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Gulfport Comfort Food To-Go – Two Dads

Pork belly could be on the menu

If you thought life hadn’t been the same since Wade Parrish left O’Maddy’s, your world is about to be righted on its axis.

Chef becomes a dad and decides he can’t have it all. (Who knew running a restaurant and being a parent were both exhausting? Come on!) 

Then enter the coronavirus, with restaurants closed or with limited seating or take-out only. A population stressed by social distancing and in need of some comfort

The happy ending? Take-out comfort food by two men who know their way around food and a kitchen.

 

Meatloaf

Two Dads is still in the soft opening phase, so they are not yet open every day and the menu is still evolving.  You can order online and see various daily menu choices on their Facebook page.

The menu can be found here: https://twodadstakeout.com/store/

The restaurant is located at 5133 Gulfport Blvd.

4 Day Dining Guide to Gulfport Florida

2021 Update Our 4-Day Dining Guide to Gulfport

The year that shall not be named caused many upheavals in the restaurant world.  It also changed the average length of stay for most guests staying at our vacation homes.  Quick trips are less common, providing us with an incentive to expand our 3 day dining guide to 4.

With a smorgasbord of notable and delicious restaurants in Gulfport, you’ll never be able to try them all—unless you spend your whole vacation eating. We wouldn’t judge you if you did, of course, but you’d be missing out on some quality beach time.

That’s why we (Beth and Terry of Splashy Ventures) have crafted this new, four-day dining guide, featuring the can’t-miss restaurants you have to squeeze in.

Sampling our complete list of recommended restaurants would take a full week of dining out for all three meals. So we made it bite-sized—perfect for those just visiting for an extra-long weekend or other short trip. Dine your way through our pretty little town in four days!

Note: Restaurants and businesses in Gulfport have been opening up since May of 2020 when the state began relaxing stay at home orders.  Initially many were open only for pick up or outdoor dining, but that should no longer be there case. Nevertheless, you may want to Google the business and check opening hours to confirm.  Also, almost all places suggested for dinner are also open for lunch on the weekends.

Bon Appetit!

Pia’s Lasagna Bolognese

Day 1

DinnerSiri’s Gourmet Burgers & Pizza

We put Siri’s on this list for a simple reason: the food is excellent. And we put it under dinner for your first night because it’s perfect for late arrivals, when you just want to eat something delicious ASAP. Everything at the airport will be closed (especially these days), and you certainly don’t want your first stop in Gulfport to be the Golden Arches.

Luckily, Siri’s is open until midnight every night except Sundays, when they close at 8 p.m.

The pizza and burgers are both phenomenal. We usually order Byron’s burger (double burger with double cheese, bacon, grilled onions and mushrooms, and mayo), a meat lover’s pizza with added pineapple, and fresh cut fries.

Or call ahead for takeout to enjoy back at your vacation rental. In the summertime, you may want to plan to dine outside or get it to-go—it can get toasty in there with all those pizzas and buns baking. 

Day 2 Stellas’s Gulfport

Day 2 Lunch – O’Maddy’s

Day 2 Dinner – Pia’s Trattoria

Day 2 Dinner – Pia’s Trattoria

Day 2

BreakfastStella’s

The breakfast here is award-winning. No, really—Stella’s won Best of the Bay in 2016 and cinched the number three position on USA Today’s 10 Best Spots for Breakfast in St Petersburg.

You can get a traditional breakfast here, but we suggest you try the Housemade Corned Beef hash and the Southern Shrimp and Grits (let’s hear it for the dining companions again). Any day that starts out with these two is already off to a great start.

Dine outside if the weather is nice and people watch—a Gulfport tradition you’ll be sure to adopt during your stay.

Also, if you’ve been to Stella’s in years past you should know that they moved up the street to the Art Village Courtyard in 2020.  More space inside and out.

LunchO’Maddy’s

Though we recommended it for lunch, O’Maddy’s is a safe bet any time of the day. They’re also open really late (3 a.m. for you night owls) so you might find yourself coming back later on.

