You drag the pool noodles back to your towel, futilely attempt to dislodge the sand from the thigh band of your swimsuit and wonder idly if SPF 50 is really any better than the 30. And then this happens: You realize a day at the beach has made you powerfully hungry. And thirsty, very thirsty. In Pinellas County, there is a whole new crop of beach bars, restaurants and cafes to consider. Here are the highlights:
St. Pete Beach
RumFish Grill & Bar
Legendary artist and fisherman Guy Harvey opened his Outpost at the TradeWinds Resort and promptly debuted RumFish with its 33,500-gallon snorkel aquarium featured in May on Animal Planet's Tanked. On a recent visit, tank denizens were impressive, mostly healthy looking Gulf of Mexico species such as sheepshead and snook, but no snorkelers thrashed in the depths. No matter, because the stylish menu of contemporary seafood-heavy fare offers plenty of draws beyond a mask and flippers.
6000 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 329-1428
With a grand opening at the end of May, this French bakery and deli owned by Lauren Chezaud-Diot is a newbie in Dolphin Village Plaza serving Kahwa coffee, cronuts, quiches, housemade ice creams and killer chocolate croissants. Ooh la la, even the magazines here are in French. The Parisian-style cafe is getting its outside dog license, serves beer and wine, and hosts movie nights on its patio deck every Saturday at 8.
4695 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 800-2970
Castile at Hotel Zamora
A 50-room boutique European-style hotel about three blocks north of the Don CeSar, Zamora opened in May. It was a long time coming; the project stalled for years after the 2008 financial crisis. But now, the charmer is drawing visitors with vibrantly colored suites (rooms are $199 to $349) and a lovely rooftop patio. Its restaurant has a secret weapon, too: chef Ted Dorsey, who did remarkable work at South Tampa's Boca, Ciro's Speakeasy & Supper Club, and Copperfish. His aesthetic is contemporary and ingredient-driven, with an emphasis on local spear- and line-caught gulf fish. Going forward, grow boxes on the rooftop will supply some of the restaurant's produce.
3701 Gulf Blvd.; (855) 926-6721
La Casa del Pane
The single best thing is the sfogliatelle. In this brand new and bigger incarnation of an old favorite that moved north in June, the coffees, pastries, olives, pizzas and flat Italian sandwiches are all good. But it's the sfogliatelle (all right, and the cornetto and focaccia) that make it worth a detour: Invented in a monastery in Salerno in the 1600s, the pastry resembles stacked leaves, crisp and delicate and filled with an orange-flavored ricotta.
7110 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 367-8322
Mad Beach Fish House
This old Florida-style seafood house took over the spot of the frankly pretty awful Latitudes in October. With brother Ralph Bodziak and niece Sharon White, Ed Bodziak, who used to own Sunset Grill at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 30th Avenue N in St. Petersburg, moved into the three-story, free-standing location at the edge of Madeira Bay Marina and set to work. A lot of seafood comes right off local boats in the morning, with some familiar preparations (blackened grouper and such) and some you don't see every day: butter-poached Lobster Grilled Cheese, Shrimp BLT.
13205 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 398-4103
Gypsy Souls Coffeehouse
Owner Matt Olafsen is an airline pilot with a "gypsy soul," so this new coffee house that opened June 9 has a heavy travel theme, including a cool map of the world. Taking over a gift shop space, Olafsen has gotten his baristas up to speed and offers teas, local baked goods and smoothies (look for passion orange guava, pineapple coconut, mango and peach). There's a lovely outdoor patio by the water, although at this time of year, the shop's air conditioning is hard to forgo.
17465 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 873-3983
Indian Rocks Beach
Chicago Jaqx Pizzeria and Taphouse
Holding its grand opening Aug. 9, this place is still in its soft opening and training weeks period, offering a limited menu. With a first, tiny location in Clearwater Beach, this larger space (30 seats on the deck, another 20 inside, in the former Donnie's Coastal Café location) serves up Chicago thin crust, cracker thin, as well as fluffy, buttery deep-dish pies with gooey mozzarella up the edges and served with a side of honey. Owner Gary Panton is serving 11 craft beers on draft and 30 bottled beers, but he has leased the space next door and will expand in the fall, aiming to offer 100 beers. What you need to know for now: There are eight mahogany-seat swings held up by thick marine rope, so you can get in touch with your inner child, pump those legs and soar.
1511 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 303-3946
18 on the Rocks
In the former spot of Cuso's, two longtime Shells employees launched a new midpriced seafooder at the beach in February. Frenchman Patrick Adani and partner Doug Thompson overhauled the biker-bar feel of the place but maintained the live-and-let-live beachy vibe. It might not be a family destination, with happy hour all day, live music every afternoon at the tiki bar and bands on the weekends inside. It can get a little raucous and a little smoky, but it has made a name for itself already for its clam chowder and Tuesday lobster specials (on a recent Tuesday they were $14.99).
2405 Gulf Blvd.; (727) 596-5633
Rubezz Sports Bar and Grill
Fancy La Plage lasted about eight months, until owners Tony Cona and Rubin Jones decided this part of the beach didn't really go for the higher-end foods. They decided there was a call for a sports bar, so they installed big-screen televisions, paintings of local sports teams, a jukebox, pool tables, dart boards and a golf game. There's a good-times patio and tiki bar out back, and daily specials such as a meatball sub on Mondays, $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays and 50-cent wings on Wednesdays. The best part: a lobster tank like a carnival claw machine. For $2, you get a crack at a lobster — nab one and it's yours for dinner.
741 Bayway Blvd.; (727) 657-4257
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.