One of the enviable perks of living in Tampa Bay is our prime access to seafood. Gulf waters are home to a year-round bountiful harvest. From the blue crabs that fed the cigar factories of Ybor City to the grouper whose sandwich has become part of our culinary culture, our beautiful bay with its temperate climate is a fisherman’s paradise. Enjoy a Tampa tradition or a new take on coastal cuisine. Both fine dining and casual joints are excellent options for enjoying the plentiful seafood that the area has to offer, and we’ve rounded up the best for you to bite into.
Watervue Grille focuses on fresh Florida seafood from The Gulf whenever possible and is situated on the Harbour Island waterfront with front-row views of Downtown Tampa. Innovative cocktails complement the atmosphere and enhance the diverse flavors of the seasonal menu.
“We have the freshest seafood with great views in a relaxed atmosphere on the waterfront,” executive chef Michael Smith says.
Popular dishes include the crab cake appetizer, pan-seared scallops and misoyaki glazed pork belly entree with steamed rice and bok choy, and seared tuna on fresh pasta with a kale and basil pesto and olive and caper tapenade.
700 Harbour Post Drive, Tampa
(813) 642-7980 | watervuegrille.com
Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro
“We take pride in our made-to-order dishes and sides made from scratch,” Fresco’s owner David Sockol says. “Seafood deliveries come in every day except Sundays to ensure freshness. We filet our fish in-house daily, providing you with the best cuts possible.”
A popular boat-up restaurant with TVs to watch sports and two full-service bars, Fresco’s is laid-back dining in an upbeat, sociable atmosphere. Four-legged friends are welcome, too.
Come to dine, stay to shop. An eatery inside of a seafood and specialty market, The Tides serves up thoughtfully sourced seafood.
“We use fresh, high-quality ingredients, cooking with the same items you see in our case,” says owner Mary Kate Walker. “Our grouper sandwich has gained notoriety, along with our po’boys. People also love our $1 happy hour oysters.”
The Tides highlights products supplied by local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, bakers, makers and artisans.
Tucked away off the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Rusty Pelican is home to a raw bar and beloved seafood entrees like crispy whole local snapper and miso-marinated Chilean sea bass, in addition to a seasonally changing menu. A hidden gem, Rusty Pelican is home to unobstructed views of Tampa Bay.
“Rusty Pelican offers an ambiance of seaside sophistication, spectacular sunsets and a comprehensive menu of contemporary cuisine that is heavily seafood oriented,” says Jim Pastor, eastern regional chef at Specialty Restaurants Corp.
Specialty libations made tableside, a dinner and brunch menu celebrated in the community and world-class sunsets make Rusty Pelican an exotic escape in the heart of Tampa Bay.
Dubbed “the club that washed ashore” by Blues legend Lonnie Mac, Skipper’s is an iconic live music venue serving up “Floribbean” cuisine since 1980.
“Skipper’s is quintessentially all things Florida life,” says Cricket Larson, chief cook and bottle washer at Skipper’s. “I don’t feel like there is anything that compares to what we offer in terms of atmosphere, entertainment, food and culture. We offer a laid-back, all-are-welcome-here atmosphere.”
Smoking since 1980, the award-winning menu at Skipper’s includes a blackened grouper reuben sandwich recognized on the Travel Channel’s “Best Sandwich in America,” as well as dishes like fried gator tail and crawdaddy mac.
“Catch predominantly focuses on preparing our food either grilled, sauteed or broiled — brushed and seasoned with our Catch House Butter or fresh herbs,” Catch Twenty Three owner Patrick Cottrell explains. “We are dedicated to bringing out the great natural flavors of our seafood.”
Spacious and newly renovated indoor and outdoor dining rooms offer trendy and vibrant spaces to enjoy a meal or craft cocktail.
At Lingr, chef and owner Jeffrey Jew creates elevated seafood cuisine that highlights the ingredients and flavors of his upbringing.
“A Nordic- and Asian-inspired restaurant and menu makes Lingr the first of its kind,” Jew says. “It combines my heritage, love of the area and experience in a unique way unlike anything else in the Tampa Bay area.”
The spacious, modern eatery offers creative, intricate menu options, such as hamachi crudo served with citrus buttermilk, lotus root, Szechuan pepper oranges and dill oil.