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

ABlack Jul 12, 2010 11:46 AM

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!

  1. d
    Dundrumgal Dec 2, 2010 07:48 AM

    We are snowbirds and we love Carrabba's Italian Restaurant and Sam Seltzer's Steak House, both on US19N

    7620 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940

    Sam Seltzer's Steak House
    7113 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34231

    15 Replies
    1. re: Dundrumgal
      ghod Dec 3, 2010 11:40 AM

      Seltzers has CLOSED all it's locations

      1. re: ghod
        askdrtodd Dec 3, 2010 12:54 PM

        There is a ghod! :)

        1. re: askdrtodd
          ghod Dec 3, 2010 01:44 PM

          shh it's a secret :)

          1. re: askdrtodd
            sweet_polly Dec 3, 2010 04:49 PM

            lol! Don't hate, drtodd....it's not nice. :p

          2. re: ghod
            joan Dec 4, 2010 08:02 AM

            Actually there are two open now, St. Pete and Gulf View Square Mall..

            An interesting story, one of the previous owners has reopened two of the locations with vows to improve the food and honor old gift certificates. My dad just treated DH and I to a meal at the Tyrone location this week. Prime rib was fatty, but tasty (especially the next day as an open faced sammy with blue cheese). The service was decent, prices are very low - three ate with two wines and two house cocktails, generous tip all came to $85. Not Ruth Chris, not trying to be. But there's definitely a market for this, and I wish Harold Seltzer well.. If you read this story, you may feel that way as well:


            1. re: joan
              meatn3 Dec 9, 2010 09:41 AM

              I ate at the Dale Mabry location shortly after it opened, but it has been so long ago that I don't recall how the meal was.

              Thanks for the article link. I respect what Harold Seltzer is trying to do and wish him the best. Based on that I'd be willing to try them again!

          3. re: Dundrumgal
            Manderley Dec 3, 2010 08:28 PM

            i thought sam seltzer's closed? i was there once, thought their steak had a weird aftertaste, and a weird texture, reminded me of liver, but i actually like liver, especially more than their steaks.

            also not a fan of carrabba's. we ate their when we first moved to florida and it was recommended. never went back.

            i was just in atlanta and ate at a great italian place called maggiano's. i was surprised when the wait staff told me there was a maggiano's in tampa, in the west shore mall. i'm going to have to check it out, i loved the one in atlanta. great fried calamari, great linguini with white clam sauce, great peppermint profiterole for dessert, great espresso, and a nice bottle of cabernet. ahhhh, that's italian!

            1. re: Manderley
              askdrtodd Dec 4, 2010 05:22 AM

              Manderley, Maggiano's is a big chain like Carrabbas, but I'd honestly eat at a Carrabbas or Macaroni Grill before I'd eat at a Maggiano's again. Hell, even Buca. (I suppose now would be a great time to mention that I haven't intentionally been to a chain restaurant in over 5 years) Anything but Maggianos. Especially the one at westshore mall. Ugh. I've had to eat there probably a dozen times because my old boss loved it, and never once had a good meal, competent service, etc. Go to Donatello on Dale Mabry, or to Lauro on Henderson, just anything but Maggianos. please. for me.

              1. re: askdrtodd
                Manderley Dec 4, 2010 09:16 AM

                i had never even heard of maggiano's before, stopped in at the atlanta location since the sign said "little italy" and i was tired of eating at the hotel. i had no idea it was a chain, and was surprised when my waiter told me there was one in tampa. i actually liked it a lot, maybe the atlanta location is better than west shore...maybe it was because i was miserably tired of being on the road for so long..maybe it was because i drank an entire bottle of cabernet all by my lonesome...not sure, but i enjoyed the meal very much. i only had the fried calamari and the linguini with white clam sauce (and no one's compares to my Mom's) but i was a happy camper. i didn't like carrabbas at all, and i've been to macaroni grill twice and it was not bad, tasty but a heart attack on a plate if you know what i mean.

                1. re: Manderley
                  rhnault Dec 4, 2010 12:27 PM

                  I like Maggianos and Carrabbas

                  1. re: Manderley
                    sunshine842 Dec 5, 2010 01:18 AM

                    Maggiano's is a chain based in Chicago -- their flagship in Chicago is really solid, but like so many chains based on individual restaurants (Columbia, Pizzeria Uno) something gets horribly, horribly lost in the translation and the offshoot locations just aren't ever as good as the original.

