St Petersburg, FL
Tue, 02/24/09 11:35 AM
We are now home from our annual month in St Pete and it is time to report on a few places where we enjoyed some meals.
Chattaway, a unique old fashioned establishment south of Central Ave. offers a good hamburger and we had very nice lobster bisque and fried catfish and a tasty "peachberry" pie for dessert. The real attraction of the place is their garden patio, a lovely shaded area with numerous flowering shrubs ,vines and old bathtubs full of plants.and comfortable seating - a place to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Prices are reasonable - a typical lunch with sweet tea or beer, a sandwich, soup, and dessert is about $10.
The Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores is a very large multi-room, bright and airy, noisy, bustling informal moderately upscale restaurant with pleasant views of an undeveloped lagoon - egrets and herons and pelicans fly by the huge plate glass windows. They advertise their 1200 degree oak fired grill as the centerpiece of the rooms - and very large and very hot it is with a roaring oak fire about 4 0r 5 feet below the grill level. Another feature of the place, which does not work very well, is a large glass plate in the floor of entrance foyer which gives a view of the extensive wine cellar - the problem is they dont keep the cellar very neat and mostly what you see is cardboard boxes scattered and stacked around a floor about 15 feet below.
On two visits we had excellent service from a well-trained, disciplined, professional, knowledgeable waitstaff - this restaurant is operated by a corporation that has three other similar operations in the Tampa Bay area, but there is nothing "Chain" about the place.
The thing to eat here is something off the grill. We shared a very large porterhouse steak which was done perfectly to our request and had a slight smoky flavor from the oak fire. We also had a grilled swordfish steak that was as good as any I've ever had. A baked potato with butter, chives, and sour cream was very good - no foil wrapped soggy Idahos in this place! There is a very long wine list -$25 -$300 - beers and iced tea are also available. Our meals, with wine and tip, came to about $40 each - a price we considered to be fair value.
A visit to "Cajun Cafe on the Bayou" in Pinellas Park was fun on a quiet afternoon with zydeco music and Jambalaya and boiled shrimp and a choice of some very good beers and ales on the menu. I'm sure the place jumps in the evening with a younger crowd. It is ramshackle and built out over the lagoon with nice views . Service was prompt and efficient and friendly. All-in-all a joint we'd be happy to revisit.
El Cap, the famous hamburger joint on 4th street was as good as ever - eight huge TV's blaring various sports events, a noisy beery gang at the bar, good fast service, and lots of cold fresh draught beer - this place pumps a whole lot of beer every day.
The Butler's BBQ (eastern NC style- but Lexington style sauce is available if requested) is excellent. They have expanded into the store next door and now offer raw oysters and shrimp and such besides their pulled pork and ribs. This place is kind of out of the way on 90 something Avenue and 9th Street, but well worth a side trip for outstanding BBQ.
The Crab Shack out by the dog track on Gandy Blvd. is always fun and always offers good seafood. Oysters on the halfshell are cold, wet and fresh. If you're hungry I'd suggest the "whole yellow tail snapper corvina style" - it is deep fried, a bit spicy, and must be picked apart with the fingers 'till you are down to a bare skeleton. Interestingly, I've not had a crab dish there in years, but the shrimp is always good washed down with a big pitcher of beer. This is a plain joint - you sit a picnic tables which you may sometimes be invited to share with strangers - there are tables and stools in the bar.
The Floridian on Treasure Island Causway has as good a Cuban sandwich as I've ever had - no ambience, a few small tables inside, a patio with tables and a view of traffic and a parking lot, and a narrow outdoor counter to sit and watch the cars whizz by while you enjoy the sandwich. I'ts worth the inconvenience to get their very good sandwich, and if you want, you can always take it to the beach only a block away.
Dockside Dave's on Gulf Blvd. in Maderia Beach has the very best fried fish filet (It was said to be Grouper- but who knows what it is now-a-days) I've ever had. They offer the filet with a choice of two coatings - a beer batter which is thick and heavy or a "light" coating which is thin, airy, almost ephemeral, and delicious. There's inside seating around a bar, a small inside dining room, and two outside patios - the pation facing Gulf Blvd. is to be avoided - 50 mph traffic is only 6 feet away - exhaust fumes, dust, etc. do not make for a pleasant experience.
Mid Peninsula Seafood, south of Central, is always a joy to visit. The family that runs the place are friendly and helpful. They usually offer about a dozen fish that they'll cook in just about any way you could request - and they'll do it right. This is not a great neighborhood, but it is comfortable at lunch time. One orders at the counter, takes a seat at a picnic table in the dining room and your order is delivered to you - all very efficient. We had grouper, shrimp, and snapper and it was all cooked just as ordered and tasted fine. Inexpensive and good, they also do a lively take-out business.
Luck Dill, a NYC style deli on Central Ave ,is always good for a pastrami or corned beef on rye with a big soda pop, some very nice cole slaw and a garlicky dill pickle. On a nice day it is pleasant to sit at one of the sidewalk tables. Given our limited appetites the half sandwich and soup special is a good deal.
Grahams Produce and Seafood Market in Kenneth City is not a restaurant it is just what the name implies.The produce market has been there for a very long time and has always been a source of a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at fair prices. A small seafood market next door was taken over by the Grahams a year or two ago and expanded and upgraded. We (three of us) twice bought and ate their special box of 50 Appalachacola oysters packed in ice for $18 on our first visit and $14 on our second visit. The fishmonger, on our initial visit, did not have any oyster openers, but said that he found a screwdriver just as useful - we nevertheless looked in four stores and could not find any oyster openers or even a clerk who had ever heard of such a thing. We successfully opened our oysters at our friends house using screwdrivers. On our second visit he presented us with a complimentary well designed oyster opener from a display he now has on his counter.
Gail and I enjoyed our oyster with a mignonette sauce and our friend buried his in a horseradishy cocktail sauceand we washed it down with a cheap bottle of Prosecco - a bit sweet, but fun to drink.