A Semi-Handy Clearwater Guide

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Phillies fans will start filling Bright House Field on Sunday, when the Phillies play the New York Yankees.

First time in Clearwater? Been here a bunch already?

Here are a few personal recommendations:

  • If you are coming to Clearwater, try to stay near the beach. Why? Are you really asking me why?
  • A spring training tradition is breakfast at Lenny’s, which is a short walk (an even shorter drive) from the ballpark. Everything there is good. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
  • Another spring training tradition is a stop at one of the four Frenchy’s restaurants. Famous for their grouper sandwiches, although generally everything they serve is excellent. Frenchy’s Rockaway is on the beach, and has a good atmosphere at night and on the weekends. If you want to see some ballscribes in person, try Frenchy’s Original. South Beach Cafe is across the street from the beach. Salt Water is good, too. A good, relaxed beach vibe at every one.
  • My personal favorite place to eat in Clearwater? Island Way Grill. Probably the trendiest place near the beach — I snuck in there once with a disguise — but I think the food is very good.
  • Like sushi? Kiku is right around the corner from Frenchy’s Original.
  • Like Italian? There is Villa Gallace on Indian Rocks Beach and Cesare’s (never been to Cesare’s, but have heard good things from a few people).
  • Looking for places to go after dinner on Clearwater beach? There is Frenchy’s Rockaway, Palm Pavilion, Kelly’s Beach Bar and Shephard’s. (I heard Shephard’s is good on Sundays, although I’ve honestly never been.) There are other places down by St. Pete beach and in Tampa, obviously, but I’m sticking with Clearwater beach here.
  • If you’re in town during the NCAA tournament, Tilted Kilt is across the street from the ballpark and has a bunch of TVs.
  • Looking to blow some coin on a big steak dinner? Bern’s in Tampa is a good choice. Make sure to get dessert.
  • One place I still haven’t tried, but have heard good things about is Salt Rock Grill, which is south of Clearwater beach. If anybody goes, tell me what you think.
  • Everybody always asks about autographs. The only advice I can give is stand along the third-base line and hope for the best. Another piece of advice: If you’re an adult, it’s best to act like one. Don’t try to guilt a player into signing, like, “Come on, dude, I drove here from Philly!” Don’t try to use your child as a reason to sign, like, “Come on, man, sign for my three-year-old son! It would mean everything to him!” Be respectful. Be polite. And say thanks. I think that generally works best.
  • The postgame scene at the tiki pavilion in left field is great. That’s a must.
  • If you have any other questions — there are plenty of other good places to eat in Clearwater – let me know. I’ll try to help.

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10 Comments

Todd,

In a few weeks, I will head down for my 4th consecutive spring training. I don’t disagree with anything you said there (but I have not been to all of those places).

Let me elaborate about why it’s essential to stay at the beach: there are no good seafood places anywhere on the mainland. The stadium is about 10 miles from the beach. It’s in a dreary area of cookie cutter fast food joints. If you want to eat greasy burgers and ribs, just get a cheap hotel anywhere in Clearwater. But if you want a dozen oysters followed by an astonishing grouper sandwich, you have to eat in Clearwater beach. I concur, Frenchy’s is #1 and all four of them are fun, authentic, and have great food. But don’t miss Crabby Bill’s, which has a similar menu and feel – tends to draw a younger crowd though. I think they have a “Philly Grouper Cheesesteak” which is awesome. The best part is that you can walk to your hotel or motel from dinner!

The best grouper sandwich MAY be at Crabby’s or Frenchy’s, but you can’t be certain until you had one at Keegan’s in Indian Rocks Beach. http://www.keegansseafood.com/ They have FOUR kinds of grouper sammich — grilled, battered, cajun blackened, and Buffalo wing style. Can’t go wrong with any of that! Plus they have conch, oysters, pitchers of beer, and a friendly staff. A real family friendly place. Worth the 20 minute drive south.

Lenny’s is ridiculous, it’s a 2500 calorie breakfast. An essential experience. My advice is to turn down the basket of pastries they offer before breakfast — it’s B grade stuff and dampens your appetite for the huge Jersey-style diner breakfast to come. I love the staff there, I love kibbitzing with all the other Phans, and I love the warm feeling as I waddle to my car. Key point — on game day, you better arrive 3 hours before hand because the wait can be 1 hour or more.

Finally, while BrightHouse is a marvelous modern place, I really enjoy the short drive to see other parks. See a Red Sox game in Ft. Myers — the atmosphere there is special. (On the other hand, the Braves’ Disney facility feels more like a theme park than a ball park). I miss Dodgertown and that basic facility that had benches, not dugouts.

Can’t wait.

Driving in Clearwater can be maddening — it’s a difficult mix of seniors, immigrants, tourists, and traffic lights. Be prepared to wait a lot!

A place that is not all that well known yet ..

A must for sports fans – The Brown Boxer on Mandalay (formerly Outback, across from Clear Sky Cafe – currently decked out with Phillies flags.)

Just opened last July.

Owned and managed by Philadelphia area guys.

Awesome drink specials.

Great food (even the Cheesesteak!!)
Good service.

Every game you can imagine on tons of TVs.

A place that is not all that well known yet ..

A must for sports fans – The Brown Boxer on Mandalay (formerly Outback, across from Clear Sky Cafe – currently decked out with Phillies flags.)

Just opened last July.

Owned and managed by Philadelphia area guys.

Awesome drink specials.

Great food (even the Cheesesteak!!)
Good service.

Every game you can imagine on tons of TVs.

Shepard’s on a Sunday night is fine, if you are under 25 years old and wear silk shirts. Otherwise stay up at Frenchy’s or the Palm Pavillion.

YO YO YO . Try Salt Rock Grill Indian Rocks. You will not be dissapointed. By the hostesses, or, the neato wine cellar. see you on the 18th.

BTW…. this will be my 25the year! Dammmm I am old :-)

We are flying in tomorrow for our 1oth consecutive year in Clearwater for our favorite vacation. Your comments today, Todd, are timely and from our experiences right on. We are baseball geeks and stay at the LaQuinta near BrightHouse. Not Luxury or a water view but we never miss a game. Minor league ballplayers are housed there as well which adds to the fun for all. Are there any B games next week? Always a good time and a chance for the kids to get up close and personal with players and coaches with plenty of autograph opps. Hope to see you on Sunday. Enjoy all your work.

Todd,
I can’t believe you left out what Clearwater is most famous for – HOOTERS! the original is in Clearwater, and it is not like the others. It is a nice family place. My 9 year old son and I will be heading down in a few weeks for your 6th Spring Training. He loves to go to Hooters and watch March Madness. We prefer to stay within walking distance to the stadium. We’ll play catch in the morning, then walk down to game. Get there when the gates open and watch BP, then take a nice slow walk back to the hotel after the game. Go out to dinner and have some ice cream….repeat about 5 times…then wait until next year. We’ve never really had much luck with autographs, and it definitly has been getting harder every year. I guess that’s the price you pay for success!

For fresh seafood, great burgers and Awesome Wings, head over to Cooters. They’re a block off the main strip and definitely worth the walk. Hands down Best Food on the Beach for a casual dining. TVs all over the place. They also have a Sports Bar that is sort of hidden – you enter from the end of the patio.
Great Happy Hour too.

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