a beer-batter fried grouper sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes and fries on the side

The Sandbar is a casual beachfront spot at the elegant Opal Sands Resort.

The Ultimate Grouper Sandwich

An iconic dish that captures much of what’s great about St. Pete-Clearwater – fresh seafood straight from the Gulf, best enjoyed with your toes in the sand – grouper sandwiches are beloved by locals and visitors alike.


Wander into just about any restaurant or cafe along the beach in St. Pete-Clearwater, and you’re likely to see a certain dish on the menu: the grouper sandwich! Many local restaurants have their own version of the popular sandwich, so make it your mission to sample as many as you can, and find your personal fave. 

And now... drumroll, please... read on for answers to all your questions about Florida's most famous fish, along with a delicious grouper sandwich recipe you can make at home, so you can keep St. Pete-Clearwater and its fresh, delicious seafood, in your tummy as well as your heart.

 

 

a fried grouper sandwich on a brioche bun with tartar sauce and a lemon

Consider your vacation in St. Pete-Clearwater to be a grouper sandwich taste-test extravaganza!

Got questions about grouper? We've got answers.

How is grouper prepared?

This mild, light and slightly sweet-tasting fish can be served lots of different ways, but here are three common preparations. 

  • Grilled – seasoned with salt and pepper and lightly grilled
  • Blackened – coated with blackening seasoning, a savory blend of seasonings that has a kick and often includes cayenne pepper, black pepper and red pepper. Request yours “lightly blackened” for a less-generous coating of the seasoning. 
  • Fried – sometimes soaked in buttermilk, then breaded in cornmeal or breadcrumbs and either pan-fried or deep-fried

What sauces go well with grouper?

The sauces that accompany grouper sandwiches vary, from the usual tartar sauce to guacamole or Bahamian sauce, which is the specialty at Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar (keep scrolling for their delicious recipe!). If you're cooking at home, you could even get creative and make a fresh pineapple salsa or a cilantro mayonnaise for the topper. 

 

Where is the Grouper Capital of the World?

John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach is known as the “Grouper Capital of the World” because it produces more grouper than anyplace else in the United States. You'll find plenty of fishing charters that go out of John's Pass, along with rustic restaurants serving up some delicious grouper dishes.

Where can I catch grouper in St. Pete/Clearwater?

Grouper is one of the most sought-after fish species in Florida, both for its delicious flavor and because these fish are incredible fighters that will challenge even the most determined anglers. Book an offshore fishing charter or go out on a deep sea fishing party boat from a marina in St. Pete-Clearwater, and try your hand at reeling in a delicious dinner. Clearwater Municipal Marina, Hubbard's Marina and Maximo Marina are all good choices, but you'll find marinas throughout our area with experienced fishing captains.

Fishing for goliath grouper (which can weigh up to 800 pounds!) is restricted to catch and release, but that leaves plenty of others, including gag grouper, black grouper and red grouper. If you go out with a licensed fishing charter, their saltwater fishing license covers you. Regulations vary by grouper species, but the charter operator will let you know which ones are keepers.

Aerial photo of John's Pass Village & Boardwalk

Shop and dine at John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in Madeira Beach or enjoy a boat tour.

A man holding a large red grouper offshore of St. Pete/Clearwater

A man shows off his lucky catch – a large red grouper, a delicious fish for the dinner plate.

Are there restaurants that will cook my catch?

If you’ve booked your charter through Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass, they’ll clean and fillet your catch, and then you can have it cooked at several restaurants including Caddy’s Johns Pass or The Friendly Fisherman.

Are you hungry yet? It's time to attempt your own perfect grouper sandwich!

a blackened grouper sandwich with guacamole on top on a brioche bun with fries and a beer at Palm Pavilion in Clearwater Beach

Palm Pavilion in Clearwater Beach is a great place to try a delicious grouper sandwich with a view of the Gulf!

The Ultimate Grouper Sandwich Recipe

Recipe courtesy of the Palm Pavilion Beachside Bar & Grill in Clearwater Beach

Grouper 

  • Four 6 oz. grouper filets (yes, you can substitute any mild white fish, but grouper is the best!)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 8 tbsp. blackening seasoning
  • 4 brioche buns
  • Leaf lettuce, tomato slices and red onion slices for garnish

Cook the grouper filets two at a time. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the grouper on both sides with 4 tablespoons of the blackening seasoning and add the fish to the hot pan. Cook the grouper for about 3 to 4 minutes, flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets.

Place the grouper on a brioche bun and top it with either guacamole or Bahamian sauce – or both if you want the complete Palm Pavilion experience (see recipes below). Top it off with lettuce, tomato and red onion. Now you have the best beachside grouper sandwich around!

Serves four.

Bahamian Sauce

While grouper is simply delicious all by itself, adding a sauce and/or guacamole adds a creamy counterpart to the blackened fish.

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. Serrano hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Key lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Guacamole

  • 5 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 small jalapeños, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, minced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice
  • Salt to taste

Mash avocados with a fork until chunky, not quite completely mashed. Add onion, jalapeños, garlic, green onions and cilantro. Gently fold until combined. Add lime juice and orange juice. Fold again to combine. Season with salt to taste.