NAVIGATION

September 20, 2017

Hot Beach, Cool Fare

Robert W. Tolf | 6/1/1998
Beach-walking, shop-strolling, even early evening cruising along the strands of St. Petersburg has long been a favorite avocation of mine, and I can think of no better base camp than the Don CeSar, that pink palace with so many good vibes it almost trembles. Its top-flight Maritana Grille is still THE place to celebrate something special along the Gulf, but there's also the Lobster Pot in Redington Shores and the Wine Cellar in North Redington, both among the 200 Best in the State [Florida Trend, Feb. 1998].

Competing for a spot on next year's list will be current newcomer, newsmaker the Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores. But there are many other places to mark on your maps and calendars, including the beach bars and pubs, which beckon with beer flowing and foaming like the splashing surf, and a string of cool and casual feederies, some featuring ethnic exotica.

EMM & CEE Company

4401 Gulf Blvd. 813/367-5656

St. Pete Beach

For three years, this has been the place for pasta, freshly made out back and tangled with seafood or left alone to stand on its own with just a dab of fresh basil and tomato. The shrimp are superior and so is the pizza, prepared New York style. Casual and captivating for the true fan of farinaceous fare. Dinner, entrees $7 to $14, nightly.

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Fetishes

6690 Gulf Blvd. 813/363-3700

St. Pete Beach

Surprise eight-table, eight-entree stunner where reservations are a must and the performance approaches perfection. Start with escargot in puff pastry or spinach ricotta stuffed artichoke bottoms, looking ahead to Maryland-style crab cakes or boneless loin of pork braised with Guinness, shallots and forest mushrooms. Dinner, entrees $15 to $21, Monday through Saturday.

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Fire Fish Grill

301 Gulf Blvd. 813/593-FISH

Indian Rocks Beach

My newest favorite opened late last year where Little Joe's used to be. I like to launch my meal with smoked shrimp chile relleno or blackened tuna kabob salad dolloped with guacamole and zapped with creamy garlic-wasabi dressing, then settle into pecan-crusted cajun catfish, roasted salmon or red snapper Vera Cruz, meaning with capers, green olives, onions and tomato sprinkled with feta chunks. The skillet-baked, butter-crowned, green chili, sour cream cornbread is a great friend to the food. Lunch and dinner, entrees $9 to $16, daily.

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The Frog Pond

16909 Gulf Blvd. 813/392-4117

North Redington Beach

Best breakfast on the beach with imaginative variations of the Benedict theme, overwhelming omelets, frittatas, crepes and Belgian waffles. Return midday for sensational salads, mouth-bending sandwiches, and more fun and flair by owners Bill, Denis and David, who fulfill their promise to provide "great food, unique atmosphere, continued quality and incredible portions." Breakfast daily, lunch Monday through Saturday, entrees $5 to $7.50.

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Golden Prague

14995 Gulf Blvd. 813/397-4971

Madeira Beach

The family Olejnicek produces classic crispy Czech duckling bedded down with potato dumplings and red cabbage, of course, but if you prefer bread dumplings, order the paprika-showered goulash or the Bohemian variation of sauerbraten enlivened with lingonberry. Be sure to start with one of the brewed-out-back soups, and save room for the apple strudel. Dinner, entrees $12 to $15, Monday through Saturday.

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Guppy's on the Beach

170l Gulf Blvd. 813/593-2032

Indian Rocks Beach

Fresh fish here gets a bit of Caribbean coaching with Southwest add-ons - the kind of innovative accents that might be expected from a Fuhrmann, son of the uncompromising talent that has kept the Lobster Pot perking at the summit all these years. I also like all the waist-watching, healthy approaches instituted by the second generation. Lunch and dinner, entrees $6 to $17, daily.

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Hurricane Seafood Restaurant

807 Gulf Way 813/360-9558

St. Pete Beach

A landmark on Pass-a-Grille Beach with fresh Bahama breezes, an always-packed deck of umbrella-shaded cement tables that flank a sports bar, and dancing on the second floor and the top deck for the nightly sunset ritual. Stone crab and steak are okay but the grouper is what I order. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, entrees $8 to $20, daily.

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Il Lido

19211 Gulf Blvd. 813/593-0926

Indian Shores

The super-friendly quartet of Linda and Joe Pancoe, Alfredo Conversi and Darlene Figley is responsible for this slice of the Old Country, featuring chicken cacciatore and marsala, gnocchi Bolognese, broccoli and garlic-freckled penne, eggplant parmigiana, veal piccata and Francese, and grilled beef pizzaiola. Dinner, entrees $9 to $22, nightly.

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Omi's Bavarian Inn & Restaurant

1470l Gulf Blvd. 813/393-9654

Madeira Beach

Next time you hanker for hasenpfeffer - the real thing but without the buckshot - direct your appetite to this outpost of German gastronomy. The schnitzels are super, the rouladen and sauerbraten authentic, and the kraut, cabbage and kartoffel wunderbar. Dinner, entrees $8 to $15 nightly.

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Thai-Pan Alley and Bamboo Beach Bar

2300 Gulf Blvd. 813/593-FOOD

Indian Rocks Beach

"Urban Thai Cuisine" is how the owners describe this bit of Bangkok, reminiscent of the food stalls I learned to love in Hong Kong and Singapore. Take-out window up front, basic dining room out back, and a menu of made-from-scratch rice and vegetarian combinations with green and panang curry specialties, stir-fried chili and basil squid, ginger duck and lots of noodles. Order the Spiced Noodles. Lunch, except Sunday; dinner, entrees $6 to $8, nightly.

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Woody's Waterfront

7308 Sunset Way 813/360-9165

St. Pete Beach

An ultra casual, laid-back, ultra cool beach bar perfectly positioned on an inlet for watching the boat parade while you sip your suds and munch or gorge on baskets of fried shrimp and chicken, stretching your mouth with a beauty of a burger and fries or salivating over the grouper, a house specialty. Lunch and dinner, entrees $3 to $8, daily.

Restaurants Around the State

SOUTHEAST

HOLLYWOOD

Revolution 2029

2029 Harrison St. 954/920-4748

From steamed New Zealand mussels with coconut-curry broth, coriander and apples to tamarind-grilled swordfish with papaya vinaigrette, corn relish and chayote squash, this is indeed a revolution. Dinner, entrees $12 - $23.

SOUTHWEST/TAMPA BAY

FORT MYERS

Prawnbroker

13451-16 McGregor Blvd. 941/489-2226

This side-by-side fish market and restaurant knows and respects seafood. Simple, straightforward, always fresh and also located in Stuart. Dinner, entrees $12 - $18.

CENTRAL

MELBOURNE

Conchy Joe's Seafood

1477 Pineapple Ave. 407/253-3132

Along with Bahamian recipes for conch and fillet of fish, the chickee bar and reggae-calypso music add to the fun. There's a Conchy Joe's in Jensen Beach, too. Lunch & dinner, entrees $14 - $16.

NORTHEAST

JACKSONVILLE BEACH

Giovanni's

1161 Beach Blvd. 904/249-7787

From Chilean sea bass to veal scallopine crowned with crab ravioli and finished with cream, this father-son team cooks up the best of the new and old worlds, both California and Continental. Dinner, entrees $14 - $30, Monday through Saturday.

NORTHWEST

PENSACOLA BEACH

Jubilee Restaurant

400 Quietwater Beach Road 850/934-3108

With a pair of restaurants, bars and lounges, sweet shop and a spacious al fresco waterfront deck, this beach beauty lives up to its name. Lunch and dinner, entrees downstairs $6 - $17, upstairs $17 - $26.

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