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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.

                              2. 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: Manderley

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

                                    1. re: sweet_polly

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

                                1. 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. 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

                                      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.

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                                      Mykonos
                                      628 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

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

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

                                      1. Snappers Sea Grill on St Pete Beach.

                                        http://www.snappersseagrill.com/main....

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

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

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jme1beachbum

                                          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!!

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

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

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                                          Carrabbas
                                          7620 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940

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

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: Dundrumgal

                                            Seltzers has CLOSED all it's locations

                                                1. re: askdrtodd

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

                                                2. re: ghod

                                                  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:

                                                  http://www.tampabay.com/news/business...

                                                  1. re: joan

                                                    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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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

                                                                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

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