July 23, 2014

Executive Lifestyles - Dining & Spirits

Vaulting Into the Hall

Robert W. Tolf | 1/1/2006

CLEARWATER COMFORT: The Beachcomber is 58 years old and counting, offering Everglades frog legs, veal loin, lamb chops and chicken livers.


The happenings that are Heilman's vaulted straight into the Golden Spoon Hall of Fame this year. Why not? Heilman's, with its landmark Beachcomber phenomenon, is now in its 58th year.

And its history is a rich one, beginning with a Heilman's restaurant in 1920 in Lorain, Ohio, where later the Heilman brothers, Robert and Hubert, started working in the kitchen. Then came World War II, the Cornell Hotel School, the move to Florida and the restaurant in 1948.

Bob became president of the National Restaurant Association. Hubert opened a Heilman's in Fort Lauderdale, featuring the same kind of kindly, well-informed staff and the specialties of Grandma Heilman -- the signature Back-to-the-Farm chicken dinner, an eye-popping, platter-filling, Dutch oven skillet-sautéed spring chicken, with creamiest of cole slaws, butter-rich real mashed potatoes, endless portions of garden fresh vegetables and baked fresh hot breads, all for $9.50 years back. Today the price is a reasonable $14.95.

But there's so much more -- Everglades frog legs, Maine lobster tails, New Bedford sea scallops, "Blue Ribbon" prime rib and veal loin, barbecued Canadian baby back ribs, lamb chops and chicken livers ($12.95 to $22.95), Clearwater comfort foods of the first order.

Bob is 84 and the guiding light. His son Bob Jr., also an alumnus of the Cornell Hotel School, runs the show. Next door is Bobby's Bistro & Wine Bar, named for Bob III and pleasing patrons seeking something trendier: Designer pizzas, "JamAsian" baby backs, boursin-blessed burgers and filet mignon with beaujolais reduction ($6 to $17). For the perfect pairing of wines, there are some 20,000 bottles in the cellar.

Bob Jr., the fourth generation Heilman in the restaurant whirl, opened the area's first bistro in 1994 while pursuing the dream of pinot noir. The Beachcomber had a special 50th Anniversary Private Label Chardonnay and Zinfandel from California, but Bobby's Bistro started its own vineyard in the northern reaches of Oregon's Willamette Valley for its special FoxyRock pinots.

Bob Heilman's Beachcomber
447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach
727/442-4144; heilmansbeachcomber.com

Bobby's Bistro & Wine Bar
454 Poinsettia Ave., Clearwater Beach
727/446-WINE (9463)

Tags: Dining & Travel, Tampa Bay

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