                    I worked with Maggiano's in Chicago for years to host business dinners and parties, and they never, ever let me down. The other locations, not so much.

                    1. re: sunshine842
                      askdrtodd Dec 5, 2010 04:34 AM

                      This for me is probably like Seasons 52, I always liked the one in Orlando (flagship original restaurant), always had a good experience there across the board. The one at westshore is pretty hit-or-miss, leaning toward the miss side.

                      I guess I'm just soured toward Maggianos because all my experiences at the westshore location have been pretty miserable (including a wedding rehearsal dinner we went to there, although they were pretty "generous" with the wine pours haha). I'm just morally opposed to food that supports these behemoth companies when I could go somewhere that I know the kitchen isn't a bunch of kids that have no love for the food they're making and are just trying to grind their way through the week. forgive me for trashing it, it's just my opinion for what it's worth- and it isn't worth much ;)

                      1. re: askdrtodd
                        rhnault Dec 5, 2010 04:36 AM

                        If I get a gift card to Olive Garden I give it away. If I get one for Maggiano's I will use it. That is my level in a nutshell lol

                        1. re: rhnault
                          The Chowhound Team Dec 6, 2010 05:22 AM

                          Folks, we do have a Chains board intended for discussing franchised restaurants, so we'd ask you to move further discussion of this tangent to that board, and keep this thread focused on great chow in this area. Thanks!

                          1. re: The Chowhound Team
                            DoubleBurger Dec 6, 2010 05:50 AM

                            agreed, in fact, eating chains is bad for your teeth.

            2. j
              jme1beachbum Aug 8, 2010 11:39 AM

              Snappers Sea Grill on St Pete Beach.


              Coconut-Cashew Crusted Mahi Mahi, served over a mango chutney with grilled banana and potato in puff pastry- yum.

              Sea Grill
              37611 US Highway 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684

              1 Reply
              1. re: jme1beachbum
                laurie Aug 9, 2010 07:34 PM

                OK, while we are talking St. Pete Beach, I gotta add that DH and I recently had an incredible meal at Maritana Grill in the Don Cesar Hotel: habanero BBQ grouper served atop a bed of sweet plantain, chorizo and pineapple hash. The sweet-spicy mix of flavors was a fabulous foil to this area's favorite local seafood. Best grouper I've ever eaten, hands-down!!

                Maritana Grill
                Don CeSar Beach Resort Spa, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

              2. w
                wishbugger Jul 31, 2010 02:28 PM

                Excellent Thai food, good atmosphere. It's near Safety Harbor in the Northwood area where Enterprise meets McMullen Booth

                Ban Thai Restaurant
                2519 N McMullen Booth Rd Ste 505, Clearwater, FL 33761

                1. p
                  proboscidian Jul 24, 2010 12:30 PM

                  If you want to stay in Clearwater, there are a few very authentic hole-in-the-wall Mexican places on Drew St. I like Don Huichos best, but in the boards here a lot of people like Cabana del Tio which is also good.

                  On Cleveland St., Greektown Grille is good. Their fried calamari is great - tender and crisp, and not greasy. It's better than the tourist traps in Tarpon.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: proboscidian
                    laurie Jul 25, 2010 06:10 PM

                    I'm a La Cabana del Tio fan myself, but my husband recently had a great meal at Don Huichos, so I need to check it out. As far as Greektown Grille goes, I'm not a big fan. The space is very nice, as is the service, but instead of driving five minutes from my home to Greektown Grille, I typically drive the half-hour to Mykonos in Tarpon when I have a hankering for Greek.

                    628 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

                  2. m
                    magnusfl Jul 20, 2010 08:22 PM

                    antoniospastagrille.com are they the best Italian in the bay area ? no but for price vs. quality there are in my opinion i prefer them at lunch as it more affordable

                    1. sweet_polly Jul 17, 2010 06:49 AM

                      I tried a new place in Pinellas county last night that my husband and I were both blown away by....Tapas Garden and Wine Bar in Indian Rocks Beach. The tapas were all wonderful! We tried Mussels in Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce, Duck and Chicken Liver Pate (honestly, some of best pate I've had outside of Paris), Crispy Duck Leg With Orange Wine Sauce (Perfect!), Filetito with Portabello Mushrooms and Maytag Bleu Cheese (my hub-unit's fave), Baked Brie in Puff Pastry (with Candied Pecans, Raspberry Sauce and Fresh Blueberries) and Lobster Escargot (little chunks of lobster in garlic butter presented in an escargot dish). We finished up with a Banana Cream Pie studded with white chocolate. Everything, right down the warm rosemary bread with fresh hummus that came with the tapas, was outstanding and beautifully presented. We dined outside in a lovely, shaded garden setting with lots of beautiful plants, twinkling lights, lattice work and faux gas lamps around. It was just lovely in all respects. It was a LOT of food, too...we couldn't seem to stop ordering once we started tasting.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sweet_polly
                        Manderley Jul 17, 2010 11:57 AM

                        okay i'm now officially salivating.

