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Clearwater Beach/Tampa restaurant suggestions

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My friends and I are going to stay at Clearwater Beach next week and I was wondering if there are any restaurants down there that would wow us. I would like to try something in Florida that is not common in the NYC tri-state area. We are also going to visit Ybor City for a night or two so any restaurant suggestions in that area would be appreciated.

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  1. Try Columbia in Ybor. Most of the locals like it.

    Just a couple of miles north of Clearwater is Dunedin, Black Pearl is very good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarge

      I'm always disappointed with the Columbia when I go for dinner. I'm no sure I've been for dinner outside of Friday/Saturday nights though. I think it's good for lunch though.

    2. i've never known of any restaurant on Clearwater beach that would wow anyone. Avoid eating there.

      I second the Columbia, but I avoid it in peak times, like Friday and Saturday nights, Friday lunch. Of course there are Columbia haters. Most of those that I know haven't set foot in the place in recent memory, and the placxe has changed a lot for the better in the last 10-15 years.

      2 Replies
      1. re: andy huse

        Thanks for the info, everyone. I will mention Columbia to my friends and see what they think. I been to Tampa once before and remember eating some slow cooked pork in a couple of different places. I guess on other days we'll just have to play it by ear.

        1. re: David_NJ

          If you do go to the Columbia make sure to get their white chocolate bread pudding. It's to die for and enough for about 3 people lol.

      2. The Island Way Grill just off 60 on the causeway to the beach. Turn north at the light to Island Estates.

        1. Samurai Blue in Ybor City-Great Sushi, cool atmospere

          6 Replies
          1. re: thrilla05

            I'm not a big fan of Columbia, except for their Sangria Cava (white sparkling sangria mixed tableside) and their 1905 salad. I crave both on occasion. There's a Columbia on Sand Key, next to the Marriott on the Intercoastal with a nice view of the water, if you don't want to make the 45 minute drive to Ybor (the original building in Ybor is cool, though).

            I agree that the food on Clearwater Beach isn't all that great. One exception is Kiku, a wonderful sushi bar on Mandalay in the same shopping center as the Outback Steakhouse. Kiku's sushi is some of the best in Tampa Bay -- if you don't believe me, check out Chris Sherman's "100 Best Dishes" article in the St. Pete Times last December. We go there regularly for our sushi fix.

            Maybe 10 minutes south on Gulf Blvd in Indian Rocks Beach is Guppy's, which serves good local seafood and other dishes for lunch and dinner. I enjoy their outdoor seating, which is misted by outdoor AC units this time of the year.

            Island Way Grill used to be good, but I think it's slipped in recent months. Rumba, its little sister on Gulf-to-Bay and Keene in Clearwater, is worth a try and is a better deal, to boot. The herb-crusted grouper is very good, and is an even better deal if you order before 6 p.m.

            For breakfast, try Maggie Mae's on Sand Key next to the Columbia, or drive just south of downtown Clearwater on Ft. Harrison to Wildflower Cafe, which is my favorite spot for b'fast. A local b'fast institution with huge portions is Lenny's, on 19 between Drew and Gulf to Bay.

            Another gem on Gulf to Bay is Mirage, which serves Persian Mediterranean either a la carte or on their wonderful buffet. I'm not a buffet person, but I make an exception for their fresh and healthy offerings, with ample choices for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Go on a Friday or Saturday and enjoy the belly dancer show. It's also open for lunch. It's a laid back Mom and Pop place, so don't expect fancy decor, but the food is wonderful.

            Downtown Dunedin--a short drive from Clearwater Beach-- has a number of charming offerings, including Bellinis (Italian), Le Maison (for tapas and wine), and Casa Tina (Mexican). I'm not that crazy about the food at Kelly's for Just About Anything, but it's a fun, funky venue. On Main Street just west of downtown Dunedin is a new place I have not yet tried but have heard good things about: Walt's Seasonal Cuisine.

            The little town of Safety Harbor is worth checking out, too. My favorite restaurant there is Green Springs Cafe, housed in a cheerfully painted old bungalow with local art adorning the walls and an inspired menu.

            If you venture as far north as Tarpon Springs to visit the sponge docks, Mykonos has the best Greek food in the area, in my opinion. It seems to be popular with the locals, whereas Hellas tends to attract a more touristy crowd. Hellas' bakery is definitely worth a visit, however.

            I haven't recommended any Tampa venues on the belief that after lazing on the beach all day, most people really don't want to make the 20+ mile trek across the bay into Ybor City or SoHo or Channelside. But if you are, I'm happy to share some thoughts on Tampa-side restos, as well.

            1. re: laurie

              I just don't get Lenny's. Yes it's very crowded. The danish basket is nice. But we went back last week and it was so disappointing. The homefries uncooked, the omelets runny. Is there really more to say? You want a good breakfast there are so many more good places, Eve's in Oldsmar where they line out the doors, the Paradise and The Athens in safety Harbor. You want crowds and baseball go to Lenny's

              1. re: donh

                where is Eve's in Oldsmar? I haven't hear of it but Oldsmar is not that far from where we live in Tampa and I would like to find a new good breakfast place.

