First Timer in Clearwater - recommendations
Vancouver Chowhound will be heading to the Tampa area in Nov and looking for suggestions. Will be staying in a somewhat remote area called Clearwater Beach and will have access to a car but was hoping to not drive more than 30 min. Will be staying with friends who have 2 young children but appreciate good food.
Looking for good quality family restaurants for lunch and / or dinner; willing to try any cuisine but would prefer local versus chain restaurants.
Any suggestions / hidden gems would be appreciated.
I am told the choices are limited but I know my fellow chowhounds will come up with a few good recommendations!
I heartily agree with the recs for Kiku and the grouper sandwich at Frenchy's. Frenchy's is a particularly kid-friendly place, and the Rockaway locale (there are a few Frenchy's on CB) is a great place to enjoy stunning sunsets over one of the prettiest stretches of beach anywhere.
Island Way Grill has slipped in recent years, IMO, although I do think their Sunday brunch is still a good value. I haven't been that impressed by Greek Town Grille; a much better choice for Greek is Mykonos, on Dodacanese in Tarpon Springs on the famous sponge docks.
A couple other CB venues worth checking out include Blue Sky Cafe, which is one of our favorite breakfast spots and which also serves lunch and dinner. They offer a pretty extensive menu for all three meals. It's on Mandalay close to the Sand Pearl. For a lovely setting on the intracoastal, I always enjoy Columbia. This is a small Florida chain, the original of which has been open for over 100 years and is still operating out of its original (and beautiful) building in Ybor City. I enjoy the outdoor deck at the Columbia on Sand Key (next to the Marriott). Their 1905 salad, garbanzo soup, and sangria Cava never disappoint.
There's a new Italian resto on the beach (in the same building as Kiko's) called Al and Stella. We tried it for the first time a couple nights ago, and my husband declared it to be the best Italian meal he's ever enjoyed. This is not your typical American Italian-and-meatballs kinda place; the owners have been in the States just five years and the pasta is fresh-made on site. While this is a white linen tablecloth as opposed to red-checkered plastic tablecloth kinda place, I bet they are happy to accomodate families. They also sell several flavors of fresh gelato.
For great seafood, drive about 10 minutes south on Gulf Blvd to Guppy's on Indian Rocks Beach. They do wonderful things with fresh catches from our local waters.
Other good choices a short drive from CB include:
--Pierogi Grill: stick to the Polish offerings such as pierogis, stuffed cabbage, and pork shank. Dee-lish Eastern European comfort food! On Gulf-to-Bay close to Highland.
--Callalloo's: This little storefront on Cleveland at Myrtle serves awesome Jamacian lunches of jerk chicken and chicken or goat curry, among others. The owners had a very popular Jamacian resto in St. Pete for several years, and later were part-owners of the wonderful Savannah's, also in St. Pete. They're only open til 6 p.m., so this is more of a lunch spot or a place to pick up some take-out for an early dinner. I gotta tell ya, I was not a fan of jerk chicken until I tried Edith's, which is seasoned and char-broiled to perfection.
--Mirage: I'm typically not much into buffets, but Mirage offers a lovely lunch and dinner buffet with Persian specialities; or, you can order a la carte. It makes a fun family outing on Friday and Saturday evenings, when a bellydancer performs and inevitably pulls some kids (and, ahem, adults) onto the floor to shake their booties.
--Cristino's coal-fired pizza: I love this little pizza place on S. Fort Harrison. And their gelato might even be better than Al and Stella's.
I'm sure I'm overlooking several other recs; I'll jump back on this thread as I think of more.
Enjoy your stay!
Kiku Sushi (www.clearwaterbeachkiku.com) is right by Clearwater Beach and has some of the freshest fish in the area. Frenchy's Rockaway Grill (www.frenchysonline.com) has one of the best grouper sandwiches around and is right on the beach. Island Way Grill (www.islandwaygrill.com) is a really lovely dinner spot--also does a killer brunch. One of my favorite restaurants in Pinellas is Greek Town Grille (1222 Cleveland St)--fantastic authentic greek food (some of the best grilled octopus I've ever had.) Hope that you and your friends have a great time!