Maybe the water was still too cold. Maybe you were waiting for the snowbirds to leave and for tourist season to (slightly) subside. Maybe you simply haven’t been able to squeeze in the precious time needed for a beach day escape.
If you haven’t started soaking up the rays at some of our unparalleled, pristine beaches, may I suggest you do so very soon? Because ready or not, the time is now: It’s mid-May, and prime beach-going season is upon us. (Wait too long and soon enough those sweltering, stormy midsummer days will force us all back inside.)
While getting to the beach can be enough of a hassle (good luck with that weekend parking), figuring out where to eat shouldn’t be. From quaint breakfast and brunch locales to midday gems and waterside spots with sunset views, when it comes to where to eat and drink near the beach, we’ve got you covered.
Just remember — bring sunscreen.
If you’re looking for an eye-opener
Indian Shores Coffee
Tuck into this sweet little cafe from the folks behind Black Crow Coffee Co. for a java jolt and one of the area’s best ham and cheese croissants. Don’t skip the Maui muffins, a breakfast powerhouse mix of apples, raisins, carrots, walnuts and coconut.
19221 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores. 727-475-8892. facebook.com/IndianShoresCoffee.
For something a little stronger, check out this spot in Madeira Beach, which serves mimosas, Bellinis and Bloody Marys, plus espresso drinks, smoothies and a full breakfast and lunch menu.
13999 Gulf Blvd., Suite C2, Madeira Beach. 727-800-9858. sweetbrewnettecafe.com.
Breakfast and brunch
Francophiles and pastry lovers have several options: La Croisette in St. Pete Beach, for luscious omelets and salmon egg Benedicts; Cafe de Paris in Indian Rocks Beach, for prosciutto- and cheese-filled buckwheat crepes and spinach and Parmesan quiche; and Cafe Soleil in St. Pete Beach, for all manner of sweet and savory pastries plus creative takes on croissant sandwiches, including a breakfast version with egg, sausage and Muenster cheese.
La Croisette: 7401 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-851-9845. facebook.com/lacroisettestpbeach.
Cafe de Paris: 2300 Gulf Blvd., Suite 5, Indian Rocks Beach. 727-593-0277. cafedeparisbakery.com.
Cafe Soleil: 4695 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. cafesoleilbakery.com.
Fresh seafood is the highlight at this quaint market and cafe in St. Pete Beach where you could just as easily pop in for a glass of bubbly and oysters as you could while away a leisurely Saturday brunch. Don’t skip the lobster roll, salmon nicoise and the she crab soup. Rather take your meal to the beach? The restaurant sells picnic kits and a selection of ready-to-eat treats, plus beer and wine to-go.
7736 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. 727-363-4356. helmtampabay.com.
A locals’ favorite, this casual Madeira Beach spot features solid breakfast fare in a cozy laid-back setting. Folks come here for the thick, fluffy biscuits, which are topped with homemade sausage gravy, and the breakfast burger — an Angus beef patty sandwiched on a croissant and topped with a fried egg, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheddar cheese.
13331 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. 727-394-2833. lisascafemadeirabeach.com.
Early birds flock to this Pass-a-Grille institution, beloved for its early morning regulars’ scene and cozy interior, outfitted with shellacked booths and wood-paneled walls throughout. Folks love the omelets, Cajun fish and cheese grits and Bloody Marys.
800 Pass-a-Grille Way, Pass-a-Grille Beach. 727-360-1734.
Lunch (or an anytime of day pick-me-up)
DJ’s Clam Shack
Home to one of the area’s most popular lobster rolls, this East Coast-inspired spot sits tucked away in an Indian Shores strip mall but can draw a big crowd. Seafood favorites like garlic-steamed middleneck clams, conch fritters and mahi mahi tacos come with a selection of several sides, including sweet potato fries, coleslaw and beer-battered onion rings.
19705 Gulf Blvd., Suite A, Indian Shores. 727-474-7407. djsclamshack.com.
Kuba en La Playa
The shtick at this casual St. Pete Beach takeout restaurant is contemporary Cuban cuisine with a spin. The menu is designed with the grab-and-go beachgoer in mind and includes handhelds like lobster empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, fried chicharrones and even sangria, all to-go.
7525 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach. 727-409-3009. kubacocina.com.
Agave is home to some of the best Mexican food in the area, and it doesn’t hurt that they also make a mean margarita. Don’t sleep on the fish tacos, enchiladas or chiles en nogada.
6400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-367-3448.
The Original Crabby Bill’s
The original Indian Rocks Beach location has it all: live music, strong drinks and a friendly locals crowd. Grab a seat at the “loading deck” outside bar and cozy up to a dozen raw oysters and some crab-stuffed grouper.
