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Looking for the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing meal in the open air? These local restaurants fit the bill perfectly.
So, you'd really like to enjoy a delicious meal, but you want to be safe and responsible, too. Take-out is, of course, an excellent option. But if you want a restaurant experience, the time is right to choose an eatery that offers patio dining or outdoor deck seating - and you can't go wrong with the restaurants on our list. (If you’re looking for waterfront dining options, all with outdoor seating as well, check out this story on Dining Near the Waterfront).
Remember that no matter which restaurant you choose, there are some simple guidelines to follow. If you must wait for your table, be sure to leave at least six feet between your group and others who are also waiting. Be aware that restaurant bars are open, but you must be seated to be served. Wear a mask or face covering whenever walking through the restaurant (either to your table, to the restroom or to the exit). You may remove your mask when you are seated at a table. Use hand sanitizer after reviewing the menu. And please remember to be patient, courteous and generous to wait staff while you're dining out - they're doing everything they can to keep you safe and help you have a great experience.
The Karterouliotis family has operated this Tarpon Springs landmark since 1970, sharing treasured family recipes with locals and visitors alike. Dine outside with a view of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Try This: Order the Saganaki (flaming imported Greek cheese) for a visual and culinary feast you won’t soon forget. Other traditional Greek dishes include Avgolemono soup, Mousaka and leg of lamb. Tip: Try to save some room for a pastry from the bakery.
While Tarpon Springs is famous for its Greek culture and food, this English-style pub is a worthy contender for lunch or dinner. You’ll find it downtown in a 1925 building on the Pinellas Bike Trail. Dine outside on their cobblestone patio under the shade of umbrellas. Try This: You can’t go wrong with a local craft beer (the offerings change frequently) and an order of the blackened gorgonzola chicken wings.
Downtown Palm Harbor is as cute as a button - and this tiny neighborhood pizza joint is, too. Dine outside under large umbrellas (you can bring your pup along for the fun). With traditional, whole wheat and gluten-free dough options, you’ll be sure to please the whole crew. Try This: All of their wood-fired pizzas are delish, but the Bianca and the Milano are especially good. Indulge yourself and order some truffle parmesan fries along with your pizza.
For the love of a mermaid, get yourself to Molly’s for some kitschy fun along with an impressive oyster bar and fresh-catch menu. You’ll find the restaurant in a 170-year-old Florida Cracker style house in blink-and-you’ve-missed-it Ozona. Try This: Oyster shooters, oysters on half shell, fried oysters… you can even order just one oyster! Try their famous grouper sandwich (it’s black grouper, which they say is tastier than the red variety).
This bright blue, Old Florida-style restaurant is just a good time waiting for you to arrive. Have a cold beer or a Bloody Mary at the tiki bar, or settle in at one of the outdoor tables for a tasty meal and some good-vibes live music. Try This: The Wonton-Poke Tuna Nachos appetizer is a deliciously spicy mix of flavors and textures. Up next: order from the sushi menu or choose from a selection of burgers, fish sandwiches and wraps. Finish with a cool slice of JJ. Gandy’s Key West Lime Pie.
Why do people queue up and wait patiently at this little red-and-white restaurant on the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin? It’s simple. Tiny place, BIG flavor. Sit under the oak trees and enjoy pulled pork, ribs, beans, coleslaw and more. Note that Eli’s is only open Fridays and Saturdays from 11-6. Try This: Come early if you want the “burnt ends” - they go fast!
Got a hankering for Cajun food? Head to Happy’s to peruse the weekly specials on the chalkboard, then dig into a satisfying meal under the trees (sometimes with live music). This casual spot offers everything from po’ boys to boudin balls and ‘gator tail. Try This: Poutine, crab cakes, gumbo - it’s all good. They even offer vegetarian options (red beans & rice and a veggie muffaletta).
This downtown Dunedin favorite not only has a large dog-friendly patio, it even has a menu for dogs! Whether or not you’re visiting with your pooch, you’ll enjoy their eclectic menu of “New American” small plates as well as sandwiches and full entrees. Try This:Seafood fans won’t want to miss the Coconut Curried Mussels; fans of pasta should try the Truffled Ricotta Gnocchi.
If you’ve visited St. Pete/Clearwater before, you’ve heard about the Frenchy’s family of restaurants, offering fresh seafood in a flip-flop-casual atmosphere. Here’s your chance to see where it all started way back in 1981 - still going strong. Try This: It would be a sin to dine here without ordering a Super Grouper sandwich and Frenchy’s famous smoked fish spread with crackers.
A tiki bar and outdoor patio with an Irish pub menu? We’re in! This restaurant has been part of the Clearwater dining scene since 1961, so it’s clear they’re doing things right. Try This: Have some traditional Shepherd’s Pie or try an “Irish Puff” - a flaky pastry with corned beef, cabbage and a cream sauce inside.
