Top-Notch Tampa Restaurants Feature Fresh-from-the-Gulf Seafood
By Skye Rodgers
Tampa Local Expert
Seafood lovers rejoice! Visitors to Tampa with a love of seafood will appreciate its prime location on the Gulf of Mexico and the abundance of seafood riches available at many local restaurants. Fresh and local fish specialties include grouper and mahi-mahi among many other varieties. Many types of shellfish are also available, including shrimp, oysters, and crabs.
Whatever you are in the mood for, chances are it didn't have to far to travel before arriving at your table. To help you find the perfect spot,10 Best has researched the local food scene and brought together a list of the top seafood restaurants to choose from.
Tampa's seafood restaurants range from the upscale to the ultra casual with many featuring stunning views of the very waters that were home to the catch of the day. Local treasures, like the Rusty Pelican and Colonnade, have been pleasing locals and tourists alike for decades with well-prepared dishes and great views.
If you're looking for something more sophisticated, then you can't go wrong with Oystercatchers, widely considered the best seafood restaurant in Tampa. If you like a little fun with your grouper, there's the venerable Skipper's Smokehouse, which is as famous for its live music scene as its native Florida seafood creations.
10 Mitchell's Fish Market
A chain restaurant would have to be pretty good to deserve placement on a Tampa seafood list, but Mitchell's added a unique upscale flavor to the fresh seafood scene in town, while still keeping reasonable prices. Located in the West Shore Plaza mall, Mitchell's specializes in seafood creations from around the country, including cedar-roasted salmon, tilapia, and Chesapeake Bay crab cakes. The decor is reflective of the upscale vibe. They also participate in stringent testing guidelines, making sure your fish and seafood dishes are as fresh and pure as possible. Reservations are recommended. (813-289-3663)
9 The Colonnade
Opened by the Whiteside family in 1935, The Colonnade Restaurant is Tampa institution that has been serving generations of loyal and enthusiastic customers for over 65 years. Located on famous Bayshore Boulevard, just minutes from downtown, the restaurant offers great views overlooking the waters of old Tampa Bay and the downtown skyline. Specializing in seafood, the owners pride themselves on using only the freshest and finest ingredients. The meals are simple classics with large portions and reasonable prices. One of the most talked about specialties is their fried alligator appetizer which is considered the best in the area. ((813) 839-7558)
8 Taste of Boston
If you're searching for a casual seafood restaurant with great views of Tampa Bay and downtown, then Taste of Boston is a perfect choice. This unpretentious eatery features authentic New England fare and boasts "the best deep fryer in the Tampa Bay area." The kitchen here offers a full array of fresh deep fried seafood goodness including shrimp, clams, oysters and scallops as well as a wonderful New England Clam "Chowdah." Conveniently located at Ballast Point Park, the restaurant is a perfect stop for families enjoying a little fishing or cooling off at the children's water park. (813-831-2112)
7 Bonefish Grill
Bonefish is a local chain with locations throughout the Bay area, focusing on seafood and steaks cooked over a wood-fired grill in a setting that is both shabby and chic. Classically grilled dishes, including shellfish, are usually mated with inventive sauces from Asian and Caribbean influences. Being a chain, the prices tend to be quite reasonable. Each location is stocked with a full-service bar with a wide range of martinis and other mixed drinks that tends to be a hip hangout in the local neighborhood for the young professionals. There is usually a bit of a wait, so you may want to call ahead. You will be glad you did. (813-969-1619, 866-880-2226)
6 Skipper's Smokehouse
Let's just get this out of the way first: it's outdoors, it's a mostly-dirt floor, and you will probably be sitting at a picnic table. If you're still reading, you will love Skipper's. This is the go-to venue for fans of the really eclectic, not just in food but in music as well. It was also featured on "Man vs. Food" for its expansive seafood offerings. Skipper's even provides a chance to experience creations you probably can't find back home, native Florida dishes like gator tail and smoked mullet. The live music selection is quite varied, so it might be a good idea to check their website before visiting. (813-971-0666)
5 Charley's Steak House and Market Fresh Fish
Charley's is known more as a steak house, but its huge, wood-burning grill is also used for some of the best seafood in town. In fact, half of the menu is devoted to fish, crab, shrimp, and lobster tail. They particularly like using cedar planks to infuse steaks of tuna and swordfish with an earthy flavor. Obviously pairing their seafood with one of their famous steaks in a Surf 'N Turf would be a guaranteed winner. With a wine list that numbers over 800 selections, you are sure to find something that pairs wonderfully with your meal. (813-353-9706)
4 Catch Twenty Three
Catch Twenty-Three fuses Tampa's fresh seafood selection with Latin and Caribbean influences. The dishes are creative, such as Red Stripe-marinated calamari and whole yellow tail snapper. There is also a delectable sushi list. Located in the walking-friendly neighborhood of Westchase, the restaurant decor is trendy and casual with an understated tropical vibe. there is also an expansive bar and outdoor patio area where visitors can socialize and enjoy happy hour Monday through Friday. On the weekends there is live Caribbean music on the patio. a great place to gather with your friends and family, there's something for everyone at Catch Twenty-Three. (813-920-0045)
3 Rusty Pelican
The Rusty Pelican is a classic Tampa seafood-and-steaks place located directly on the waters of Tampa Bay. This casually elegant restaurant serves up fresh-from-the-water fare that does for the taste buds what the restaurant's panoramic views do for the eyes -- leaves them wanting more and more. Yes, the Rusty Pelican makes a memorable first impression. But what truly keeps folks coming back is the food, and you'll understand why once you've had the Rocky Point Grouper topped with fresh asparagus, Beggars Salmon wrapped in phylo and stuffed with crab, or Shrimp Scampi Rustico with angel hair pasta. Even the steaks, a handful of which are prepared table-side, garner high praise! It's also a well-known event location, hosting weddings and other events for up to 300 guests. (813-281-1943)
2 Copperfish Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar
Copperfish Seafood and Oyster Bar is centrally located in Tampa's trendy SoHo neighborhood. Owned by well-known local restauranteur Gordon Davis, Copperfish specializes in sourcing very fresh seafood and preparing it simply over a hardwood grill. The ambiance is warm and inviting with contemporary furnishings, rustic touches, and industrial finishes. There is also a sizable outdoor eating area complete with fountain. Some dishes to try include the Copperfish grilled oysters with herb butter, parmesan and romano, and the Black Grouper served over a bed of grits. The Gulf Snapper served with Quinoa is also a favorite with guests. ((813) 251-6789)
The first thing you notice as you enter Oystercatchers is the amazing view. This seafood restaurant, nestled among lush, tropical landscaping, takes full advantage of its location at the edge of Tampa Bay. Inside, the decor is bright, simple and modern, serving as the perfect backdrop for both the views and the expertly prepared food. The star of the lunch menu is a selection of locally sourced fish served wood grilled, blackened or sauteed. Not only are the dishes inventive and fresh, they are also gathered with conservation in mind. While the food and the view will cost you (around $20 for a fish entree), the experience cannot be beat. Part of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Oystercatchers has cemented itself as one of the great restaurant spaces in Tampa. (813-207-6815, 813-874-1234)
About Skye Rodgers
Skye has lived in Tampa for over 16 years and spends much of her time exploring the region and discovering its hidden treasures. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no cold, no snow climate and enjoys basking on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and navigating the waters of Tampa Bay. When not out exploring Tampa, Skye is a freelance writer and public relations professional. She currently provides public relations counsel on a freelance basis to non-profits, social enterprises and small business.
Read more about Skye Rodgers here.