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Vine and Grind Treasure Island – Your Destination for Health and Taste

I finally made it into Vine and Grind on an exceptionally cold day in early January.  There were not going be any casual meals outside or walks on the beach for me that day. Our car was packed for the drive from Florida to Texas and we made it all the way from Gulfport to Treasure Island that day.  After our stop at Vine and Grind we had to rearrange the car a bit, after walking out with a large box of vinegars and olive oils.

Take a quick trip to the Mediterranean with Vine & Grind

Prior to this visit to Vine and Grind, I was not ignorant about olive oil. 

But I also wasn’t very educated.

Many Americans are aware of the health benefits of olive oil, but what we may not be so aware of is the blending and mixing in of other oils that is often found in so many supermarket brands. Labeling of extra virgin olive oil isn’t regulated in this country and information about where a bottle was “packaged” is often meaningless.

Olive oil is all about flavor and it health properties.  And because both can be compromised by heat, the best uses are in those dishes that don’t involve significant heating.

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Vine and Grind has a huge variety of both infused oil oils and vinegars.  Sampling is encouraged.  Various size bottles are available and the staff can offer suggestions about which oils and vinegars go best with what foods. 

Ask for help – you never know which ones you’re going to love

Sampling stations. Once you make your selection you have a number of size options.  Filled and sealed on the spot.

This is not your grocery store olive oil

Before you head over to the Vine & Grind, check out this post by Oliveoil.com – A Guide to Olive Oil Tasting. This post will give you an idea of what to look for when sampling oils, including color, viscosity, and aromas.  What to watch out for. Learn how to notice the “retronasal aroma” and impress your friends.

Insider Tip: Become an Olive Oil Know-It-All

Want to learn more about olive oil? Try – you guessed it – oliveoil.com.  Find recipes, tips and more.

All-around smoky goodness

Here are a few oil and vinegar combinations we enjoy:

Asian flavors: Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar plus Toasted Sesame Oil

For Bruschetta: Garlic Infused Olive Oil plus Neapolitan Herb Balsamic Vinegar

BBQ Sauce flavor: Olive Wood Smoked Infused Olive Oil plus Neapolitan Herb Balsamic Vinegar

Kick up your pasta game a few notches

Toasted Sesame Oil, specialty pastas, a few local coffees and other gourmet food items are also available.

“If olive oil comes from olives, then where does baby oil come from?”

Jane Wagner

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

The Home page has links to all of our guides and posts related to food in Gulfport


Checkout the Guide!

Gulfport Restaurant Guide

Our Gulfport Restaurant Guide has the inside scoop on our recommendations for restaurants in Gulport


Checkout the Guide!

VIP Lounge & Mexican Restaurant – Treasure Island

Popular Gem Tucked Away

If you are new to the area, here’s what you need to know about VIP:

  • The food and atmosphere are addicting (watch out, waistline)
  • It has a cult-like following (do they put something in the food so I can’t stop?)
  • They don’t take reservations or call ahead orders (who wants to wait, right?)
  • It’s a TI landmark that is hard to find at night (maybe you shouldn’t be driving at night?)
  • VIP has an insane number of “regular” patrons (will there be any room for little ole’ me?)
  • Parking may be tricky. Free parking impossible really.  (I thought the best things in life were free?)
  • It’s small so best for smaller groups (But I want to go with all my Facebook friends?)

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Why You Should Go

However, if these things sound like reasons not to go, think again:

  • Tomorrow is always a great day to start a diet.
  • Yeah, they do put stuff in the food. Spices.  Peppers. Cheese. Tortillas.  It’s a restaurant, not a grocery store.
  • If you don’t want to wait go in the afternoon! You are on vacation so your day probably started late anyway.
  • I bet your Uber or Lyft driver can find it. Better yet, put the address in your GPS map app and then just stop your car in the middle of the road when she says you have arrived.  Take your time looking around while you hold up traffic. Its cool – everyone does it.
  • VIP is friendly but not clique-y. It isn’t high school all over.  You’ll be welcome.
  • Free parking? Even love isn’t free.  There are diamonds, Tinder subscriptions, diapers…
  • All 12 of your real Facebook friends will fit.  For those of you with thousands of Facebook friends, they’re probably already at VIP.  You don’t really know all those people anyway.

The chips are so good you don’t need the queso and guac, but get them anyway

Because VIP has been around since the 70’s, locals and visitors who have been coming here for years have grown with the restaurant. It’s a true Rapisardi family affair, and one that’s focused on making your experience here as memorable as possible.

