Clearwater Beach Restaurant Week
While it technically lasts almost two full weeks, Monday brings the start of Clearwater Beach Restaurant Week, running through May 22 with a variety of prix fixe menus at Clearwater's restaurants, from casual cuisine to fine dining. You can make a game of it and have your restaurant "passport" stamped for a chance to win beach getaways, and cast a vote for a favorite server or bartender. Participating locations will offer $15-$35 prix fixe menus, and some lunch menus for $10-$15. Prices do not include gratuity. To kick things off, Friday brings the Clearwater Beach Taste Fest, with jazz at sunset from Eric Darius and food samplings, wine, craft beers and a fireworks finale. Tickets are $30, $15 for ages 6-12, under 5 free, to benefit the Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation. The party is 6-9 p.m. Friday, on the Clearwater Beach Promenade in front of the Hyatt Regency Resort between Second and Fifth streets on Gulfview Boulevard. See clearwaterbeachrestaurantweek.com for participating restaurants. Here are some of our restaurant critic's favorite Clearwater stops, all part of Restaurant Week.
Shor American Seafood Grill
301 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 373-4780.
Shor is a stunning restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, a lovely waterfront hotel with front row seats of the Beach Walk half-mile pathway, which in turn has bragging rights to a supremely great sunset-viewing vantage. The dining room is spare and open, half the seats with an unobstructed view of the gulf, half the seats with an unobstructed view of one of the area's prettiest exhibition kitchens. There's whole snapper, mussels Escabeche, and a mixed grill, or the menu allows you to build your own entree: pick a protein, pick a seasoning, a sauce and a side, or leave the decisions to the kitchen. In toto, it's food that is visually pretty and with a great breadth of flavors.
Jimmy's Fish House & Iguana Bar
521 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater. (727) 446-9720.
A beach shack mentality melds with Key West's Mallory Square in this tourist-friendly spot located in a Holiday Inn Express on the beach. Full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus include crab cakes, Parmesan crusted snapper, and the Wisconsin burger, topped with three cheeses and grilled onions. A wooden deck that attracts a pre-sunset crowd offers one of the best views at Clearwater Beach.
447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater. (727) 442-4144.
Old-timers know Bob Heilman's for its fried chicken and clubby Manhattans. Insiders know it for it's award-winning wine list — especially the pinot noir — from elegant Burgundy to upstart Oregon, where Bob Jr.'s own vineyard is located. Classic clams casino and oysters Florentine, to prime beef selections, desserts include Alaska meringue ice cream pie, hot fudge-covered profiteroles. Cigar City Brewing, 3 Daughters Brewing among local craft beers.
Surfside Tap House
395 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater. (727) 201-3530.
Near Pier 60, the Taphouse features local, Florida and unique craft brews, tropical and frozen drinks and wine. Shareable apps from Firecracker shrimp to Buffalo cauliflower, lobster corn dogs, plus seafood, sliders and sandwiches (including a Cuban Reuben), ice cream.
Tate Island Grill at Sandpearl Resort
500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach. (727) 441-2425.
We have two words that make this umbrella mecca worth a visit: fire pit. You don't see that very often, and when the sun goes down, they fire it up (weather and wind permitting; call ahead to be sure). Located on north Clearwater Beach, the Sandpearl Resort is a short walk across the sand from a public parking lot (recommended) and the raucous atmosphere of Frenchy's Rockaway Grill (a possible nightcap option). Tate's backs up right onto the sugary sand, with umbrella tables on a boardwalk. Inside the small bar area built from pecky cypress (the same wood found in beams at the Vinoy Resort), you'll find a bar menu that's got the usual fare of wings, quesadillas and pulled pork nachos, plus assorted sandwiches and wraps. They don't sell bottled beer here, since it's on the beach, but you can get imports in cans, and really large drafts of Kona Brewing's Longboard and Shipyard. As music wafts from the outdoor speakers lining the boardwalk, you'll feel a million miles from civilization as you wait for the sunset bell to signal daylight's end.
Island Way Grill
20 Island Way, Clearwater. (727) 461-6617.
A waterside palace of seafood, art glass and Asian accents, Island Way centers on freshness. Eat at the sushi bar, order from the raw bar or have boat-fresh fish grilled. Go for an oyster tequila shot, a noodle and clam pot or Korean BBQ and dive into the endless wine list. Be back Sunday for a fishy brunch.
Frenchy's Saltwater Cafe
419 Poinsettia Ave., Clearwater. (727) 461-6295.
This Frenchy's outpost, a cozy, hole-in-the-wall favorite on Clearwater Beach, serves up seafood fresh from the boat at bargain prices (specialty here is a grouper Reuben), in a family-friendly, open-air dining area, with cold beer, good humor, modest fixings (plus great desserts) and a dog-friendly patio.