This friendly little breakfast-brunch-lunch spot has a pretty outdoor patio and it’s right on the Pinellas Trail, making it a popular spot with bicyclists. Try This: If you have a sweet tooth, order a mimosa and the Mile-High Baked French Toast. Fans of savory dishes will enjoy the Signature Cheesy Grits & Scrambled Eggs or the avocado toast on fresh Challah bread.
Restaurateurs George and Debbie Sayegh (owners of Bodega) long dreamed of celebrating their families’ Lebanese and Greek heritage in a restaurant. You can find that dream-come-true in St. Pete’s historic Kenwood neighborhood. Dine on the covered patio, then check out Baba’s bakery after your meal. Try This:Order several “mezze” (small plates) to share or go big with the grilled lamb chops or whole roasted fish.
A Beach Drive favorite with shaded sidewalk seating, BellaBrava has won a host of awards including “Best Downtown St. Pete Restaurant” and “Best Italian Restaurant.” In addition to tables, there’s some cozy couch seating where you can enjoy a drink outdoors. After your meal, walk across the street to take a photo under the giant banyan trees near the Museum of Fine Arts. Try This: The Pasta Brava lives up to its name with wood-grilled chicken, fresh pappardelle pasta, cotto ham, roasted mushrooms and asiago cream.
Ah, the glory of the Cuban sandwich, piled high with lechon (pork), swiss cheese and pickles, then pressed to toasted perfection! Find it (and a lot of other delicious Cuban offerings, including veggie options) at Bodega on Central Ave. or at their Seminole Heights restaurant. Try This: Not in the mood for a sandwich? Ask for the Pollo Plato (pictured above), with chicken, rice, beans and maduros.
Stop by for a cerveza, a friendly smile and some of the tastiest tacos you’ve ever had at one of three St. Pete locations. Even better: tacos are ordered individually, meaning you can mix-and-match to sample more things! Try This: The Brussels Sprout Taco (when available) is 100 percent amazing. The Pescado (made with fried fish and a fresh pineapple salsa) and the Carnitas can hold their own in the taco world, too.
A sidewalk cafe on Beach Drive that’s the perfect place to watch the world stroll by, Cassis is also known for its excellent service. Did we mention the wonderful fact that Cassis serves brunch every day from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.? That alone would be enough to earn our vote, but you’ll find plenty to enjoy on the lunch and dinner menus, too. Try This:The braised escargot in a red wine persillade sauce is a winner.
You can enjoy a relaxing, Old Florida atmosphere and a bit of history at this quaint, circa 1931 St. Pete restaurant with its expansive garden dining area. Look for the candy-pink building with the striped pink-and-green awnings at 22nd Avenue South and Third Street. Try This: Along with American menu items such as their signature “Chattaburger” and Original Chicken Basket, The Chattaway has a surprising offering: British Afternoon Tea served by Lady Chattaway. (Editor's note: the restaurant is cash-only but there's an ATM on site; please call 48 hours in advance for afternoon tea.)
Two St. Pete locations (1st Ave. N. in downtown and 4th St. N.) offer plenty of open-air seating and some of the best Mexican food in town. Sample favorites such as Jibarito (fried green plantains with shredded roast pork) and Palomilla (a thin-cut steak topped with caramelized onions). Try This: It’s possible (but extremely unwise) to leave without ordering the churros for dessert.
Florida dining just got more fun with the addition of this St. Pete newcomer, focusing on (you guessed it) fresh seafood. The menu changes daily, according to what’s biting, and you can have your fish prepared one of three ways (citrus rub, blackened or salt/pepper/garlic). They suggest you “come early and hungry,” as there are no reservations. Try This: Sample the smoked fish spread made with fresh local mahi as an appetizer. (Editor's note: Trophy Fish is pictured in the large photo at the top of this page.)
Don’t let the name fool you - the menu here leans more all-American than Irish pub. To find this popular spot, look for the colorful umbrellas and large patio across from the Gulfport Beach and pier. It’s a fun, Key West-style atmosphere, but family-friendly, too (there’s a kids’ menu). Try This: Order the Mahi Tacos with baja slaw or the “Windy Cindy” a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, turkey, tomato, havarti cheese and chipotle mayo on marble rye.
Couldn’t everyone use a little romance? Or a relaxed dinner out with friends? This charming “Old World” restaurant in tiny Gulfport makes it possible with simple, fresh Italian cuisine and a never-rushed attitude. Even better, you have two outdoor dining options: sidewalk dining out front or a covered back patio. This place is popular - consider making a reservation. Try This:The Penne Quattro Formaggi al Forno (translation: penne pasta in a cream sauce with four cheeses) is divine. Choose an Italian wine to accompany your meal.
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