat it in the comfort of real driftwood and have a mudslide at the same time. This should give you music and Shells at the same time. Even if you don't eat at Shells be sure to go to the Swigman for the music.

        There is often music at the Ka'Tiki on Sunset Beach (island hop to Treasure Island, your next island north of SPB). It is not always good music, sometimes downright awful, but it is free and you can hear it from the road and decide if you want to partake. You are likely to hear blues there. Skippers is also a good suggestion although a bit of a drive from SPB. The Ringside Cafe in downtown St. Pete also has live music.

        The Floridian on Treasure Island makes a decent Cuban. Ask for it pressed. There is a cuban restaurant on W. Gulf Blvd. with palm trees, tropical exterior, but I've not heard anything good about it, and have heard it's pricey. So eat there at your own risk.

        1. Don't forget Ted Peter's on Pasadena Ave. just off of St. Pete Beach. Excellent smoked fish, good burgers, and a real institution.


          1. Ferg's Beach Shack is closed with the possibility of the property being turned into condos.

            For a good Grouper sandwich, Dockside Dave's is now located on Gulf Blvd. on St. Pete Beach in the old Alfredino's.

            1. FYI the Columbia is not in St. Pete Beach, but actually in downtown St. Pete (about 10 miles away), in the pier (the upside down pyramid building on St. Pete waterfront). The view is excellent, the food "pretty good".

              Philthy Phil's and Woody's are both must-do for sunsets or beach atmosphere, they are interchangeable, the food is so-so, the staff a little nicer at Phil's. Woody's was caught selling non-grouper this year, so order the chicken wings!

              Went to Snappers just this week for dinner. It was very crowded, and the service was awful. We waited ages for each part of our dinner, and when I asked for bread (after sitting for 20 minutes with not even a glass of water), I was admonished that "that comes after your appetizers, with the salads". I replied that I hadn't eaten all day and would like some bread right away. She brought the bread when she said she would - later with the salads (and it was not hot, so that was not the reason). However, the oysters on the half shell were fresh and excellent, as was the rare tuna. Expensive, but a beautiful restaurant I must say.

              I second the rec for Cuban Sandwiches at Floridian on Treasure Island. It is located just one block east of Gulf Blvd, on 107th Avenue. They are more than decent IMHO, they are delicious!

              KaTiki has a live blues / open mike night on Mondays. A true "cast of characters". If you like a draft beer and some grit, check it out. No food here. (just cross the street to Caddy's for that).

              Have a great visit!

              1. Joan's post reminded me of your absolute best bet for blues (the KaTiki is a sloppy hit or miss, although when it "hits", it's a hard-driving beachy blues). Tampa's Westshore Blvd. location for The Green Iguana (the original one, at least 20 yrs. or more on the same spot) has a blues jam that has been standard fare for as many years every monday night, the real thing with blacks, whites, men, women, even a few teen protégés. you will be entertained by some of the best blues in the area, with NO cover charge. And now you can partake w/out being overtaken by cigarette smokers, which are relegated to the outdoors bar. Go anytime after 9P. This is also a good spot for an excellent grouper sandwich or wings, a step above your typical bar food in quality. Directions: I-275 into Tampa, first exit/Kennedy Blvd., go right at light at Westshore and drive about 2 miles or so. It's on your right. If you hit Gandy Blvd. you missed it.

                1. I love the Green Iguana Westshore!

                  1. Ok- this post rocks just so you know- I got married at Sirata in April, it is a fantastic resort. I had my rehearsal at the Shells in the travelodge. Shells is a very "chain" type restaurant, but the food is ok if he's looking for classics. Other must go's include: The Candy Kitchen, homemade ice cream and old fashioned candies- my favorite place in Pinellas county (Maderia beach location is the original and most quaint). Also very good for seafood and the like- The Pearl in Treasure Island. www.gotothepearl.com or http://www.tbt.com/entertainment/food...
                    A shocking but good renovation to an old favorite is Middle grounds grill, also in treasure island. http://www.tbt.com/entertainment/food... Have fun!!!
                    PS- the tiki bar at Sirata is very nice for a daiquiri or pina colada- especially if you get some hot tub time :)

