Whatever your dining style--kick-back casual or dress-up elegant--there's a fabulous restaurant waiting to serve you a stunning water vista along with a mouthwatering meal.
An uncommon perk of dining in St. Petersburg/Clearwater is the number of restaurants that offer gentle sea breezes and sparkling water views. You can pull up a chair, order a sandwich and look out over bays, inlets and the Gulf at many an eatery here.
The local favorites listed here range from lesser-known casual gems that welcome patrons in beach garb to fine dining establishments, but they all have two things in common: excellent food and sand-and-water surroundings that can’t be beat.
Casual Beach Dining Classics
What Chicago did for pizza, St. Pete/Clearwater did for the grouper sandwich. You'll hardly find an area menu without one, but locals have asserted for years that the "Frenchy's" family of restaurants (Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, Frenchy's Salt Water Cafe, Frenchy's South Beach Cafe and Frenchy's Original Cafe) spaced throughout Clearwater Beach, serves the best. They've also deemed the local chain a generous provider of complimentary sunsets, and with its locations' signature proximity to the shore, you won't find a bad seat in the house. Depending on the location, you might find live music or a beachfront bar where it's perfectly acceptable to arrive sandy-footed and clad in swimwear.
Locals also love The Palm Pavilion, an open-air waterside institution, ideal for sunset-gazing on Clearwater Beach. You'll enjoy great views of the area, which was voted the "Best Beach Town in Florida" by USA Today readers in 2013. Flip-flops are more than welcome at this easy-going bar and grill. The Palm Pavilion has been serving up a variety of seafood and casual dining favorites, plus free nightly sunsets, since 1926. Try out the fried gator nibbles or wasabi scallops, and wash ’em down with a frosty draught beer or specialty cocktail. The restaurant also features live music throughout the week.
On Pass-a-Grille Beach, pay homage to the landmark Hurricane Seafood Restaurant, where multi-levels offer panoramic Gulf views, live music and dancing in an atmosphere slightly more formal than that of sandier surfside hang-outs. Sunsets savored from the Hurricane's rooftop deck enhance the flavor of its something-for-everyone menu. If you're looking for beach dining in the area, the Hurricane's a classic.
Seafood Restaurants With a Tropical Vibe
Pass-a-Grille Beach is also home to Paradise Grille. If you were any closer to the Gulf of Mexico, you’d be eating your Paradise Grille grouper sandwich in the surf. Grab a picnic table, hoist the umbrella and take in the sights and sounds – not to mention tastes – of this outdoor beachfront eatery. The embodiment of Pass-a-Grille Beach’s super low-key, old Florida vibe, Paradise Grille offers everything from burgers and wraps to smoothies and craft beer. Some evenings, you’ll find live musicians adding to the tropical vibe, and some weekends, local artists and craftspeople sell their wares. Stick around for sunset, when one lucky guest is chosen to ring the ceremonial bell exactly 15 times at the precise moment the sun sinks into the Gulf.
Locals also are partial to Billy's Stone Crab Restaurant in nearby Tierra Verde. Feast on sweet scallops, Gulf Stream mahi mahi, fresh Florida flounder and stone crabs fresh from the owner's traps. The menu is succulently simple, and the atmosphere creates a total experience for patrons. Before or after your meal, hop aboard one of the restaurant's narrated boat tours of surrounding waterways. Or enjoy a Full Moon Party – live music and an open-air rooftop bar all but enforce relaxation.
At Woody's Waterfront Restaurant, a retro style, casual vibe and amazing views come together for a great time dining on the water. Located in St. Pete Beach on the blue waters of Blind Pass, Woody’s is so close to the water that you’re likely to see schools of bright fish and even playful dolphins passing by. Sit back, relax and enjoy classic seafood dishes, bar food and continental fare.
You'll also find Crabby Bill's in St. Pete Beach's lively resort district. If you think mountains of crab claws are the only draw at this classic establishment, wait till you see the view. Sure, the tasty crustaceans are rightfully famous at this bustling establishment, but the beach vistas you can take in from pretty much every seat in the house sweeten the deal. There’s almost always a beach party vibe here, so there’s no need to ditch your beach duds. You can enjoy your Philly-style grouper sandwich and a cold one just as you are. Make sure to set aside a little time to take in the sunset from the rooftop deck.
Fancy Waterfront and Waterview Dining in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach
With its signature style – what the owners call a blend of Pacific Rim, continental and island cuisine – Island Way Grill offers a more formal approach to waterfront dining on Clearwater Beach. (Just keep in mind that in the town named USA Today's "Best Beach Town in Florida" in 2013, “formal” often means tucking a Tommy Bahama shirt into a pair of walking shorts for men and sporting sundresses or capris for women. And flip-flops are de rigueur all around.) Come by boat if you wish, and sample jalapeno conch fritters and the restaurant's coveted bamboo salmon. Island Way also offers an early dining menu and a Sunday champagne brunch that you'll crave long after you leave. Just don't forget to take in the view of Clearwater Harbor between bites of sushi or bananas foster.
Whether you seek a breezy spot near the dunes or prefer a bird’s-eye view, you’ll get an amazing beach panorama at either of the Sandpearl Resort's dining establishments. Named after Clearwater Beach’s first settler, Tate Island Grill offers both beachfront cool and casual elegance. Stroll up from the beach or poolside for a wrap, hummus or a refreshing beverage. Stay for sunset to check out some live music and the nightly ringing of a ship’s bell. Both the bell and the indoor bar are originals from the legendary Clearwater Beach Hotel, the Sandpearl’s precursor. For a more refined experience, throw on your finer accoutrements and head to Caretta on the Gulf on the hotel’s main floor. This AAA Four-Diamond restaurant offers sweeping views of Clearwater Beach and serves everything from prime steaks to sushi.
Unparalleled luxury and no-nonsense beachfront dining also coexist in the pink Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach. The seaside-chic Sea Porch features Floribbean fare, with menu items including ceviche, wood-oven-baked Cuban bread and, of course, local seafood. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it’s there for you no matter what time you decide to take a brief hiatus from the beach or pool, which are just a quick walk down the hotel steps away.
Downtown Delectables in St. Pete
What downtown St. Pete lacks in sand and shells, it makes up for in a waterfront strewn with parks, shops, museums and, of course, restaurants.
Arriving by boat? Try family-friendly Fish Tales at the Harborage Marina in the southern section of St. Pete's downtown. Boat parking is free as is the welcome shade on their covered deck (inside seating is available as well). Try their signature salad crowned with red grouper or spicy crawfish.
Surf and Turf in Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores
South of Clearwater Beach, the hum of Pier 60 fades as you pass through tony Belleair into the soft-spoken charm of Indian Rocks Beach. Across the street from intimate public beaches, Guppy's on the Beach deliciously deviates from its ocean inspiration with a warm hazelnut crusted goat cheese appetizer and filet mignon dressed in garlic gorgonzola butter. But the fresh fish selection won't let you forget what the restaurant does best. Indulge in cobia, swordfish and snapper with accoutrements of mango black bean salsa and roasted corn chipotle chili sauce. The chef takes care to feature a beer, martini and wine on the menu daily, and it's a good idea to call ahead for seating on the bustling deck at dinner.
Located in quiet, residential Indian Shores, the Salt Rock Grill stands as a beach landmark. The menu features both specialty seafood from around the world as well as the freshest of local catches (you can watch the boats unload the day’s catch on the restaurant’s docks). And the tantalizing steaks – hand-cut beef aged for four to six weeks and grilled over a natural oak and citrus wood pit fire – will have you waffling between which entrée to order.