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Great Seafood in the Tampa Bay Area?

We have just done the unthinkable: we've cancelled a trip to northern Italy and Munich which included five nights at Michelin starred restaurants through the Dolomites, Salzburg and Germany. Simply, we were afraid that with another volcanic eruption-or the fear of one-the trip would have been ruined. And, that it would be a long time before we would see our cats again! I should note here that I've travelled heavily in Europe on business for thirty years and am somewhat spoiled in building vacations around where to have dinner.

We have some experience with the Tampa Bay area. In the '90's we had a half dozen trips to Clearwater Beach and did our best, then, to eat our way around the Gulf Coast. This year, next week actually, we are coming back. I know we're not going to replace Salzburg or Munich's best restaurant or a memory from the Dolomites but, in its own way, I believe the Tampa Bay area is one of the most beautiful on earth. Germans, Swiss and Italians would lust for a vacation there!

For us it isas much about where to eat. From the '90's we had good experiences at Bern's, the Lobster Pot and a Grouper sandwich at Frenchy's. We're also willing to drive an hour or more from Clearwater Beach for a memory. Right now we have reservations at the Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach and Cafe Ponte. I am guessing that Mise en Place is not worth the drive nor Sidebern; both are what I can find here in the Washington, D. C. area. I would say the same for Italian or French.

But for Gulf seafood is it Guppy's? The Salt Rock Grill? The Island Grill? Does Frenchy's have the best fried grouper sandwich? Dockside Dave's? Waltz' Fish Shack? In Tarpon Springs we used to go to Pappas but I believe this has closed. Today should we go to Mykonos, Rusty Bellies? We're staying at the Sand Pearl: what is their restaurant like?

We love Clearwater Beach and the Tampa Bay area. We're looking for what is done best where you live.

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Beach Bistro
6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

Cafe Ponte
13505 Icot Blvd. Suite 214, Clearwater, FL 33760

Salt Rock Grill
19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785

Mykonos
628 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

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

Sidebern's
2208 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, FL 33606

Lobster Pot Restaurant
17814 Gulf Boulevard, Redington Shores, FL 33708

Gulf Coast Cafe
4919 Memorial Hwy Ste 115, Tampa, FL 33634

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  1. Hi! Glad you love our area! Haven't eaten here yet, but it is at the top of our list as soon as possible. Middle Ground in Treasure Island for seafood. We have heard great things from friends and work colleagues. Hope you enjoy!
    nclark

    1. I love Guppy's, and I think they have some of the most consistently good (not to mention creatively prepared) seafood on the Pinellas beaches.

      Salt Rock Grill is very nice...in a way, the ambience makes it more special than the food, IMO. Don't get me wrong...the food is good, just not as memorable as I think it should be considering the price tag.

      Keegan's on Indian Rocks Beach is also worth a visit. It's as inexpensive as your Crabby Bill's and Dockside Dave's type places (neither of which I'm much of a fan of), but a lot more creative. Their oysters rockafeller are some of the best I've ever had.

      I also like Conch Republic on North Redington Beach. They offer good, fresh seafood served in a fun, Key West environment.

      Is Frenchy's grouper sandwich the best? I hear that a lot, but I've had grouper sandwiches that were just as good at Keegan's, Guppy's and Conch Republic (among other places). As long as the grouper is fresh, it's hard to get a "bad" one IMO.

      There's a Columbia restaurant just south of Clearwater Beach on Sand Key that's nice and consistent if you like Spanish food. It's a pretty place with an intracoastal water view.

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      Salt Rock Grill
      19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785

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

      Crabby Bills
      7675 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34747

      1. Sideberns is actually pretty solid but it's nothing you can't get in DC. Oystercatchers is the best upscale seafood around here (and the best brunch), followed by Island Way Grille / Salt Rock Grille (essentially the same restaurant). Bern's is still impressive, and Beach Bistro is worth the drive too. Armani's is good contemporary Italian with a killer view, if you're coming here stay at the Hyatt there by the airport and you can bang out Oystercatchers and Armanis without even having to leave the campus. I had a good meal at BlueFIGS the other day (North Dale Mabry) and people lately are raving about the Refinery but I wasn't impressed when I went (but I plan to give it another try). I never shut up about Pane Rustica, but there's a reason for that too. Dinner there is a must, everything is creative, unique and perfectly prepared, proportioned, and presented. Great atmosphere too. Datz is a fun spot for a great sandwich and a craft beer or glass of wine.

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        Beach Bistro
        6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

        Sidebern's
        2208 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, FL 33606

        1 Reply
        1. re: askdrtodd

          I would suggest a day in South Tampa: check out the new Tampa Museum of Art (no, won't hold a candle to DC museums, but it's good and you'll be supporting the team, as it were), maybe the Tampa History Museum; have a drink and a small bite at Fly (which is downtown, near the museums); then have dinner at Pane Rustica (the strip mall location will upset you, but persevere). You can't loll on the beach every day, right?