O’Maddy’s is also one of the few places where we switch up our orders. We almost always get Sal’s Fresh Smoked Fish Spread, but that’s because fish spread is a rite of passage when you visit Florida—we order it every time we see it on a menu. Like crab cakes and key lime pie, it’s fun (and delicious) to sample the specialties of each restaurant.

If you’re in the mood for a burger, or you didn’t get one at Siri’s, O’Maddy’s are definitely worth trying. We’re fans of Donna’s Tomato Jam and Gorgonzola Burger as well as The Weiser Hammer.

If grouper is in season, try it blackened in a main or in Suzanna’s Grouper Sandwich (a Gulfport favorite, too).

Since you’re on holiday, try a Bahama mama or rum runner for a little Florida flair. Or if you just want a snack, order the Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes.

DinnerPia’s Trattoria

Even if food wasn’t so tasty, we might still send you to Pia’s, just for the atmosphere.

While most Gulfport restaurants are decidedly low-key, recalling a bygone era, the indoor and outdoor dining areas at Pia’s may just transport you to another continent entirely. We’ve watched Pia’s transform over the years from a small dine-in restaurant to the spacious, relaxed, and refined experience it is today. Perfect for a dinner that feels like a treat.

If the weather is nice, dining outside is simply a must. We start with the Rustic Ciabatta, carbs and all. If you want butter, or more Pesto Oil Dip, just ask. The bruschetta is can’t-stop good, so be sure to pace yourself and save room for the rest of the meal.

There’s always a soup offering and it’s always worth it. Even if you’ve never dreamed of two of the soup’s ingredients blended together, trust us, you’ll love it. And If a salad is in your plans, order the Insalata Pia

Now for the best stuff. If you eat pasta, you should get the lasagna. Period. If not, we often alternate between the Chicken Marsala and Chicken Piccata. Both come with pasta as a side dish, but you can ask for some asparagus, sautéed spinach, or sautéed vegetables instead.

In 2020 Pia’s expanded their outdoor dining area to a really spiffy sidewalk option. They had sidewalk dining before, but now there are large umbrellas, string lights and planters that block the cars parked on the street. It’s a great spot for people-watching too.  In addition to the sidewalk dining, there is a very large outdoor patio/courtyard and two indoor dining areas as well – the bar and the main dining hall.

Best-Ever Chicken Salad Sandwich at Neptune

Habana Cafe’s Picadillo – is worth calling ahead for

Tutto Bene’s Caesar Salad

Day 3

Breakfast – GulfPerk

Charming newcomer Gulf Perk has just the vibe Gulfport needed.  Along with the coffee options you’d expect – lattes, mochas and caps – there are pastries, muffins, bagels, the obligatory avocado toast and breakfast sandwiches. 

And just in case you miss breakfast, you can try GulfPerk After Dark.  Charcuterie & wine. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Lunch – Neptune Grill

Since it’s a new day, it’s time for more lunchtime Bahama Mamas—and Neptune’s makes the best in Gulfport. Probably the best we’ve had since visiting Bahamas 30 years ago, in fact.

Though…Scully’s Johns Pass does a great job, too. Perhaps you’ll want to conduct a side-by-side taste test?

Anyway, back to the food. Ordering at Neptune is difficult because the menu is quite varied and everything—and we mean everything—is excellent.

Want a Greek Salad? Fabulous choice. How about Smoked Fish Spread again? Check! Pastichio or moussaka? You’ll think you’re in Greece.

If you’re watching carbs, you can’t go wrong with the Bacon Wrapped Filet. Substitute sautéed spinach or double vegetables for the baked potato. Or see if they’ll make the Steak Diane for you—it’s a personal favorite that’s no longer on the menu, but we’ve scored it a few times since it went away.

If you want to keep it simple, the Black Angus Burgers and fries are excellent as well. And for those who want to eat lighter, our new favorite is the Chicken Salad Sandwich. Listen to these ingredients: chicken breast, celery, raisins and cashews. It’s the chicken salad you’ve been searching for. The Lemon Chicken Soup is so, so good, too.