                        1. re: Manderley
                          sweet_polly Jul 18, 2010 10:57 AM

                          Food pics are in my blog, if you'd like more vicarious thrills. ;)

                          1. re: sweet_polly
                            laurie Jul 18, 2010 06:16 PM

                            I've been intrigued by this place; will definitely check it out and report back.

                      2. t
                        TIGirl Jul 14, 2010 12:36 PM

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

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

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: TIGirl
                          rhnault Jul 14, 2010 01:21 PM

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

                          1. re: rhnault
                            askdrtodd Jul 15, 2010 07:06 AM

                            and that makes 2 of us.

                          2. re: TIGirl
                            triff Jul 14, 2010 04:20 PM

                            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
                              TampaAurora Jul 14, 2010 04:52 PM

                              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.

                            2. a
                              andy huse Jul 12, 2010 07:28 PM

                              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
                                RibDog Jul 12, 2010 07:38 PM

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

                                1. re: RibDog
                                  DoubleBurger Jul 13, 2010 06:42 AM


                                  1. re: RibDog
                                    andy huse Jul 13, 2010 02:33 PM

                                    those wings are the bomb.

                                    1. re: andy huse
                                      DoubleBurger Jul 14, 2010 05:34 AM

                                      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
                                      willdupre Jul 15, 2010 11:34 AM

                                      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
                                        andy huse Jul 16, 2010 10:45 AM

                                        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
                                      laurie Jul 16, 2010 08:24 PM

                                      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
                                        RibDog Aug 1, 2010 07:22 PM

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

                                    4. l
                                      laurie Jul 12, 2010 04:06 PM

                                      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)


                                      --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.

                                      Island Way Grill
                                      20 Island Way, Clearwater, FL 33767

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: laurie
                                        TampaAurora Jul 13, 2010 07:33 PM

                                        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.

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

                                        Pierogi Grill
                                        1056 Main St, Dunedin, FL 34698

                                        1. re: TampaAurora
                                          askdrtodd Jul 14, 2010 05:18 AM

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

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

                                          1. re: TampaAurora
                                            RibDog Jul 14, 2010 06:11 AM

                                            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. d
                                          DoubleBurger Jul 12, 2010 03:49 PM

                                          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
                                            Manderley Jul 13, 2010 02:45 PM

                                            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
                                              holladay Aug 1, 2010 10:02 AM

                                              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.

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

                                              1. re: holladay
                                                sweet_polly Aug 1, 2010 05:32 PM

                                                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
                                                  Mild Bill Aug 1, 2010 06:34 PM

                                                  Then why am I gaining a pound a day?

                                                  1. re: Mild Bill
                                                    sweet_polly Aug 1, 2010 07:23 PM

                                                    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
                                                  jme1beachbum Aug 8, 2010 11:33 AM

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

                                                3. re: Manderley
                                                  specialkdb1 Oct 21, 2010 11:13 PM

                                                  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. annemarie07 Jul 12, 2010 11:53 AM

                                                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?

                                                Island Way Grill
                                                20 Island Way, Clearwater, FL 33767

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: annemarie07
                                                  askdrtodd Jul 12, 2010 11:57 AM

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

                                                  1. re: annemarie07
                                                    ABlack Jul 12, 2010 01:13 PM

                                                    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
                                                      askdrtodd Jul 12, 2010 03:33 PM

                                                      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
                                                        Little T. Jul 16, 2010 08:19 PM

                                                        Thai Thani? They are closed . .

                                                        Thai Thani Restaurant
                                                        615 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

                                                        1. re: Little T.
                                                          askdrtodd Jul 17, 2010 04:55 AM

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

                                                          1. re: askdrtodd
                                                            deet13 Dec 3, 2010 08:54 PM

                                                            Heh, was it Bua Siam or Tum Rub Thai?

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