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Indian Rocks to John's Pass-Help!

I am going to be travelling to this area next week. I am looking for the following:

1. Good LOCAL chow restaurants (no chains preferably)--nothing fancy!
2. Ice cream shops
3. Coffee shops

I'd like to stick to the towns from Indian Rocks to John's Pass (including John's Pass), but if you want to throw in a few from Clearwater or St. Pete that's OK.


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  1. i had a cuban at the tacky turtle one time when we stayed at the IRB RV park - it was quite tasty, and as i recall they had ice cream -- a neat little place, and i do mean little.


    other than that, we usually go to gators at johns pass, lots mediocre fried food at best, but a fun bustling atmosphere if you just want apps and drinks. there are several seafood spots at john's pass on both sides of the water but none of them were outstanding as i recall -- ironic considering that they have boats coming in regularly with fresh seafood all along those docks.

    i'm not local to the west coast, and we're going to ft. desoto next weekend so i need to find some spots on tierra verde.....considering billy's and the sandbar. (has to be withing biking distance of ft desoto)

    6 Replies
    1. re: hitachino

      had lunch at Billy's today and was not very impressed

      1. re: hitachino

        hitachino, this is the second time I've tried posting this, so hopefully here goes:
        You've got to give Crazy Conch Cafe a try. Located in the small shopping center at the entrance to Billy's, upstairs. Delicious food - try the crabcake and the blue cheese chips. Note: I think they're closed Sun and Mon, so plan accordingly!

        1. re: joan

          O that looks good! I'm going to have to put that on my list too )

          1. re: Conanoe

            It's really good and worth the drive to Tierre Verde!

          2. re: joan

            ok, thanks -- we're going to be there sat, sun and mon --- and judging by this:


            i don't think we're going to get out much on saturday (RV, no car, bicycles) :{

            crazy conch is closed on sun & monday so we'll probably just bicycle over and make do with billy's or something like that on sunday.

          3. re: hitachino

            Mi sister-in-law likes the TT also but recently told me that it is no more. I have not been out there to confirm this but I thought I would give a warning.


          4. There is a good homemade candy/ice cream shop on Gulf Blvd in Madeira Beach, a real classic that's been there for years, called the Candy Kitchen.

            There are three fancy places on your route that I won't tell you about, but you might like Villa Gallace, a mom-and-pop Italian place in IRB:


            2 Replies
            1. re: joan

              Joan: I should have said "doesn't have to be fancy"...you can suggest the fancy ones, too. I already know about Salt Rock.
              I am also interested in good pizza, fried seafood, seafood with a view, etc.
              Thanks again.

              1. re: CookingGirl

                I figured you knew about Salt Rock! (Although lately I've read some not-so-good about them here on Chowhounds :(

                Just so I don't leave you all teased up, the two others are Lobster Pot and Wine Cellar. Wine Cellar is sort of the old standard - Continental menu, but you can always count on them for quality and great service. Lobster Pot is kind of funky/fancy. Famous for both types of lobsters, Maine and Florida crawfish, as well as true American Red Snapper. They have a fabulous chowder too, they bring out the Myer's rum to pour on top. I haven't been there in ages, but they are the real deal.

            2. There is a good place for breakfast in North Redington Beach and it is called the Frog pond. BIG portions. Here is a link to a review on it:



              1. Original's Pizza on Treasure island has good pizza and subs. Take out only, there is also an Original's on Madiera Beach that has tables you can sit at. There is also a new Amish ice cream shop on Madiera Beach that advertises home made ice cream. I have not been
                there yet, but it looks good. Also good little coffee shop on Madiera Beach on same street as post office. Sorry I don't know any names of streets! Try the Sea Horse on Pass a Grille for breakfast or lunch. Lot's of local history. It has been open for ever. They have a good grouper sandwich.

                1. For a good Reuben sandwich at a beach dive where you can dine in your bikini on a picnic bench in the sand overlooking the Gulf, go to Caddy's in Treasure Island. It's the best Reuben I've had in the area, and Caddy's is probably my favorite beach bar in Pinellas County.

                  For ice cream, we love the hominess of Scoops, on Gulf Blvd. on St. Pete Beach. You can get the Working Cow brand ice cream at other venues too, but we just love the family that owns this little place, who have a penchant for shooting photos of their guests and tacking them all over the walls. Oh yeah, the ice cream is really good, too!

                  If you're willing to head across the bridge to the St. Pete area, you MUST go to Ted Peter's on South Pasadena. This 40+ year old cash-only local institution is one of the few places left in the area where you can experience classic smoked mullet and other smoked fish. I personally like their old fashioned cheese burgers. While you're at it, after lunch hit the Florida Groves winery for free tastings of their refreshingly unique fruit wines.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: laurie

                    I agree with Laurie 110% on the Ted Peter's recommendation. I did not put it down because it was outside the requested area but WELL worth the extra drive.