DinnerBackfin Blue or Sea Dog Cantina

Backfin is a Gulfport institution and always buzzing. Get there early if you can pull yourself away from the beach!

We rotate between ordering the Backfin Blue Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, the Homemade Meatloaf (wrapped in bacon and stuffed with gorgonzola) and the Slow Roasted Choice Prime Rib. The prime rib sells out quickly—one of the reasons early dining is so popular.

Start with the Fish Spread (of course), the Crab Martini or the Puree of Corn and Crab Chowder. The Crab Cake Starter is also solid option if you’re not having the crab cakes as your entree.

We also love indulging in their loaves of warm brown bread with butter. Get an extra to take home for a late-night snack!

Backfin is still open on a fairly limited basis after Covid, open Thursday through Sunday only and table service is very limited.  (The restaurant isn’t very large to begin with, making the seating spacing a constraint.)  So we provide a worthy alternate Sea Dog Cantina, located just down the street.

Sea Dog is part of the Sea Dog brewing family, but the menu is uniquely Gulfport.  My personal favorites are the House Queso Fundido, the Chicken Tortilla Soup, Mexican Street Corn Caesar Salad, the Chile Braised Beef Brisket, and the Enchiladas made with the chile beef brisket.  They have some really creative margarita blends, including a couple on tap!

Beautiful Interiors at Sea Dog Cantina

Gulfport Brewery + Eatery – part of the Tampa Bay Beer Trail

Day 4

Breakfast – Gulfport Family Restaurant

Consistent, familiar southern breakfast foods at prices that won’t break the bank.  Pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, potatoes, corned beef hash, country fried steak, pork chops and chopped sirloin are all on the menu. Thick Texas Toast is dipped in their French Toast batter and grilled.  Omletes are available too.

And that’s just breakfast.  They also serve lunch, with tasty dishes like Greek salads, cheeseburgers and spaghetti and meatballs.  Dinner is just what you’d expect at a diner, with food like pork chops, liver and onions and roast turkey.  (And more!)

Lunch – Salty’s Sandwich Bar

We thought we’d “sandwich” the new Salty’s concept in-between two Gulfport old-timer’s.  (Get it??) Anywho, Salty’s Sandwich is located in the space that previously belonged to Tangelo’s.  Home to subs, a Fried Bologna Sandwich, a Grilled Triple Cheese Melt and of course, Salty’s Cubano.  (My post on area Cubanos is coming soon!)

Dinner – Habana Cafe

Time for your last dinner in Gulfport. We’ve been dining at this Gulfport institution since 2002.  In the restaurant world, that kind of longevity should tell you something.

Habana has options for inside dining under the sparkling, cloud-filled ceiling or outside in a private cabana.  My favorite appetizer is the Drunken Shrimp.  Favorite main dish is hands down: the Picadillo.  Ground sirloin of beef in a sofrito of onions, bell peppers, fresh garlic and tomatoes.  What’s not to like? I like it so much I will call ahead to make sure they have it.  The Cuban bread is worth getting an extra order of so you can take it home to eat with your leftover Picadillo.

Now about dessert.  I love flan.  I’ve been obsessed with it since I first had it in 1980.  Habana has not one, but two types of flan – regular Flan and Cream Cheese Flan.  I like them both, but my preferred way to consume these is to order both.  I dip my fork in first one and then the other, so that my is a combination of both.  If I had to get just one I would get the cream cheese version.   Think more “cream” and less “cream cheese” and you’ll have an idea of what it will be like.

Gulfport Food and Dining Home

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Gulfport Restaurant Guide

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SumitrA Espresso Lounge

Where can you find a cozy lounge, with a blended decor reflecting a cross between Casablanca and India?

Why Gulfport, of course!

Founded in 2018, SumitrA was created to provide a relaxing environment.

“Coffee and drinks that won’t let you down.”

A place for artists, poets and musicians.

Time to order

SumitrA specializes in CBD beverages and baked goods, but there are also a variety of gluten-free and vegan pastries and other options for the entire family. 

