Results tagged ‘ Clearwater ’

Your Guide to Clearwater

clearwater beachHola, amigos.

Wow, it’s been 82 days since my last Zo Zone post. What the hell have I been doing? Mostly, I’ve been writing for MLB.com. Of course, I’ve always been writing for MLB.com, but over the past year I found myself staring at my computer screen more and more and muttering to myself, “How can I find a different way to write about Sean O’Sullivan making a spot start?”

In other words, too much of the blog duplicated what I wrote for MLB.com.

So I will be blogging less than I have in the past, but I hope when I blog it will be something different.

I’m back today because I got an email yesterday from a reader looking for recommendations for their upcoming trip to Clearwater. Here’s what I’ve got:

Where to stay: There are plenty of hotels near Bright House Field, but if you’re leaving the cold for Florida then why stay anywhere except near the beach? This accomplishes two things. First, you’re staying near the beach. Second, you’re not dreading the sometimes stop-and-go drive to the beach. Clearwater is notorious for terrible traffic, and that traffic is never as bad as it is on the weekends. Save yourself the hassle of getting to the beach by waking up there.

What to do other than watch baseball: I haven’t tried everything in Clearwater because — believe it or not — I’m mostly working. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a popular destination, but I can’t understand why. There is almost nothing there compared to other aquariums and poor Winter the Dolphin is in the saddest, smallest tank I’ve ever seen. Kids might get a kick out of it, but after visiting once it’s not a place I’d visit again. The Clearwater area has plenty of golf courses. If you’ve got money to spend, Innisbrook (where they host the Valspar Championship) is right up the road. But there are other less expensive alternatives. Dunedin Golf Club is a Donald Ross (Pinehurt No. 2, Aronimink, Gulph Mills, etc.) designed course. There is Belleview Biltmore, The Eagle courses and more. Played anywhere around here that you like? Let us know.

Where to eat: The food scene won’t rival Philly, but there are good places to go.

Here is Trip Advisor’s list for Best Restaurants in Clearwater. Here’s the Yelp! list. Don’t rely too much on them, but I mention them because they’re good to reference. I mean, Trip Advisor reviewers gave Carrabba’s its Certificate of Excellence Award and ranked Perkins 65th out of 510 restaurants. Say what?!?! It reminds me of the Onion article that said Olive Garden has been voted the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee.

  • Island Way Grill. It might be the trendiest place near the beach. Good seafood and sushi. Good atmosphere. It seems to be the place every Phillies front office regular visits at least once before they head north. The folks who run Island Way also run Salt Rock Grill (Indian Rocks Beach), Rumba (near the ballpark) and the Marlin Darlin (Belleair Bluffs). They also are worth checking out.
  • Frenchy’s. There are four locations near or on the bench. If you want to find crusty sportswriters, head to Frenchy’s Original. Frenchy’s Rockaway is on the beach and typically has live music. Get a grouper sandwich, whichever restaurant you choose.
  • Columbia. It’s on Sand Key in a strip mall (fun fact: 95 percent of everything in Florida is in strip malls), but it has very good Cuban and Spanish food.
  • Villa Gallace (Indian Rocks Beach). If you’re looking for the best Italian food near the beach this is it. Some folks like Cesare near Clearwater Beach (Cliff Lee supposedly ate there occasionally).  I’ve been there twice, but I found the service to be absolutely dreadful. You won’t have that problem at Villa Gallace.
  • Aloha To Go (Indian Shores). This is about a 20-minute drive from Clearwater Beach –it’s past Villa Gallace — but I think it’s worth it. It’s a small place with just a few tables, but the Hawaiian food is very good. It’s relatively cheap, too. I discovered this place this spring and I’ve been back several times.
  • Haze Ice Cream (Indian Shores). Just a short drive from Aloha To Go, this joint serves fantastic homemade ice cream. Again it’s in Indian Shores, so it’s about a 20-minute drive from Clearwater Beach, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the craziness there. And this ice cream is worth it.
  • Guppy’s (Indian Rocks Beach). Good seafood. But get a reservation because the place is always packed and the wait is borderline ridiculous.
  • Clear Sky. It’s a breakfast spot near the beach. Good food and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. I saw Hulk Hogan there once. He wasn’t happy when a lady approached him and asked for a picture with her daughter.
  • Lenny’s. It’s one of those places everybody seems to visit while they’re here. It’s got a following for a reason, but it’s no Honey’s or Green Eggs.
  • Cafe de Paris (Indian Rocks Beach). It’s a little cafe that has French pastries, crepes, quiches and coffee. If you’re not in the mood to wait in long lines to eat breakfast at Lenny’s, Clear Sky or Maggie Mae’s and you’re on the beach it is worth the drive.
  • Palm Pavilion is right next door to Frenchy’s Rockaway. It’s a popular spot on the weekends, but personally I’m no fan of the food, especially compared to Frenchy’s.
  • Cristino’s. It’s located before the causeway to the beach. Numerous sportswriters have been there and they like the pizza. Full disclosure: I have never been, but I’m mentioning it anyway because it’s No. 1 on the Trip Advisor list.
  • Smokin’ Rib Shack BBQ. This place is in Largo. Good, cheap BBQ served in styrofoam containers.
  • Kiku. It’s a sushi joint located upstairs from the Brown Boxer on Clearwater Beach and just around the corner of Frenchy’s Original. The sushi is good, but the service has been a nightmare in the past. That said, I haven’t been there this year, so perhaps the service has improved.
  • Ken Sushi and Asian Bistro. I found this spot on Gulf to Bay somewhat close to the ballpark. Really good, well-priced sushi.
  • Keegan’s (Indian Rocks Beach). Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which is either an endorsement or a reason to stay away, if you’re not a fan of Guy Frieri. Personally, I like it. I think the food is comparable to Guppy’s and I’ve found little to no wait.
  • Beachcomber. This place is popular with seniors. If you’re looking for a fun, relaxed place to have dinner this is not it.
  • The Brown Boxer. A good place to get a drink and watch March Madness, but please eat elsewhere.
  • Pete & Shorty’s. Very cheap bar food. Located relatively near the ballpark. One grizzled sportswriter absolutely loves this place, crushing sliders like he has a week to live.
  • Hooter’s. I guess there are people who would go here because it’s the original? Located next to Pete & Shorty’s.