                  2. I was just in the area on vacation, so I thought I’d add some thoughts on chow that I consumed there. I had a couple of good meals at the Frog Pond. I thought the best items were the waffles and the home fries. The sausage was all right; the bacon was fine, but there was nothing special about it. The omelets were really big and well-cooked, but you have to love a lot of filling. When I ordered the popular “Krab and cream cheese” omelet, I felt like I’d eaten a pound of cream cheese afterwards. The filling-to-egg ratio was a bit high for me. The biscuits were on the dry side, but they’d probably be good with sausage gravy—if they do good gravy. I never found out personally. They had good diner-style coffee, too, and friendly service.

                    In a pinch, I had decent fried grouper and hush puppies at PJ’s in Indian Rocks. I liked the crab-and-cream-cheese stuffed jalapeño poppers at Keegan’s, but the grilled octopus was underdone and there were a lot of problems with the main courses (some kind of almost-raw pasta special with fried grouper, tomatoes, and feta cheese; and, on a different occasion, underdone fried fish). They offered as a side some thick cottage or home-fried potatoes. These were enjoyable.

                    The most disappointing meal that I had was at the expensive Salt Rock Grill. I ordered grouper chowder, a house Caesar salad, and a bone-in rib-eye steak with mashed potatoes and whatever was the grilled vegetable of the day. Nothing stood out, and the steak was no better than what you’d get at a chain steakhouse here in Texas. The main course of seared tuna that my friend ordered was a little mushy and stringy. It was glazed with a sweet teriyaki sauce that was almost like a jarred barbecue sauce. The lobster bisque that my friend had started with was creamy, but it had no lobster flavor. In fact, the most flavorful thing I remember eating there was the herbed olive oil that accompanied the sourdough bread. (The olive oil was added to dried herbs at table—and with great flourish.) Some kind of pear-based mixed drink tasted just like cough medicine. The service was of the young, brusque, and distracted type. The overall experience was so bad that we left without ordering dessert.

                    I remembered Guppy’s being good the last time I was in the area. This time I had some kind of pecan-crusted fish there that was way too sweet. The crab-and-artichoke dip with chips was not bad, though, and the dinner salad and sangria were decent. I probably won’t try it again on my next trip to the region, though.

                    I saw the Lobster Pot, but I skip (non-local) chains when I'm on vacation, too.

                    As for ice cream and coffee shops, I also tried the Candy Kitchen mentioned above—but for candy. There was a long line of people waiting for ice cream, but I never sampled it because I was enjoying the frozen custard sold from a stand at John’s Pass Village on Treasure Island. There’s a coffee shop in that same shopping center that had nice-looking pastries, but I only tried the iced coffee there. Cafe Racer, an Internet cafe at Madeira Beach, had pretty good iced coffee, cooled with frozen chunks of same. It was also one of only two places that I found in that area with free wi-fi. (The other one was Bad Ass Coffee Company, on 182nd Street just off Gulf Boulevard.)

                    A friend who grew up in the area wanted to take me to a nearby Greek place (can't remember the name); we were also going to try the pizza place at John’s Pass. I’ll have to check those out on my next visit.

                    I hope this is of some help to you.


                    5 Replies
                    1. re: MPH

                      Grrr....sad to hear another not-good review of Salt Rock. What is up with them?
                      Thanks for the recap, MPH! By the way, Lobster Pot is not a chain (although I understand there is a sister restaurant in Bermuda).

                      1. re: joan

                        I second Candy Kitchen - great ice cream.
                        and you must must go to Keegan's Seafood Grill. It's fantastic. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the food and the service are really great.
                        I mention it here: http://www.scoreboardgourmet.com/2007...

                        I would avoid anything in the Salt Rock family.

                        1. re: sarapeater

                          I am glad that someone else dislikes Salt Rock as much as I do! I feel like a heretic whenever I express a bad opinion about that place. It is the most overrated
                          restaurant in Pinellas County.
                          The staff acts like they are doing you a favor waiting on you.

                        2. re: joan


                          Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize that the Lobster Pot on Gulf Boulevard was an independent local spot. I used to live in the Northeast, and there are at least a few similar restaurants with the same name: I remember ones in P-Town Mass.; Bristol, Rhode Island; and Lake George, New York. Maybe I'll give the Lobster Pot in Reddington Beach a try on my next visit.


                        3. re: MPH

                          Thanks for all of this! It's very helpful. Eating out is such a big part of vacation, that I really hate wasting a meal on a crummy place.
                          It sounds like there's more in Madeira than Indian Rocks (which is where we are staying). I hope the ride isn't too long between the two so we feel like we can easily run out for an afternoon treat at Candy Kitchen!
                          Thanks again!