Iced coffee and coffee cake. A match made in heaven.

Take a trip without leaving Gulfport

SumitrA offers a wide variety of Espresso selections, loose leaf teas, CBD sodas, what grass shots, tonics, Nitro hemp cold brew, steamers and smoothies.

Oh and a variety of European style homemade baked goods.

SumitrA Espresso Lounge

2838 Beach Blvd S, Gulfport

813-220-4533

 

Everyone needs one of these

Neptune Grill

Dine in, dine out, sing along, watch some sports. And did we mention you can actually hear your dining companions when dining indoors at Neptune Grill?

That is, if there’s time to talk to your group while you’re busy stuffing your face with Greek goodness.

Yes, the Bahama Mamas deserve top billing

And the chicken salad deserves the No 2 spot

I recommend trying the Pastichio. No matter if you’ve sworn off meat, pasta or Bechamel sauce.  You’re forgiven for cheating just this once.  

The Neptune Chicken is a delightful mixture of sauteed chicken breast, green peppers, spinach, tomato, basil, Kalamata olives and feta cheese.  

The good ole American cheeseburger is everything you want it to be.  Can you tell I’m a repeat customer?

Spinach Pie – Yum

5501 Shore Blvd S        

727-623-4823

Open daily hours vary check website

http://www.neptunegrillgulfport.com

Pastichio 

GulfPerk Coffee Bar

GulfPerk opened in late 2019 and poof! Just like that, Gulfport had a second spot for coffee . 

Set up in an old house, the decor, staff and vibe (and of course the coffee) will make you linger. 

And return.

 

Tributes to Gulfport are evident throughout

Be one with the foam

Welcome. Inviting. Friendly. Great atmosphere.

Couches.  Community tables. Individual tables. 

A great patio. 

Delicious donuts, sandwiches and great coffee.

These are just a sampling of customer you’ll find on the world wide web.

Time to start the great American novel?

Now is a perfect time to enjoy nature’s perfect beverage

GulfPerk Coffee Bar

3107 Beach Blvd South

727-350-5377

 7 days a week from 7 am to 4 pm

Brief intro to the business and owners at the Gabber.

 

O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille

O’Maddy’s is almost too popular for its own good.  It’s always crowded, but that’s because the food is always good.

Life always presents us with tough choices, but at O’Maddy’s, you don’t have to think too hard.  Whatever appetizer you pick (Frank’s Fried Fish Nuggets, Collin’s Irish Chips) is bound to be great.  Come for drinks and choose from inventive concoctions (Gulfport Guava Breeze, Key Lime Pie Martini) and beach cocktail classics.

One of many delicious sandwiches

Quesadillas

O’Maddy’s knows how to feed a crowd in a timely fashion and they stay open late.  Really late.  3 am!  And some dishes on the menu are named after locals. You may be able to thank them in person.

5405 Shore Blvd South, across from William’s Pier and next to Salty’s

727-323-8643 

Website

House’s Homemade Beignets and Ice Cream

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Smokin’ J’s Real Texas BBQ

‘d be lying if I said I wasn’t suspicious of Smokin’’ J’s at first. I mean, they’re from Texas. Why did they leave the land of BBQ?! But after couple of meals here, I no longer care why or how they ended up in Florida—I’m just glad they did.

Smokin’ J’s has the secret sauce (literally, with two options: sweet and hot) and the tasty sides (green beans, mac and cheese, etc.) that you’d expect of a BBQ joint. Their brisket is actually my least favorite, as it is a little too dense and dry for me. But the ribs, smoked sausage and pulled pork (smoked for 14-16 hours and then hand-pulled) will satisfy any carnivorous craving. 

Assorted BBQ meats

If you’re in town for the holidays, be sure and call ahead to order a smoked turkey.  

Save yourself a load of work, give your oven a break and impress family and friends.

Smokin’ J’s goes all out for the holidays

If you dare, take on the Smokin’ J’s BBQ Challenge.  Win, and this challenge is free; lose and you’ll pay $49.  

