The performing arts hall opened in 1983, but the neighborhood around it remains mostly residential. Fortunately, parking is plentiful and free, so you can find somewhere to eat a short drive away, then park in the Ruth Eckerd Hall parking lot for free.
Greg Seymour is a pizza zealot, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything overly fancy or rarefied about his little Safety Harbor spot. The 12-inch pies come with perfect blistery sourdough crusts and are easily split between two people. pizzeriagregario.com
Address: 400 Second St. N, Safety Harbor
Phone: (727) 386-4107
On-site dining at Ruth Eckerd Hall
The outdoor patio offers sandwiches and light bites. They also offer a pre-show party package, priced at $25 each, which includes heavy appetizers, a carving station, dessert station and a free beer, wine or single liquor drink. But space is limited for these packages. Reservations strongly recommended. rutheckerdhall.com/dining-and-catering
Address: 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater
Phone: (727) 791-7400
A textbook classic Italian restaurant in the historic Tio Pepe building. With chandeliers and gilded mirrors and marble statuary, this is a place to go when you are dressed up for a night out and you crave all the favorites; parmigiana, marsala, saltimbocca. All the tomatoey mixed seafood dishes got high points from our food critic when this made her list of the top 50 restaurants in 2015. villabellinirestaurant.com
Address: 2930 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater
Phone: (727) 754-9848
Tasty Thai Cafe
You’ll find reasonably priced entrees and green, yellow, red massaman and panang curries that can be concocted with your protein of choice and at your specified heat level. The house basil crispy duck is worth the splurge.
Address: 1530 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater
Phone: (727) 600-8037
Ken’s Sushi and Asian Bistro
The small place across the street from the original Hooters makes some delicious and creative handmade rolls. Try the fresh sashimi, and the specialty rolls such as the Oasis and Bayside Bridge.
Address: 2801 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater
Phone: (727) 315-4902
Parts of Paris
The charming Safety Harbor bungalow serves classical French fare with aplomb. Try the French onion soup with its broth that is sherried and not overly salty. A wide bowl of mussels with a side of skinny, crisp frites is worth sharing. The steaks (entrecote, ribeye, filet) can be paired with optional sides (pommes Lyonnaise, haricots verts, little French lentils). partsofparis.com
Address: 146 Fourth Ave. N, Safety Harbor
Phone: (727) 797-7979
Paul’s Chicago Pizza
Pretty much across the street from Ruth Eckerd Hall, this isn’t the deep-dish pie from Chi-Town, but its equally famous thin-crust style (called “flat” pizza in Chicago), cut into squares. Paul’s also does stuffed pizzas (two layers of dough, all the action in the middle). That kind of insane topping density makes one slice a maximum serving. Beyond pizza, Paul’s offers classic Vienna beef dogs and a laudable cannoli.
Address: 1500 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater
Phone: (727) 723-9777
The homey restaurant with a pleasant outdoor patio offers up a signature fried chicken, expertly seasoned, and collard greens. Or have the sliced pork sandwich with a cool cilantro-lime sauce. The BLT soup is another standout, with a vegetable broth that cradles soft hunks of simmered plum tomato, with garlic, shallot and bacon making their presence known. A little flurry of cilantro and chopped romaine gets added at the last second so that the just-wilted greens lend the soup enough crunch to make the bacon-lettuce-tomato combo satisfying.
Address: 122 Third Ave. N, Safety Harbor
Phone: (727) 216-6341
Safety Harbor’s speakeasy is an attractive but comfortable Prohibition-era throwback, set in a single room dominated by an L-shaped bar built in the 19th century, with pressed-tin ceilings and a private movie screening room. The menu is dominated by burgers, dogs and chicken sandwiches, but there’s a section called “Giggle Dippers” that are a fun mix-and-match array of things that can be dipped (onion strings, battered green beans, pretzel loaf) and dips (beer cheese, sriracha ranch). gigglewaters.com
Address: 737 Main St., Safety Harbor
Phone: (727) 669-7077
Pete & Shorty’s Iowa Bistro
The addition of “Iowa Bistro" to the name was supposed to be an inside joke from Iowa native and co-founder Ed Droste, who is also one of the six founders of Hooters. The message is that it’s more of a restaurant than a bar and you’ll find a popular Midwest staple on the menu: a pork tenderloin sandwich, pounded thin, lightly breaded and pan-fried in olive oil. The place is jammed for their weekly Friday Fish Fry. And it’s where Midwesterners find the comfort of a loose meat sandwich, meatloaf or a pork shank with mashed potatoes and gravy. peteandshortys.com
Address: 2820 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater
Phone: (727) 799-0580