                        4. So..... How was your trip?!? I need the skinny on where to (and not to) eat :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Conanoe

                            i know you're asking the OP, but i just wanted to say that we had (a late) lunch at hurricanes in pass a grille (opted to take a cab from ft desoto into st pete beach area and make use of the trolley - the cab was a complete rip-off!!!) i had a blackened grouper sandwich and it was OK, but not as good as i remember....the bun was huge, i couldn't even eat the top part cause it was way too much bread for the fish. their tartar sauce was vinegary and soupy. bleck.

                            service was great: friendly and efficient.

                            all the rest of the trip we grilled and ate food that we brought from home, but i'd love to go back and try the tierra verde spots conch cafe, billy's and sandbar sometime soon.

                            i was really wishing we'd have just stayed in tierra verde for our excursion out of ft. D that day......

                          2. Wow! I barely had time to unpack and you are looking for a trip report! I was totally thinking on the train into work that I better get going on it! Here goes...

                            First off I want to say thanks to everyone for their input on our trip. We do not eat out for breakfast or lunch during vacation, so these reviews are for dinners and snacks/coffee (I’m a non-chain coffee nut!). With all of the “grouper issues” down there lately, who knows what we were really eating when we ordered grouper, but for these purposes, I’ll assume it was the real thing. All of these places are in Indian Rocks Beach unless otherwise noted.

                            Coffee Mill-excellent hot and iced coffee. Hot French Roast was great. They have several flavors of iced available each day, and they change. Iced Pecan Toffee was awesome. Located over bridge from IRB, not far from Publix.

                            Publix Supermarket-great deli, good prices, fulfilled all of our breakfast/lunch/beer needs all week. Right across the bridge from IRB.

                            Lighthouse Donuts-not impressed with their weak coffee, but the deliciousness of the donuts made up for it! Had a raised donut with chocolate glaze that was amazing. If you don’t see what you want out front, ask if they have any in the back...ours was just made and still warm.

                            Badass Coffee-Great hot French Roast. Redington. Grab a coffee to go and go to the Long Pier not far away.

                            Frozen Custard place at John’s Pass-Yummy, very creamy. Peanut butter did not have enough of a strong flavor for me. Chocolate was great. So smooth and thick. Beware: they only have one size that is enormous and expensive. I almost fainted when they handed me my cup. Would have been plenty to share.

                            Friendly Fisherman-John’s Pass. The only lunch we had out right after arriving. Blackened grouper sandwich good, grilled mahi sandwich good. Neither worth going back for, but decent in a pinch.

                            TJ’s Italian Café-got pizza for take-out here because we had a coupon. It was OK, but I wish we got it at Pajano’s (see below).

                            Pajano’s Pizza-grabbed two slices on the way out of town. Pepperoni and “The Works” were pricey but excellent. Thin, crispy crust. Wish we had time to eat a whole large pie. Highly recommend going here.

                            Keegan’s Grille-doesn’t look like much, it was totally dead when we went in. Bowl of Gumbo to start was great. Blackened grouper dinner was pretty good. Fish serving seemed a little small. I had the pasta salad side which wasn’t very good. You could also get home fries or baked. The big hit here was the parmesean crusted mahi sandwich that was excellent. Cooked perfectly, moist, very flavorful. I’d definitely go back for the mahi.

                            Frenchy’s Café (original)-Clearwater. Tiny dive of a place (loved it!). Sat inside, too hot outside, plus you are basically sitting in a parking lot. But we chose the original Cafe on purpose. Grouper cheeks app was awesome! Meaty, sweet, dense, fresh tasting. Really liked it. Here’s where I’ll dissent from the group: “original” fried grouper sandwich was a disappointment. The batter was very thick and overwhelming and “wet” with oil, and it was ridiculously loaded up with tartar sauce. Couldn’t even taste the fish. For some reason, the batter was OK on the grouper cheeks, but it was just too much on the sandwich. On the other hand, the Cajun grouper sandwich was great. A little odd that it was Cajun and had parmesean and romano cheeses on it, but it really worked. Might not go back.

                            Guppy’s-Fabulous! Must go here. Sat outside on patio area, fans kept it relatively cool. Nice hot bread with seasoned dipping oil. All dinners come with pretty decent ceasar salad. Indian Rocks Fish Chowder was excellent! Thick, tomato-based soup, adequately spicy, if not you can add your own (you get two add-in sauces on the side). The great thing about this place is that they have nightly specials, and then the chef offers the Sunset Special, which is a taste of each of the 3 fish specials of the night. The night we went it was blackened swordfish with a shrimp etouffe sauce (my favorite), grilled mahi with watermelon salsa, and jerk grouper with black bean and mango salsa. They were each cooked to perfection and delicious. Portions were quite generous. Green beans with mushroom sauce and rice pilaf sides were good, too. Presentation was lovely. Prices not bad at all for what you get.

