For good food seasoned with local history, head to the 60th Annual Fish Broil at Gulf Beaches Elementary School (8600 Boca Ciega Drive, St. Petersburg Beach) from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a special treat among community dinners. It started in 1930 during the Depression. There wasn't enough money to pay the teachers at the open-air Sunshine School on Pass-a-Grille where the beach kids attended classes. Parents, mullet fishermen and restaurateurs pitched in on the broil to raise funds.
The broil preserves the beaches' small town spirit and the old menu: mullet broiled on makeshift grills of bedsprings, smoked and baked turkey, scalloped potatoes and the trimmings, all for $5. Sounds low-fat, tasty _ and good for the spirit.
SEA GRILL. You get that fresh fish in creative recipes here, plus quality in most of the little things too: Bread, salad, vegetables and desserts are all good. Fried calamari is exceptional and the day's catches worth trying. Decor, service and prices are uptown.
_ 3253 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor; 787-6129. No non-smoking section. Full bar. Prices, $8.95 to $16.50.
BITE OF EUROPE. This tiny Bohemian bistro is actually a large, affordable helping of Continental charm, borrowed from Eastern Europe as well as France and Italy. Start with baked cheese or soup and duckling or the special sauerkraut goulash. If dumplings or spatzle aren't included, they're worth ordering a la carte.
_ 14203 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; 398-7465. No non-smoking section. Prices: $8.90 to 11.30.
COCKLES CAFE. Some of the finest light and creative dining hides in a newish Howard Johnson's. No clam rolls, but do have some of the namesake mollusks. Chefs do striking turns with pasta, seafood and grilled meats by adding fresh herbs and mushrooms, all at affordable prices. Breads and salads are tops.
_ 3600 34th St. S, St. Petersburg, 867-6070; full bar. Non-smoking area provided. Prices, $4.50 to $14.50.
SAM OH JUNG. To find out what sets Korean food apart from other Asian cuisines, try the bul gogi and other beef dishes here or the fish. You'll find four seasons of flavor, from fiery kim chee pickle to sesame and sweets. Most entrees come with a tableful of condiments and rice so you can combine your favorites. (there's also sushi for appetizers).
_ 602 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; 871-3233; beer and wine. Prices, $7.95 to $13.95.