                    1. Yes!!! "Ted Peter's"!!! They have YUMMY smoked fish!! In Pasadena right on the Boulevard.

                      "Shells" to me, is a franchise, like a kind of a glorified "Red Lobster". Try "The Hurricane" in SPBch (Pass-a-Grille) for a great grouper sandwich or black grouper chowder. "Johnny Leverock's" in MADEIRA Bch has a yummy sherry based NE style clam chowder with lots of sweet, succulent pink clams. For wings, skip "Hooters" (they USED to rock in their early years in Clearwater) and go directly to "Foxy's" on TI (Treasure Isle) the main drag from the causeway. Also, "The Crab Shack" near Sunset Beach is 'da bomb'!! For Irish entertainment, "The Harp and Thistle" used to be grand, but not sure if it's decent now that Pat sold the place and it's moved into a hotel.....????

                      Ah, the best Cuban I had was in St. Pete (better than any place I've been in Tampa, or Ybor City for that matter, and alas, better than Cece's grandmothers, too, lo siento, Abuelita!) was a little hole in the wall near Kenneth City...and darned if the name hasn't escaped me!!! Sorry!

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Mermazon

                        Johnny Leverock's on MADEIRA Bch and The Harp and Thistle have been closed for some time. The former Leverock's on SPB is moving to a place on Pasadena Blvd. but has not yet opened.

                        1. re: patken

                          Where on Pasadena Blvd is Leverock's moving to?

                          My wife, then girlfriend, used to live in apts behind ted peters.


                          1. re: tastetampabay

                            Leverock's bought the Pasadena Steak House location, just a few buildings west of Ted Peters.

                            1. re: joan

                              Actually, Leverock's bought the old Ponderosa Steak House. Further east of Ted Peters. Pasadena Steak House remains the same.

                              1. re: patken

                                So the Ponderosa is gone? Wow, a lot of the "Majestic Towers" crew and the "Early Birders" will be sorely disappointed!!

                                I thought that Leverock's already had a restaurant on Pasadena Blvd?? I may be incorrect. Is it perhaps further north on US 19 or on 49th St??? Ah well, I liked the Madeira Bch locale, so quaint and beachey feeling...Anyone know who took over the Mad Bch spot???

                                1. re: patken

                                  Oops! you're right, of course. I must be gettin' old....
                                  or hungry?!

                            2. re: patken

                              Too bad about Leverock's...it's been about 2 1/2 yrs since I've been "home" to FL. I always HAD to have their NE Clam chowder. It used to be divine! Did anyone move in to that location on Madeira?

                              I frequented the Harp B4 it closed and re-opened in a hotel. Wonder if it's good now? (pbly NOT!)

                              Also, I can't for the life of me recall the name of another Irish place in St. Pete (on Tyrone Blvd). They used to have delicious Irish fries w/brown gravy...YUM!

                              1. re: Mermazon

                                The Irish place on Tyrone turned into Crabby Bill's, which is now closed. You can buy it!

                                1. re: joan

                                  Wellllll....I love to cook, but alas, have more skill than moola! You buy it, and I'll visit! ;-) LOL! Thanks for letting me know...

                            3. re: Mermazon

                              Would that be Cuban Delight Cafe. 2950 49th St. N. St. Petersburg?

                              1. re: Wineman

                                Hmmmm....perhaps??? Is it a little bit of a place (packed with customers)offering a really wonderful 'Cuban'?

                                I now live in So Cal and really miss the terrific seafood and Cuban food found in the St. Pete/Tpa Bay area!!!

                            4. Living in St. Pete Beach,
                              My recomendations are as follows:
                              Dockside Dave's for a true grouper sandwich and the best Fried onion rings
                              Philthy Phil's for a extremely large pork chop
                              Reef's for a great cheesebuger and nitely specials
                              Snapper's for an upscale dinner,Wharf for steamed shrimp and reasonable priced fish
                              Skidders for good general menu ( greek and Italian) try the charcoal grilled octopus for an apertizer
                              La Croisette for the best breakfast...long lines on weekends
                              Those are my choices on the beach

                              1. The Columbia has flamenco shows nightly--- i brought some relatives and we enjoyed it. Especially nice if you can sit up in the balcony--- all the stomping would be loud if you sat beside the stage.