Two words: The Three Amigos

The Food

So here’s one thing I always forget between visits to VIP: The food can be spicy.  Really spicy.  So much so that your beverage of choice will become your BFF.  And if that BFF involves a VIP margarita, you may need a “Lyft” or Uber home.  Even items that aren’t labeled spicy are spicy, so you know if they mark an item “Spicy” AND mark it “No Returns Please“, they mean it..

Can’t handle spice? Then ask your server about the menu item you’re considering or eat from the Gringo menu. Gringo food includes the mandatory chicken tenders loved by children everywhere, along with hot dogs and hamburgers.

VIP Enchiladas

Insider Tip: Better for small groups

It’s pretty small inside and very popular.  Even at off times you’ll have trouble seating a large party.

VIP Perfect Meal

I’ve heard the fajitas at VIP are phenomenal.  I’ve only smelled them, and always too late when I’ve already ordered. (If you’ve had them feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you thought.) Having lived much of my life in Texas, I have a thing about fajitas.  The best place in Austin for fajitas used to be the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake. And it was THE place for runners to go post Cap 10K.  Then Pappasito’s arrived on the scene, with garlic butter poured over tender, sizzling fajitas.  That’s the bar VIP fajitas have to beat.

I’ve also heard folks get quite emotional talking about their Wet Burrito.  It’s actually the Tinga Chicken tacos that make me cry.

If you could only feel the heat this dish packs

The Parking

So more about parking.  Because let’s face it, you’re at the beach so parking is limited to begin with.  But then you put it in a tiny little center next to Ricky T’s Bar & Grille and Sweet’s n’ Treats ice cream shop, and put it right on Gulf Blvd where Central Avenue comes over and you can imagine the difficulties.

Paradise parking has a large lot located behind VIP, where Park Place dead ends at 106th Ave.  It’s paid parking but unless you have a parking fairy on  your shoulder this will be your only shot.

However, if you park back in this lot and walk in through the back entrance (through the patio section), you’ll likely see cars parked 3 deep.  Don’t be tempted, dear tourist.  This is not for you.  This is for those locals I mentioned earlier that frequent VIP so often that other frequent patrons know who’s car is whose and therefore who they can park behind and block in. I only wish I could drink margaritas and eat Mexican food so often that I could be a regular there.

Anyway, walking in through this entrance also means you will walk through the kitchen to get to the dining area.

Chips up!

Insider Tip: One small bathroom

So maybe go before you go, if you know what I mean.  And don’t wait until the last minute.  It’s all nice and friendly until a line forms for the potty.

One word: Mango.  Your reward for a life lived well.

The Details

VIP Mexican American Cuisine  – 10625 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, Florida  727-360-5062.  Enhance your visit to the VIP by visiting their website, Facebook page and Trip Advisor!

Visit the news page of the website to find out about special events (Cinco De Mayo is one) and daily specials.

Website

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

Where to Buy Fresh Seafood – Gulfport, Treasure Island & St Petersburg

When Freshness Really Counts

As any chef or good cook will tell you, one of the keys to cooking success is to start with the freshest ingredients.

And I think there’s nowhere where that’s more important than fresh seafood..

We’ve all taken that stroll through a supermarket reeking of questionable seafood products and bleach, only to find our appetite and enthusiasm taking a dip. Or nosedive.  No pun intended.

Well worry not, we’ve got you covered! Read on for how to buy fresh fish and where to buy it in the Gulfport, Treasure Island, St Pete Beach and St Petersburg area.

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Mary Oliver

How to Buy Fresh Fish

Step 1: Go to a local and reputable seafood shop.  See the next section “Where to Buy” below.

Step 2: Ask what the freshest fish is or what the catch of the day is.

Step 3: If you decided to buy anything other than what they tell you is freshest or the catch of the day, make sure what you’re buying isn’t “previously frozen”.

Step 4: Make sure the flesh is firm and shiny.  It should provide resistance when touched. Don’t go poking it with your uncovered finger, however. I saw one source that said the fish should look as if it might jump up and swim away. If only, the fish is thinking. If only…

Step 5: Sniff it. Yes it’s ok.  Fish isn’t supposed to smell fishy. It should smell fresh.

Step 6: If the poor creature still has its head intact, check the eyes.  They should be clear, not cloudy.  (You know, so he can see better…)

Step 7: Gills if present should be bright pink and wet. No slimeyness.  Ever.

Step 8: For fillets or steaks, make sure the meat doesn’t separate from itself.  If it does it isn’t fresh.

Step 9: If the fish still has its skin, make sure the skin is not discolored.  No brown or yellow edges. Mostly this means even, consistent coloring.

