If you’re loving the weather we’ve been having lately and plan a visit to one of our area’s world-class beaches over the next few weeks, I have some suggestions about some amazing restaurants you should try.
And, if you’ve been watching WCNT-tv (YouTube/WCNT-tv), you know how much I love St. Pete Beach. In fact, I’ve featured one of these three excellent eateries in my “Neighborhood Dining News” segments, and all three of them are located basically within walking distance of each other on St. Pete Beach proper.
All three offer not only still-swimming fresh seafood, but also other equally- high-quality entrées and appetizers. Two are on the pricier side, while the other is one of my favorite value places for my money on any of our local beaches.
In other words, you can’t go wrong with any of them — and please tell them that you heard about them from Gary of the New Tampa Neighborhood News and WCNT-tv!
5200 Gulf Blvd.
St. Pete Beach
Under the direction of Head Chef Oliver Harris, Mad Fish was founded in 2016 to recreate the spirit of early twentieth century visitors who travelled to St. Pete Beach by railroad.
Although it looks to me, from the outside, more like the diners I grew up loving in Long Island, NY (but they never had food like this!), Chef Oliver has brought the old school dining car experience into the future, with innovative new dishes and twists on classic favorites, providing the ultimate dining experience to locals and travelers alike.
Whether you love the look of the place from the outside or not, there’s no doubt that inside this train car, the elegant interior and awesome food, wine and craft beer (not having full liquor is perhaps its only drawback) attract a great-looking, upbeat crowd…for very good reason.
I’ve enjoyed several wonderful meals at Mad Fish, including the 10-oz. aged filet mignon pictured in the previous column, as well as the Chilean sea bass and, since I can’t risk an allergic reaction to what I’m certain is an incredibly crispy lobster-crusted grouper on the menu. I’ve had the grouper without the crusting, and it was amazing. I also can recommend the ahi tuna poke and flash-fried Brussel sprouts appetizers (all of the veggies are awesome) and I plan to try either the chateaubriand for two or the rack of lamb on my next visit, which I will likely pair with a glass of the Familia Zaccardi Malbec “A.”
If you’ve never been to Mad Fish, you really need to check it out soon.
4945 Gulf Blvd.
St. Pete Beach
My frequent weekend trips to St. Pete Beach have helped me become very well acquainted with the Skiadotis family — the patriarch Nick, who owns Neptune Grill in Gulfport and two of my favorites on St. Pete Beach proper (Selene and Skidder’s; see next item), as well as his son, Teddy, who owns the almost-too-good Craft Kafe in St. Pete, less than ten minutes from the beach.
Selene Fresh Fare & Bar, located about a quarter mile or so further south on St. Pete Beach than Mad Fish, is the most upscale of Nick Skiadotis’ restaurants and it is a big, beautiful, elegant place with prices very similar to those at Mad Fish and even though many of the menu items also seem similar and are also absolutely delicious, both restaurants have different takes on everything from fresh fish to steaks.
Among my favorite dishes to date at Selene are the pistachio-crusted black grouper (photo below), the branzino (whole grilled sea bass), the 16-oz., grain-fed ribeye steak and the beef pappardelle (large, flat noodles with beef short rib ragout, red wine and a rich beef stock with tomato and fresh parsley). There’s also three amazing seafood pastas I unfortunately can’t try as-is, although I’m sure the kitchen would probably make the seafood Americain for me without the Gulf shrimp, as I’m not allergic (at least not so far) to the scallops, clams or grouper in the dish, which is served in white wine, EVOO olive oil, fresh lemon and herbs over linguine with Pecorino Romano cheese.
Selene also is famous for its grilled octopus, fried calamari and crab cakes appetizers and I plan to enjoy the duck spring rolls on my next visit. Selene also features an ultra-premium full-liquor bar, Sunday brunch and live music on Wed., Fri. & Sat. nights.
5799 Gulf Blvd.
St. Pete Beach
My first experience with any of the Skiadotis family’s eateries was with Skidder’s Restaurant, which is located almost directly across Gulf Blvd. from the Tradewinds Resort. And, although I’ve heard some people compare the interior of Skidder’s to a diner or IHOP (in part because it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner), I can assure you that this casual, comfortable restaurant with full liquor bar is the place to go for not only an absolutely delectable grouper or flounder Francaise for dinner (for $20 or less), but also for whatever yu’re craving, from rack of lamb to Greek salads and souvlakis and for Italian-style veal and chicken dishes with pasta and even great New York-style pizza.
Families are welcome, as Skidder’s has a great kids menu, with everything from grilled cheese and hamburgers to spaghetti and meatballs, fried flounder and shrimp, all for just $4.95-$7.95.
Oh, and save room for dessert, as Skidder’s has a great New York-style cheesecake and authentic Greek baklava.