                                Lunch is reasonable there. Prices aren't bad for dinner, and i think the quality is a little better than lunch. Seafood is always very good, I love the steak chacho. Their Spanish Bean Soup is the very best in my opinion. If you go to Ybor, try the Caldo Gallego soup, too (white beans with turnip greens, ham and chorizo--- divine) but they only offer it at the Ybor location.

                                St. Pete has a much nicer view, and i had a great palomilla there once. Hint: if you go for dinner and aren't doiung the dance show, get there early before the crowds invade. Your food and service will be better. If you go for lunch, try to do off hours. The crowds really can be nutz.

                                I concur about Ted Peter's. Avoid shells. Mediocre at best. I've had an atrocious experience at the St. Pete Beach location and will never return. They place was dirty, too, tho that usually doesn't scare me.

                                1. Thank you to everyone for your fabulous suggestions! I'll be sure to report back on the places we visited. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

                                  1. Cuban Delight is small, yes. Facing the building, it is located on the right hand side of a small strip center. Yellow and Blue logo/sign.

                                    I always forget about that place. I think they may have recently "re-opened".

                                    1. Wow, what an incredibly wonderful place you all live in! The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and everything was just fabulous! Here's my chow report. Thank you again to everyone who made recommendations!

                                      On our way out of the airport, we stopped to have a Cuban at La Teresita. I have a picture of the Beloved with his mouth full of yummy Cuban and a silly smile on his face as he enjoyed what I believe is one of the top three sandwiches I've ever had.

                                      When we checked into the Sirata, we discovered that it really was *on* the beach complete with two beach bars (romance alert: the bars are open to the public!!), which gave us an incredible, unobstructed view of the sunset. Jarrod, the bartender at Rum Runners, was our favorite - he remembered drink orders and was just the right amount of friendly. Locals should definitely check this place out for a sunset one evening.

                                      Breakfast on Saturday morning at La Croissette, which included a shockingly tasty croissant. Even B, who doesn't really care for croissants, enjoyed it. Staff was friendly and the food was good. One minor disappointment: the Bungee omlette (crab, mushrooms, and cheese) was made with fake surimi crab, not real crab. Tasty, still. The Hangover omlette (corned beef stuffed and drenched in Hollandaise) was a-ma-zing. I think I felt my arteries harden as I was eating it.

                                      We went to Philthy Phil's that night for dinner. We both had the grouper platter, which was fair. The accompanying fries were good, but the fish was slightly overcooked, and took about 15 minutes longer than the 30 minutes we were told. But I drank a fishbowl (all by myself, since it seemed to amuse the Beloved to no end to challenge me to do it). People kept approaching me all night long and asking what was in it. Having no idea, I settled on saying, "Jet fuel and fruit punch." That combination made the night's entertainment seem progressively less unusual: we had hit Philthy Phil's on the night that When Buffett Meets Sinatra was performing. I'm not sure how popular this duo is in that area, but one of the performers is an awfully good soundalike for the Chairman, and the other does decent renditions of Buffett tunes. B, the music connoisseur, and I, the semi-professional singer, were amused, entertained, and amazed by the combination. Alas, our sunset view was somewhat obstructed by a squat rectangular building. But a hilarious and fun night all around.

                                      We ventured into Ybor City the next day, and stopped by the Columbia for lunch. Sunday always seems to be one of those days when service seems to suffer. We had a friendly and earnest young man serving us, but he seemed a little overwhelmed and consequently was a bit slow in responding to our requests. We had the Chicken and Yellow Rice "Sarapico" and El Combo de Cuba with the 1905 salads to start. The chicken was fantastic, tender, juicy, flavorful, and - what I always love to see with excellently cooked meat - falling off the bone. The peas in the yellow rice were fresh and tasted it. Some of the meats in the Combo were a little overdone and dry, but had sufficient gravies/sauces of such excellent flavor that they compensated for any dryness. We rolled out of the Columbia much satisfied.

