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I want to like Tampa/Clearwater, but I don't. Please help.

My mother moved to Clearwater several years ago and we've made a few trips down to see her. She always has a new restaurant she's excited about, but I feel like I'm getting the same meal over and over again; stale bread, boiled veg and gray meat.

Can somebody give me names of a few places that might rekindle my enthusiasm? We'll eat just about anything from any type of cuisine. I'd like to stay out the very deep end of the price pool, nothing at $100+ pp, please), and no steakhouses.

I'd be grateful for any suggestions anyone might have. Thanks!

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  1. Some of my choices are the Island Way Grill on Clearwater Beach, Flamestone Grill in Oldsmar, Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater Beach. What type of food do you like?

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    Island Way Grill
    20 Island Way, Clearwater, FL 33767

    6 Replies
    1. re: annemarie07

      yeah clearwater is kinda limited, but Island Way is great!!

      1. re: annemarie07

        Thanks for the suggestions. I'll check them out. We'll really go for anything, Mexican, Thai, Italian, Latin - expensive/cheap whatever. As long as the person cooking knows what they're doing and cares how the food turns out, I'm a happy guy.

        1. re: ABlack

          There's a great Thai place just north of Clearwater off US-19, I forget the name though. It's near 19 and 580 I believe. Can someone help jog my memory?

          1. re: askdrtodd

            Thai Thani? They are closed . .

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            Thai Thani Restaurant
            615 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

            1. re: Little T.

              no that wasn't it... I forget the name though. might have been in palm harbor.

              1. re: askdrtodd

                Heh, was it Bua Siam or Tum Rub Thai?

      2. I have to agree with you. Been here a few months from Philly and it's like I just moved to Iowa.

        7 Replies
        1. re: DoubleBurger

          ha ha ha ha i totally agree. i've been here four years from the big apple and omg do i miss the whole city thing. 10pm if you're looking for someplace to eat, your only choice is the waffle house. i'd kill for a good pizza or halfway decent chinese. there's no place like home.

          1. re: Manderley

            Then why are you here, Manderley? Just curious. As a Tampa native, I get tired of this. We have spectacular food here if you know where to look, including great pizza and Chinese. In fact the best pizza AND Chinese I've had has been in Tampa (Wood Fired and Yummy House), not New York. To assert that a city is not a "real" city just because you can't get a decent meal at 10PM just makes large metro-dwellers sound spoiled and whiny.

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            Yummy House
            2202 W Waters Ave Ste 1A, Tampa, FL 33604

            1. re: holladay

              Only speaking for myself...I love the Tampa Bay area for many reasons, but the food is not one of them. Yes, you can get a fine meal in this area...if you look. I think Tampa is a "real" city, but its food culture doesn't begin to compare with that of Philadelphia, NYC, San Francisco...and let's not even bring European cities into the argument. Tampa has come a long way, but let's face it...we're not known for our food scene.

              1. re: sweet_polly

                Then why am I gaining a pound a day?

                1. re: Mild Bill

                  LOL! I sometimes gain a pound a day, too...even in Tampa. *mad*

                  If you're gaining a pound a day here...my advice would be to totally steer clear of Philadelphia, NYC, Paris, Buenos Aires, California Wine Country, Tuscany, and any other true "food capitals"...you will totally be circling the drain (weight-wise) after a visit...I always am. *cry*

              2. re: holladay

                mmm, yummy house. mmm, salt and pepper calamari.

              3. re: Manderley

                Tampa and Florida in general blow NYC out of the water for cuban , mexican , BBQ and local seafood. NYC while it is a great culinary city has many weaknesses . NYC is not as great as many think. NYC has some great strengths(Pizza,etc) but overall does not get critiqued as hard as it should for dearth of certain types of food.

            2. There are actually several really good restos in Clearwater and environs. Here are some:

              Clearwater Beach:

              --Shor Grill (in the new Hyatt) for superb, fresh fish in a stunning setting. Try to get seated by a window or on the patio to enjoy the sunset views of the Gulf.

              --Al & Stella (on Mandalay) for house-made pasta. It's become a mainstay of ours, and we've spoken with Italian expats who drive from as far as Naples to enjoy Sra. Stella's cooking.

              --Kiku for excellent sushi.

              Honestly, I am not a fan of Island Way Grill. My last few meals there have been disappointing. I think Shor Grill does a much better job at a similar price point.

              Clearwater (mainland):

              --The new Ceviche on Gulf-to-Bay for Spanish-style tapas

              --Pierogi Grill, for real good Polish home-style cooking

              --The Mirage for a reasonably-priced, Persian-style lunch buffet (or dinner buffet and belly dancer show on the weekends)

              Dunedin:

              --The Livingroom for an interesting small plates menu

              --Casa Tina for "healthy mex" in fun, Frida Kahlo/Day of the Dead-inspired space

              --Pan y Vino (next to Casa Tina) for interesting pizzas such as pistacio, Mexican chorizo, and goat cheese and figs

              --Kelly's for Just About Anything (yes, that's the name of the restaurant, and the moniker applies--they serve b-fast, lunch and dinner in a quirky space)

              Tarpon Springs:

              --Mykonos for AWESOME Greek dishes and seafood. Grilled octopus is one of their specialties, or you can also get a whole fresh catch of the day (once when we ordered this, the fisherman who'd just caught it was eating lunch at a nearby table).