To win, you have to consume the following in one hour: a pound each of sliced brisket, pulled chicken, pulled pork, sliced sausage, a boneless rack of ribs, and pickles and onions on a bun with a jalapeno to top it all off.  

See the pictures.  And bless your little heart if you try!

Now making a dizzying assortment of homemade ice cream flavors

5145 Gulfport Blvd S      

727-329-8624

Closed Monday and Tuesday

http://smknjsbbq.com

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Pia’s Trattoria

Pia’s and Backfin tie for my favorite Gulfport restaurant. Pia’s food rivals anything I’ve had in Italy, and I ate well in Italy! Over the years, Pia has expanded from a tiny eatery to include a few indoor dining rooms as well as an outdoor courtyard and sidewalk dining.  This is a good thing: the word is out and Pia and the staff deserve all the compliments they get from happy diners. 

The Lasagna Bolognese is my staple but half the time I’m diverted from that option by a mouthwatering Daily Special. For appetizer enthusiasts, the salads and soups are equally delicious.  

Yep, that’s THE lasagna

Insalata Pia – Romaine, arugula, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and gorgonzola cheese

Shrimp Scampi

Pia’s is located at 3054 Beach Blvd South.  

Phone 727-327-2190.

Website

Backfin Blue Cafe

Despite the fact that they’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (the nerve!) Backfin Blue is one of my favorites. Why, you ask? Let me count the reasons: crab cakes, meatloaf, the Mr. Oscar (the day’s fresh catch, expertly prepared), crab and corn chowder, prime rib…I could go on! 

Backfin Blue is tucked in a charming old house on Beach Boulevard. Dine outside if you can: there’s better acoustics and you may be treated to a serenade by a crooner next door at the Peninsula Inn.

2913 Beach Blvd, 727-343-BLUE

Website

New Restaurant – Mano’s Italian Grill

Is our pretty little town big enough for not one, but two fine Italian restaurants? Happily I think the answer is an enthusiastic YES! 

Those of you familiar with Gulfport know that we have been blessed to have Pia’s Trattoria in the heart of the Waterfront District for a long time now. Pia’s is a personal favorite of mine and is a linchpin in our 3-Day Dining Guide to Gulfport

However, early in 2019 I started hearing amazing feedback about an Italian newcomer on the scene, Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza. I was finally able to give it a try last month.  It’s tough work trying out new restaurants, but someone’s gotta do it.

Aracini di Rosa – that’s fancy Italian for rice balls.  (I think!)

First, let me apologize for the photos. These are just the photos of the dishes we were able to photograph before attacking them.  We were seriously hungry, seriously excited to finally eat at Mano’s and seriously hoping to finish dinner before the thunderstorm moved in.  

Who am I fooling? Half the time when I go to try out a new restaurant specifically for the purpose of recommending it (or not), I actually forget to take photos before we dive in.  And if I do remember, I have to hurry under Terry’s glare while I stand between him and the food just placed in front of him.

To the point though, these rice balls were wonderful.  Definitely a must-try and not something I would normally order.

Terry chilling and waiting for the fun to begin. Mano’s patio is great for enjoying a quiet meal outdoors.

I should have led with a photo of the iced tea.  It’s that good.  Don’t add lemon.  No need to mess with perfection.

Let me close by saying I can’t believe I’m actually going to mention the iced tea.  Does anyone go to a restaurant, much less an Italian restaurant, because of the iced tea? Well we do now. Or we would.

If you’ve ever tried Republic teas in the bottles, you may have a sense of what I’m talking about here.  Republic teas are perfection in my view – clear, crisp, so ick or bite on the tongue.  Mano’s iced tea is that without the fancy flavorings. A home run. 

Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza is now closed on Mondays for parties and special events.

Mano’s is located at 5802 28th Ave S, Gulfport, 33707.  They’re in the little shopping center that looks out over Wood Ibis Park.  Watch waterfowl frolic by day and the fountain light up by night.

manositaliangrill.com   

727-440-7176  

Open at 4 pm daily except Mondays.

Or check out their Facebook page for tons guest photos of dishes.