                                      That night, we went to Snappers for a late dinner. What a lovely space! While we waited, we sat at the side bar with wine and beer (they don't have a full liquor license apparently). We started with a dozen raw oysters - fresh and glistening. B had the Neptune's Feast, which came with lobster tail and shrimp and scallop skewers, and I had the lobster and scallop linguine fra' diavolo. Neptune's Feast was, indeed, a feast. The skewers were excellent, with a lovely roasted flavor. The fra' diavolo, one of my favorite Italian dishes in the world, had some of the best sauce I've ever had, freshly made with chunks of sweet tomatoes throughout the sauce. My only complaint was that the scallops in my dish were a little overdone and somewhat stringy. With the accompanying salads and flatbread and hummos, we once again rolled ourselves out. As a side note, our waiter, Brent, was excellent, and recommended a delicious pinot noir to accompany the linguine that really brought out the flavors of the sauce.

                                      The next day, we stopped at the Floridian for Cubans. While they were certainly better than what we get here in DC, having had the ones at La Teresita, I think we were bound to be disappointed. They were perfectly acceptable, but it highlighted for me what a treasure La Teresita is!

                                      Our next stop in our drive down Gulf Boulevard was the Candy Kitchen. I felt like a little kid again with my ice cream cone, sitting on the benches outside and swinging my legs. What a fun little shop! I wish we had something like it here. By this time, we were so enchanted with St. Pete and the surrounding area, we actually tried to find out the asking price of the condo across the street, which had a For Sale sign, but to no avail.

                                      Dinner that night was at Ted Peters. Wow. I mean, wow! The food was excellent and the staff was super-friendly. We both had the smoked mahi mahi platter, and that is a *lot* of fish! This is just the sort of place that I love - roadside, not fancy, but amazing food. Wow.

                                      Not feeling like driving into Tampa to make it to the Green Iguana Westshore (next time, I swear), we stopped at Ka'Tiki for a drink and to see what was happening. What a blast! They were having a Monday blues jam as well, and while the music was only fair, the ambiance was exactly right. Lots of locals, inexpensive drinks, and a very friendly atmosphere. We knew we had hit the right spot, when some of the staff from Ted Peters showed up and recognized us!

                                      We were sad to leave Tampa/St. Pete, but we had such a lovely time, I'm sure we'll be back. Thank you to everyone! The warmth on this board, and the hospitality we received from everyone there made this a very memorable vacation!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: FoodieGrrl

                                        I gained 5 lbs just reading your report. Nice work.

                                        1. re: FoodieGrrl

                                          I was born in St Pete, but live in So Cal now. It was a true trip down Memory Lane to read your report! Yes, SP is a charming area to live-I spent infancy into my 20's living there. It was nice to reminisce while reading your post. When you went to La Teresita did you happen to try the yucca? Oh my! They make it with garlic and lime-sooo tasty! There are sooo many delicious places to try, but I am glad you hit Ted Peters-so delish!! Apologies to So Cal, but virtually nowhere has better seafood!! Too bad you didn't get to venture into "Old Town" St. Petersburg-there are wonderful sites and eateries there too. Truthfully, there are a lot of great places to check out, it's tough to do it ALL in one visit. Yep, great time of year to go there as well-the air is so pleasant and mild. (You might have thought differently in the middle of August!!) Ah, but I miss it greatly! O=:)

                                        2. Foodie Grrl, thanks for an excellent report. So glad it all worked out quite tastily for you. I am especially glad that you so many of the places actually suggested here - so often, a poster reports back and it turns out they ignore the suggestions and dine elsewhere!

                                          Don't worry, if you'd have found out the asking price of that condo, you probably would've choked on your ice cream!

                                          Come back soon!

                                          1. Dont forget, the Undertow on SPB (by the Don Cesar Hotel), Bongos (SBP) and
                                            Rikki's T's. good music, cheap drinks and fun!