There are some good very spots in Dunedin, particularly on Main Street. Check out that area if you’re looking to get out of Clearwater for a night.

What do you recommend? Need any tips about anything else for your trip here? Let me know.

One Man’s Clearwater Guide

I get a lot of e-mails from readers asking me for recommendations for their trip to Clearwater. If you’ve been here before, you probably don’t need my help. If you’re new to town, here are a few suggestions:

  • Stay near the beach, if possible.
  • A Phillies spring training tradition is breakfast at Lenny’s, which is a short walk (and an even shorter drive) from the ballpark. If you go on the weekends, don’t expect to roll up at 10 a.m. and get a table. There’s usually a line out the door, but it’s worth it.
  • Another spring training tradition is a stop at one of the four Frenchy’s restaurants. Frenchy’s is 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. Some say Frenchy’s Original has the best food of the four. 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. Make a reservation.
  • A close second is Salt Rock Grill on Indian Shores. Make a reservation.
  • Like sushi? Kiku is right around the corner from Frenchy’s Original.
  • Keegan’s was featured on that show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. That’s the show where that guy shows how crazy he is by wearing his sunglasses on the back of his head.
  • A couple solid places on Sand Key are Colombia and Backwater’s.
  • Looking for places to go after dinner on Clearwater Beach? There is Frenchy’s Rockaway, Palm Pavilion, Brown Boxer, Kelly’s Beach Bar, Shephard’s and more. (I’m personally not a fan of Shephard’s, but some folks like it. Shephard’s also is a hotel, but if you’re over 25 I don’t recommend it, unless you love spring breakers.) There are other places in St. Pete Beach and 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. (Not a fan of the food, but that’s me.)
  • Looking to blow some coin on a big steak dinner? Bern’s in Tampa is great. Make sure to hit the dessert room.
  • 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 at Bright House Field in left field is great. That’s a must.
  • If you have any other questions or think I missed something — there are plenty of other good places to eat in Clearwater – let me know.
  • Need something to read while you’re on the beach? Read below!

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!

Moyer to Rehab in Clearwater

Jamie Moyer is giving baseball one more shot.

He is going to be continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery at the Phillies’ Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies have not signed Moyer to a contract, so he remains a free agent, but he asked the Phillies if he could use their facilities.

“We’re providing him our space in Clearwater and our expertise,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

Moyer, 48, went 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 19 starts in 2010 before he injured his left elbow in July. He tried to rehab the injury without surgery, but it did not go as planned. He had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in December.

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A Semi-Handy Clearwater Guide

beach.jpg

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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I’ve got a new Facebook page, where I’ll post stories, blogs, thoughts, etc. Check it out here. Follow me on Twitter.

50 Days in Clearwater

Luggage1.jpgIt’s good to see people already finding the blog. From what I’m told, we’re going to be rolling out the beat writer blogs en masse later this week (i.e. they’ll be featured more prominently on team pages, etc.). Until then, spread the word.

I’m flying to Clearwater tomorrow morning and I’ll back in the baseball routine Friday before pitchers and catchers report Saturday. But right now I’m trying to get my life in order before I leave. And pack. That’s no easy task.

Yes, I’m in Clearwater the entire time, so I’ll be blogging from Feb. 12 through April 2, when the Phillies play their last Grapefruit League game. Check here regularly for news, notes, analysis and shenanigans. You know, the usual stuff.

I’m still trying to learn the blogging software, too, so hang with the hiccups. I’ll get through them. I promise.

I just realized that I’ll be in Clearwater for 50 days.

Not bad, huh?

Grouper sandwiches at Frenchy’s. Breakfast at Lenny’s. Sushi at Kiku. Island Way Grill. Palm Pavilion.

That said, I’ll miss my bed.

(But I am bringing the Wii.)

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