401 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. 727-595-4825. crabbybills.com/indian-rocks-beach.
Caddy’s Treasure Island
Yes, the crowd can get animated here (especially during spring break), and parking during peak hours can be a bit of a nightmare. But there’s nothing like catching the sunset with a drink in your hand and the sand between your toes. This spot is popular for good reason. Popular dishes include the nachos, coconut shrimp and fried seafood platters.
9000 W Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. 727-360-4993. caddys.com/caddys-treasure-island.
Dinner with a view
Catch the sunset from the rooftop bar and restaurant inside The Saint hotel while noshing on fig and prosciutto flatbreads, shrimp cocktail and red curry scallops.
7203 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach. 727-292-0282. eatat82.com.
Spinners Rooftop Grille
The recently renovated fine-dining restaurant at the Bellwether Beach Resort is Tampa Bay’s only revolving restaurant. Sitting 12 stories high, you’re not going to get 360-degree views like this anywhere else.
5250 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. bellwetherbeachresort.com.
The Berkeley Beach Club
The rooftop bar atop the Berkeley Beach Club features unparalleled views of both the gulf and, to the east, Pass-a-Grille Channel — and a Gulf Primeval menu chock-full of fresh seafood options, including an impressive oyster selection and raw bar.
109 Eighth Ave., St. Pete Beach. 727-228-1000. berkeleybeachclub.com.
For breakfast, favorites include the omelets served with home fries and BELT sandwiches (bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and cheese on your choice of bread). At dinnertime, grab a frozen mango margarita, a platter of the peel-and-eat shrimp and some fried grouper nuggets. No matter the time of day, be sure to grab one of the coveted water-facing tables overlooking the gulf — at sunset, it’s a spot that can’t be beat.
900 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach. 727-954-8957. paradisegrille.com.
6850 Beach Plaza, St. Pete Beach. 727-560-5399. paradisegrille.com.
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
The largest — and arguably the liveliest — of the Frenchy’s mini-empire, this one steals the show with killer sunset views, an open-air bar and one of the best grouper sandwiches in town.
7 Rockaway St., Clearwater. 727-446-4844. frenchysonline.com/frenchys-rockaway.
Palm Pavilion Beachside Bar & Grill
Right across from Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill in Clearwater Beach, Palm Pavilion offers similarly spectacular gulf views, Florida vibes and potent cocktails, including the Palm Rum Runner — a blend of blackberry brandy, rum, banana liqueur, pineapple juice and grenadine.
10 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater. 727-446-2642. palmpavilion.com.
High and Dry Grill
This thatched-roof, no-frills bar and grill features a toes-in-the-sand allure and great sunset views, right off the Dunedin Causeway. Stop by here after a day in the sun at Honeymoon Island and soak in the tiki vibes with a rum punch and a fried catfish sandwich.
61 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin. 727-510-4445.
Beloved for its casual waterfront setting, live music and post-beach vibe, there isn’t a bad seat in the house at this St. Pete Beach institution. Don’t skip the fried clam baskets and fish and chips. On Sundays and Mondays, the spot boasts happy hour prices with half-priced margaritas, martinis and Manhattans.
7308 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach. woodyswaterfront.com.
Get (a little) fancy
This charming Pass-a-Grille restaurant from the owners of Two Graces in St. Petersburg features a New American menu with dishes like charred octopus, served with an almond-caper relish and a wild mushroom pappardelle with wilted greens and goat cheese.
120 Eighth Ave., Pass-a-Grille Beach. 727-317-4770. gracestpete.com.
Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber
Take a step back in time at this Clearwater Beach mainstay, which offers a taste of a glamorous and bygone era. Start with a Beachcomber Classic martini or a Harvey Wallbanger and move on to Clams Casino, escargot in a buttery Madeira sauce and jumbo shrimp cocktail.
447 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach. 727-442-4144. bobheilmansbeachcomber.com.
Salt Rock Grill
Although seafood is the highlight at this iconic Indian Shores spot, don’t sleep on the large selection of hand-cut steaks, which are aged for several weeks before getting grilled over natural oak and citrus wood. And be sure to grab a seat on the patio deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
19325 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores. 727-593-7625. saltrockgrill.com.
Sola Bistro & Wine Bar
Be prepared to be wowed at this charming European-inspired bistro, where there’s nary a fried fish sandwich in sight. Instead, nosh on curated charcuterie boards, crispy pork belly with daikon salad and pork khorovats — an Armenian-style roasted Duroc pork shoulder served with fire-roasted eggplant salad.
6700 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 727-360-7500. solabistrostpete.com.