(ran GB edition)
A brief sampler of recommended restaurants, grouped by the kind of dining they offer. The restaurants are selected by the news staff of the Times, without regard to advertising. For days and hours of operation, call the restaurant.
FRENCHY'S SALTWATER CAFE and FRENCHY'S CAFE AND OYSTER BAR. Neither tiny fish house has a water view or fancy decor but both are full of beach locals and atmosphere. Menu is seafood, fresh and affordable. Peanut butter pie is a great finish.
_ 416 Poinsettia Ave., Clearwater, 461-6295; and 41 Baymont Street, Clearwater, 446-3607. Beer, wine.
HURRICANE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT. The triple-decker beach spot is an entertainment complex for varied tastes. Restaurant, disco and rooftop drinkery can be Babel on the beach but it's still a landmark and fun. Although there are pasta dishes and seafood entrees, best eating is conch fritters and grouper sandwiches. Treat your eyes to a Pass-a-Grille sunset and your ears to late-night jazz and you'll leave well-nourished.
_ 807 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach, 360-9558. Six bars.
THE SEA HORSE. This 50-year-old building is as much a Pass-a-Grille landmark as the Merry Pier. Good breakfasts, great burgers, friendly service, paneled walls, outdoor seats and a sea breeze: the quintessential beach restaurant for fisherfolk, repair crews, yachting types and anyone in shorts.
_ 800 Pass-A-Grille Way, St. Pete Beach, 360-1734. Beer, wine. No reservations. No credit cards.
TED PETERS FAMOUS SMOKED FISH. Outdoor tables (and the indoor fireplace) have been a roadside landmark so long it now looks out on six lanes of traffic. The charm however is in the food: smoked Florida mullet, mackerel, salmon and terrific hamburgers served with no pretense. Beware the Tuesday closing.
_ 1350 Pasadena Ave. S, South Pasadena, 381-7931. Beer. No credit cards.
BIG NIGHT OUT
THE BLUE HERON. A quiet nook in a shopping center is home to the most progressive and flavorful cuisine in Pinellas, a New American mix of seafood, fresh pasta with French, Thai, Latin and Jamaican spices and sauces. Smart decor and sharp service.
_ 3285 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor, 789-5176. Full bar. Reservations suggested.
BRUNELLO. Italian on the beach in high style. Mood is casual and prices manageable but food is elegant. Start with rich soup or zesty salad. Risotto, pastas with wild mushrooms, and grilled fish are top entrees, but look for New American tricks too. Tiramisu is a must dessert.
_ 3861 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 367-1851. Beer, wine.
BRUNO'S TRATTORIA ITALIANA. This rather dainty setting serves up lusty Italian food, good bread and pasta with a wide spectrum of rich sauces. Try red pesto, creamy carbonara or any sauce with tomatoes and herbs.
_ 472 75th Ave., St. Pete Beach, 367-4420. Beer, wine.
CLEARWATER BEACH HOTEL. The grande dame of the strand decorates her dining room with the charm of the turn-of-the-century beach. Food, however, adds contemporary class and nouvelle touches to traditional top-dollar gourmet fare. Duck, salads and vegetables show flair; service is unobtrusive and gracious.
_ 500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater, 441-2425. Full bar.
THE LOBSTER POT. Inside the nooks and crannies of a corny nautical setting is one of the best local seafood houses. The chefs concentrate on classic lobster, but handle all seafood well and as simply as you wish.
_ 17814 Gulf Blvd., Redington Shores, 391-8592. Reservations recommended. Full bar.
SABALS. Behind the old storefront, the interior is deco and the food moderne; stylish and pricey yet the atmosphere is almost casual. Octopus and shrimp appetizers are good; house salad, soups and breads are a treat. Entrees range from game hen and pork to scallops on brie and spinach.
_ 315 Main St., Dunedin, 734-3463. Reservations recommended. Beer, wine.
WINE CELLAR. This is old-school indulgence of the first order _ good steaks, chops, seafood and a bit of caviar, usually dolled up with cream and butter. But you may also have sun-dried tomatoes, wild mushrooms and other trendy fancies. Have some soup and sample a good German wine. Favorites are lamb and trout, but try the chef's full-course surprise.
_ 17307 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach, 393-3491. Full bar.