              Indian Rocks Beach:

              --Guppy's for fabulous seafood; the Sunset Trio of three fresh fish offerings of the day never disappoints

              I've focused on North County and am surely not thinking of several at the moment, but this should get you started. Also, downtown St. Pete has plenty of interesting options.

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              Island Way Grill
              20 Island Way, Clearwater, FL 33767

              3 Replies
              1. re: laurie

                Laurie, I will second Guppy's, The Mirage and Pierogi Grill. I haven't gotten a chance to eat at the rest of your suggestions, but these three are both solid suggestions.

                At Guppy's recommend everything, or more specifically whatever the specials are of the day. We like to go for lunch, which is cheaper and still high quality. We had a creme brulee recently that was incredible.

                At The Mirage, the tabbouleh can't be beat outside of my own kitchen. The kebabs that we got last time were well cooked and well spiced. We got the buffet, and could have had more than enough if we had ordered just kebabs and tabbouleh off the menu and been happy. I was not a fan of the baba ganoush - too tangy.

                At Pierogi Grill, I loved the cherry pierogies and the potato pierogies. They reminded me of my grandmother's home made pierogies, but their thick texture turned off my SO.

                To add more:

                Safety Harbor's Brady's Backyard BBQ - searchable on Chowhound. I love their corn pudding and their smoked chicken!

                Pho Quyen - Vietnamese in Pinellas Park - their Pho Ga and Chicken on Rice Vermicelli (Bun) are staples in my diet lately. The service is helpful and consistently on target with suggestions.

                My SO is suggesting that I add Thai Pan Alley, in Indian Rocks Beach, which is one of his favorite places in Pinellas County to eat. We tend to eat their at least once a month, and then either bring the food to the beach or eat and then walk to the beach. They have an outdoor seating and are on the beach, but without a view. The service is hit or miss, but more hit since a change in servers. Stick with their curries and you will be pleased. Their chicken can be on the dry side.

                Cristino's Pizza and Gelato are great as is Anthony's Coal Fire's chicken wings. I personally think that their pizzas are over-priced.

                If you have never had Rita's Water Ice, please search them out! It's a tradition from Philly that has migrated down here which made my day when I found it. I had the black cherry water ice today.

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                Pho Quyen Restaurant
                4505 Park Blvd Ste 10, Pinellas Park, FL 33781

                Pierogi Grill
                1056 Main St, Dunedin, FL 34698

                1. re: TampaAurora

                  Squid Bun at Pho Quyen, always a winner. I think you just determined what I'm doing for lunch today haha

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                  Pho Quyen Restaurant
                  4749 66th St N, Kenneth City, FL 33709

                  1. re: TampaAurora

                    I agree that the pizzas at Cristin's and Anthony's are a little over-priced. Except for the lunch pizza at Anthony's which is a fairly good deal. Even though they say it is for one, two can easily be satisfied with it along with a salad or wings.

                2. Thanks to Laurie for giving some promising-sounding options.

                  I would add Cristino's pizza (get the gelato, too).

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: andy huse

                    And Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza in Clearwater especially for their oven cooked wings and ribs!

                        1. re: andy huse

                          excellent. I am there. We do have an Anthony's in Horsham, PA, which I am from and left a few weeks back but never got to try. Thanks all, for the many suggestions, very helpful.

                        2. re: RibDog

                          No offense but I'm kind of mystified by the love people have for those wings and ribs, I love both wings and ribs (probably a bit too much judging by my waistline) and went there about a month ago just to try them because of the raves I have heard about them, I found the ribs rather dried out, and seasoned to the point that I found the taste of the meat was totally subsumed and didn't see how the pepper vinegar related to the dish, I didn't see that it really added to the flavor. The wings were just as mismatched to me, way overly salty, rather greasy and the "Caramelized" onions were not actually caramelized but merely cooked until they were slightly browned and floppy and draped over the wings, and again it really didn't seem like they made sense with the dish.

                          1. re: willdupre

                            i haven't eaten those wings for a couple years, and i could see how they could be too salty (which is a peeve of mine). The onions were caramelized when i ate them, not merely browned. they dodn't have the ribs when i was there last. since i started going to Wood Fired Pizza in north Tampa, i haven't seen any need to return to Anthony's.

                        3. re: andy huse

                          Yeah, Cristino's pizza is wonderful (although I do not recommend their pasta dishes). And their gelato is the best to be had in the area, IMO.

                          1. re: laurie

                            Have you tried Paciugo's in downtown St. Pete for gelato? Give it a try, I think you will be surprised.

                        4. Re: Pho Quyen - better call first. I heard they were closed.

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                          Pho Quyen Restaurant
                          4505 Park Blvd Ste 10, Pinellas Park, FL 33781

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: TIGirl

                            The one at Hillsborough and Memorial in Tampa is open and one of my favorite places to eat.

                            1. re: TIGirl

                              I did a "SAY IT AIN'T SO!" and phoned their Pinellas Park location to see, and "phew" ..they answered and said they were open.

                              1. re: TIGirl

                                The 66th street location is closed, but had iffy service and always smelled like they had burned something in the back.

                                The park street location is going strong. We were there last friday and they barely had any tables available.

                                They have a location on Hillsborough in Tampa that is great and is always busy...sometimes to their detriment.

                                Their last location is near USF is great for food and service but sometimes smells
                                indescribably "chemically".

                                Does any one have the scoop on their owning structure? It seems like all they share is a name and menu type...but the menus are different slightly.