                            PJ’s-really enjoyed it here. Just a very casual local place. Good menu, seafood seemed very fresh. Started with gumbo, very good. More tomato-y than others, but we liked it. Grilled grouper sandwich with fries was excellent. If you can’t decide what to get (I couldn’t), you can pick two or three fish from a list and get that. I had blackened grouper and mahi and both were excellent. Cooked perfectly, fresh, great portions. A very fun place with good food. Might be a tourist trap, but the place was FULL of locals, and was also recommended by locals. I’d go back for sure.

                            We had such a great time here. If you are headed to the area, you are in for a real treat—gorgeous location, and awesome food! Have fun!

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: CookingGirl

                              cafe deparis bakery in indian rocks beach great pastries coffee and espresso , i tried everything!!!! next sandy breakfast is not so great .

                              1. re: CookingGirl

                                Thanks for the report!!! We leave in 30 hours! ( not counting or eithing)

                                1. re: Conanoe

                                  I just found this site and I have worked/ lived in the restaurant biz in this area for 20 plus years. Here are my thoughts:

                                  Guppys, Indian Rocks Beach: Great place. Owned by same company that also owns The Lobster (Redington Shores) and E&E Steakout Grill(Bellaire). E&E is one of my top 3 favorites.

                                  PJ'S Oyster Bar, Indian Rocks Beach: I agree, great place for tourists and locals. Favorite dishes: fish spread appetizer, seafood gumbo, bbq ribs(yes, thats right!), chicago style oyster appetizer, and for the splurge.... giant lobster tail - 16 oz. plus of tail on the shell. Well worth the market price. Another great splurge is the seafood combo. You get to pick 3 items. My suggestion is snow crab, ribs, and the 8 oz lobster tail on that one. Dress: casual

                                  Conch Republic, Redington Shores: In my top 3 favorites. This place as many good items. Prime Rib is wonderful(you can add on items to make it a surf and turf). Seafood Gumbo is my favorite in the area. Very good seasoned Ribeye steak. Pitchers of San Gria handmade(must have). Very nice casual atmosphere with some outdoor seating.

                                  Courtyard Cafe, Johns Pass Madeira Beach. Located right next to Gulf Blvd. and the now defunct Bamboo Beer Garden. Great place to start your day of shopping in the village. A wonderful selection of breakfast pastrys. I always get the breakfast sandwich. You can have either a croissant or bagel(I get the croissant) with egg, cheese, and either bacon or Canadian bacon. The shop also has a deli and ice cream along with specialty coffees. Definately one of my area favorites.

                                  Sand Bar Bill's Tiki Bar and Sandwiches located behind the Bon Aire hotel(small family owned), Saint Petersburg beach : a MUST GO. I love this place! It has the best burgers you can find as well as a pretty tasty hot dog. Many good frozen drinks as well as sodas, chips, etc... They even provide an igloo jug of ice cold water for anyone to use. Great family friendly place with lounge chairs. What a view too! It is not unusual to see dolphin playing . I would even recommend this place for lodging.Check it out for the future if nothing else.

                                  Have a good time and please check back in when you return :)

                                  1. re: knowsit

                                    I'm a big fan of Guppy's, too. I've been to E&E Steakout just once and found it disappointing. My DH ordered fajitas, which were served with PREPACKAGED guacomole--not fresh. Yuck! But Guppy's has never disappointed.

                                    I gotta try PJ's from your description--sounds like a great place.

                                    1. re: laurie

                                      My husband and I went to PJ's after the beach a couple weeks ago and will definitely be back. We had 2 dozen oysters, a pound of perfectly steamed shrimp and some great smoked fish dip. Oh yes, and I had an ear of corn. It was sooo sweet.

                                      1. re: laurie

                                        E&E did go thru some growing pains last summer. Not sure if that is when you had your bad experience. I have always gotten the steaks and have found them to always be way above average. The lobster escargot style is very good as is the wine selection. Maybe it is just that I am not a big fan of the chains. The restaurants I suggested are all mom and pop.

                                2. I'm glad to see people are loving our local food! I'm from IRB and some of my faves are Guppy's, Salt Rock, Crabby Bills, TJ's IceCream (not so much the restaurant), Villa Gallace, and the Pub.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sunkissedbabe43

                                    Have you ever tried La Cachette? It is very nice, and so often (weirdly) overlooked. They offer an extensive prix fixe French menu with multiple selections in every course, with the added bonus of being a BYOB with no corkage...so wine drinkers can really save. :)

                                    1. re: sweet_polly

                                      I have been there! It is easily overlooked though and that's probably why I forgot it in my earlier post. We went for dinner as a family this past Christmas time. It was really nice because we were the only people in there and you almost forgot you were even in a restaurant. We were all commenting on how quickly you felt like you had been eating there your whole life and how comfortable the owners made you feel. Definitely a place for upscale diners to try.