        2. Best Gulf seafood is Middle Grounds Grill on Treasure Island...super fresh local fish and a creative menu. It's the best seafood on the beach. (Lobster Pot is nothing special anymore...and pricey for "just there" seafood.) In Tarpon Springs, my favorite place for Greek cuisine is Costa's...some of the best grilled octopus I've had outside of the Greek Islands. Good calls on Beach Bistro and Cafe Ponte--both are outstanding. Down in Bradenton, I'd also recommend Ezra's for outstanding Appalachacola oysters and other great seafood. www.ezrafinefoods.com Enjoy your trip!

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          Beach Bistro
          6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

          Middle Grounds Grill
          10925 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, FL 33706

          1 Reply
          1. re: laboheme

            Laboheme..what nights do you work at Middle Grounds i'll come and see you

          2. Just a suggestion on Cafe Ponte and Salt Rock Grill. Check their websites because both of these have a prefixe special. With CP, it is an appetizer, entree and a dessert for, I believe, $33. And these are not downsized portions either. There is a slight upcharge if you get either the filet or the foie gras. At CP, it is from 530 to 630 pm each day. At SRG, it is from 4-5 pm daily and is an early bird special. Just in case you are watching your budget any.

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            Cafe Ponte
            13505 Icot Blvd. Suite 214, Clearwater, FL 33760

            Salt Rock Grill
            19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785

            13 Replies
            1. re: RibDog

              Thank you everyone for your responses; they are sincerely appreciated. We probably won't be going into Tampa other than the airport and, if we do, we'll probably stop at Seasons 52 which I like from Orlando and Atlanta. Most of our time will be cruising the coast from Tarpon Springs to Sarasota with numerous stops in between. I've also read that Pappas closed in '05. Our last visit, was about 15 years ago and we really liked it. How does Costas compare to Mykonos which the St. Petersburg Times calls the best restaurant in Tarpon Springs?

              Middle Grounds Grill sounds really interesting especially with its chef having competed on Iron Chef. Salt Rock Grill is definite. I know the reputation of Pane Rustica but we can find its equal here. I am more interested in what I can't find here or certainly wouldn't have been available in Europe. Beach Bistro is especially interesting: we've actually been there but on a night when it was closed. We looked in the window! I know that it is famous for bouillibasse, even serving it in three different sizes. I wrote this on the France board about two years ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485636 I also make bouillibasse including a fish fumet which I make myself. It will be interesting to try the Beach Bistro's.

              It will also be interesting to see how the coast has grown. I was an annual visitor starting in the early '80's but haven't been in about ten years now. The Lobster Pot then was excellent. Today, I understand it has little in common with that which was once promoted as Florida's best seafood restaurant. I also believe the ownership changed a number of years ago.

              We are staying at the Sand Pearl: is anhyone familiar with its restaurant?

              Last, is B 21 still a good wine shop on Highway 19?

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              Beach Bistro
              6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

              Salt Rock Grill
              19325 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores, FL 33785

              Mykonos
              628 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

              Lobster Pot Restaurant
              5157 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34242

              Middle Grounds Grill
              10925 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, FL 33706

              1. re: Joe H

                Costa's Seafood Feast (with the squid grilled rather than fried) is a spectacular eating experience.. The Smelts are fried, and that's enough I think...
                For THIS combo...

                I'll post a pic I took at my last visit...
                You very well might be shocked to find grilled octopus can be THIS good...
                ------ and the grilled squid....

                The crusty, melty, very flavorful, flaming cheese appetizer called Saganaki is a must.... You yell OPA! when they pour brandy on it and light it on fire...
                They squeeze a lemon to put out the fire...
                Eat it with bread before it gets cold...
                If you're a cheese lover it will blow your mind...

                The creamy, phyllo crusted, spinach pie called Spanokopita is exceptional...
                You shouldn't missed that.... It's like $6.95 and a nice portion....

                Stuffed grape leaves with avgolemono sauce are really nice...
                Their Gyros are great!

                For about 9 years, because my job puts me there, I've been having lunch in Tarpon Springs on the second Thursday of 'almost' every month...
                In the beginning I tried most all of the places and compared my favorite things...
                I thought all of these goodies were better at Costa's...

                Anything on the menu will probably be good, but those first three things I couldn't recommend stronger...

                 
                1. re: Mild Bill

                  Great. Now I have to trek out to Tarpon. :)

                  1. re: askdrtodd

                    Let's all cruise out one Saturday...

                    1. re: Mild Bill

                      If by "one saturday" you mean "tomorrow" then heck yeah!

                      1. re: askdrtodd

                        I love it! But I can't do tomorrow....
                        Maybe next Saturday?

                    2. re: askdrtodd

                      no kidding! I love grilled octopus.

                    3. re: Mild Bill

                      Their Pastitsio is also divine. I love love love the octopus too!

                    4. re: Joe H

                      I had dinner at the Lobster Pot a little over a year ago and my entire party was pretty disappointed with it...especially considering the price. It's not like it was back in its glory days. I definitely got a sense that it was circling the drain.

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                      Lobster Pot Restaurant
                      17814 Gulf Boulevard, Redington Shores, FL 33708

                      1. re: Joe H

                        Yes, B21 is still an excellent wine shop!

                        1. re: Joe H

                          Well, if I can't talk you into Pane Rustica, can I talk you out of Seasons 52? Perhaps the other outposts are better, but the one here is deeply mediocre, even for a chain. I cannot think of any reason you'd choose it over many better options in Tampa.