                1. re: rhnault

                  Eve's (Formerly Eve's Donut Hole) is in the Woodlands shopping center in Oldsmar, which is where Curlew Road meats Tampa road. Excellent local, popular, famly, type breakfast. Also, not far down Tampa road at Eastlake (McMullen Booth Road) is the East Lake Cafe, which is also a very nice, slightly more "continental" type breakfast place.

              2. re: laurie

                I have also heard that Kiku is very good. Some links:

                http://www.sptimes.com/2004/05/20/Wee...

                http://www.clearwaterbeachkiku.com/

                1. re: laurie

                  don't forget the Columbia's Spanish Bean Soup. The best I've ever eaten. I challenge anyone to find a better bowl. A bowl of that with Cuban toast is one of my favorite meals. All the desserts there are generous!

              3. Rather than the Columbian, try Tio Pepes on Hwy 60 in Clwr on the way towards Tampa. Pricey but a big wow! They also used to have a more modestly priced lunch. For a real old time Fla. experience go to Ted Peters for smoked fish. Mullet is traditional, but they have others too. Located in St. Pete on Pasadena on the way to the beaches. For breakfast Lennys is always good, but often busy. I have had excellent food at Kellys in Dunedin, but the service has often left a bit to be desired...Go to the Belleview Biltmore for a drink and take in the little museum, a beautiful look at the what "the season" once was. Clwr Bch, not so much: Frenchies good for grouper sandwich or crabby/shrimp sandwich & The Beachcomber is old school (don't wear shorts) but used to have a killer fried chicken dinner served family style.

                1. I like the Island Way Grill and I like that Sushi restaurant others have mentioned (although the atmosphere is a little dry). And the Beachcomber is like stepping into the past, ala 60s. If you like chicken livers, you will be happy there. Frenchys for the tourists or grouper lovers. There is a fascinating Mexican taco place on Drew Road further inland, you will have to search this site for the name. I would take the drive to Guppys as their food is soooo good. Don't need to worry about reservations, they always manage to fit you in. In Ybor, the columbia is well worth the gaga trip, and their black bean soup is definitely the best around. The bar is world class, and the flamenco dancers are oo-lala. There is a Greek place that is good for dinner, and Carmine's is OK, very Tampa. For breakfast, go to the Lighthouse Donut shop in Indian Rocks -- if you get there early they have a key lime pie donut that is so good but it will be gone by 9A. Small menu and small place but fun -- walk around "downtown" Indian Rocks before you leave, there's a florida art gallery in the hood.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tandoori Girl

                    The little place on Drew St. is La Cabana del Tio. Their homemade tortillas, tacos al pastor, and sopes are particularly delicious. We stock up on stacks of their homemade tortillas for cooking at home. A visitor might want to pick up some of their tacos to go and enjoy them on the beach. We often do this when we have guests in town. It's less than ten minutes inland, and worth the drive. Fyi, it's cash-only!

                  2. IN Ybor you MUST go to Laughing Cat on 8th Ave and 15th Street for some of the BEST Italian; Acropolis for Greek; Columbia for Spanish; Tampa Bay Brewing Co. for excellent American Food with Beer in recipes.
                    My Clearwater Beach Favs include Frenchy's(Super Grouper); Island Way Grille; and greek salads at Post Corner Pizza.
                    Authentic Tampa Cuban food can be found on Columbus Ave, just east of Himes Ave - Arco Iris, La Teresita, Lincoln.

                    1. St. Larry's on US 19 in Palm Harbor is good...a bit of a drive from Clearwater beach, though. I have always enjoyed meals at the Don Cesar Hotel, on St. Pete Beach. Also a bit of a drive. Tia Pepe's on Gulf to Bay in Clearwater has always been good....I haven't been there in a while, but LOVE their brown bread! As for Columbia, the last time I went there, which was in the past year, it was really good.

                      1. For a fun time, try Cooters on Clearwater Beach. They're on Poinsettia, just a block off the main road. (Near the Hilton....the conceirge recomended it to me!) Great food! There are a lot of tourist trap restaurants on the beach that are more well known, but this place is not one of them. Cooters is known as the place where locals go for the best food. Stuffed snapper dinner is incredible. They have a fun happy hour with 25 cent shrimp and oysters. Friendly people there. Hope you enjoy your trip!

                        1. I came back from Clearwater on Sunday and I tried a couple of places in Clearwater (Britt's Laguna Grille and Frenchy's) as well as Samurai Blue at Ybor City and Charley's Steaks House. I enjoyed the cajun food at Britt's and Frenchy's and definitely liked Samurai Blue (loved the dancing eel). Charley's, on the other hand, was a good experience but I thought the steaks lacked flavor. Let me try to be a steak expert for a second here.... The steak was juicy and very tender and the price was not bad either ($38 for a porterhouse) but I thought it would be better than advertised. I guess I was looking for something out of the ordinary since the place raves about the awards they received. The appetizers were good though (ordered the seafood sampler) and the alligator was surprisingly delicious. I was reluctant to try at first but after my first bite I couldn't stop. Overall, the trip was fun and the food was good. Can't wait to head back down to Clearwater next year. I'll put up another board such as this for more suggestions next time. Thanks everyone.