Line ’em up

Where to Buy #1 – Key West Shrimp Company

We get it.  You’re not in Key West.  And no, I don’t know why. But I do know that the entire business is a family affair, with their own boats and own stores.  One shop is located in St Pete Beach and the other in Madeira Beach.

“Most of our fish was swimming less than 24 hours ago.” Says it right on the website. You’d have to fish for it yourself to get it any fresher.  Like them on Facebook to find out what their specials and fresh catches are.

Read about their dedication to sustainability here.  And check out products available in their online store here.  (Fish Spread fans will find some things to love here!)  You can even ship some home if you’d like.

10 am to 6 pm every day.  St Pete Beach location is 7217 Gulf Blvd Ste 13 (727) 873-3913.  Madeira Beach location is 215 150th Ave. (727) 592-1885

Perfect Salmon

Where to Buy #2 – Mid-Peninsula Seafood

Both a restaurant and a full-service fish market.   Looking for something special? Call them! They just may be able to deliver.

Not sure which fish to buy? Visit their Fish School for tips on cooking and information on origin.

Mid Peninsula Seafood’s restaurant is one of my faves. Soups, sandwiches, dinners and big orders to feed a gang.  Fish Spread is available and something you don’t see just anywhere – hushpuppies! They call them Cornpuppies!

Find the full menu of prepared foods here.

Follow them on Facebook.

They’re gone fishing on Sundays.  Just keep that in mind.  Open Monday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm.  400 49th St S, St Petersburg, FL 33707

Insider Tip: The Seafood Watch App

Download the app for your phone.  Sustainability at your fingertips!

Where to Buy #3 – Gulf Coast Seafood

Gulfport has two outstanding places to buy seafood.  “Fresh From the Boat“.

Gulf Coast Seafood began by providing products to stores, resorts and restaurants over a large part of Florida.  In response to repeated requests over the years, they are now selling to the public with their own retail shop!

Fresh fish in display cases.  Frozen products are vacuum packed). Head on over and catch tonight’s dinner.

Follow them on Facebook.

4921 9th Ave S, Gulfport (727) 321-1068   Open from 10 am – 6 pm Monday through Friday. 10 am to 4 pm Saturday

Chances are they have what you fancy

Where to Buy #4 – Don’s Dock & Wild Seafood Market

Don’s Dock has a wonderful fish market in addition to provide bait, ice and other gear you need to go fishing.

You can call 727-391-3223 for the Catch of the Day, see where your sustainably-caught seafood is coming from “Track Your Fish” and more.

Sauce and seasonings available too.  Online seafood market coming soon.

Check out the photo gallery for sample wares.  Those babies look ready to go home with you.

Don’s Dock Wild Seafood Market is located at 215 Boardwalk Place E, Madeira Beach, Fl. (727) 391-3223

Insider Tip: Sustainable Seafood?

View the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Consumer Guide here.

Recipe Suggestion: Perfect Salmon

Note: This cooking technique can be used on other varieties of fish too.  Just use your seasoning of choice!

Ingredients

  • Salmon filets, not steaks
  • Olive Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Maple Syrup

Spray or rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom or skin-side of the fish.  Massage soy sauce into the top of the fish.  Place the fish skin side down on a small metal tray.  (Sizzle platters are perfect for this.) Pour a modest amount (approximately 1 T) of maple syrup over the top of the fish and spread it around.

Place the salmon in a COLD oven.   Now turn the oven on to 400 degrees and set a timer for 25 minutes. Your fish will be moist and flaky and the soy sauce maple syrup on top provides a slight crunch.

Enjoy!

Perfect every time

Disposing of Fish Parts – How to be a Good Neighbor!

No matter how fresh that fish is when you get it, eventually it won’t be.  If you have leftovers (or leftover “parts”), please don’t just toss them (bagged or not) in the trash can and let them marinate until trash day. Please help keep the trash cans clean and smelling the best they can by refrigerating your excess in a plastic bag and tossing out the morning of trash pickup.

Insider Tip:

Visit Allrecipes.com

For an amazing assortment of delicious seafood recipes

Tampa Bay Times (tbt) review of Coffee Grounds in Treasure Island

After living without power for 4 days in the aftermath of Irma last year, a tbt correspondent visits Coffee Grounds Cafe and Dessert Bar in Treasure Island and finds an eclectic coffee bar cocktail bar combo.

The venue sported an unusual selection of spirits when it first opened, so we’d love hearing from you, if you go, as to whether that is still true or if they have gone traditional.

Coffee Grounds is not air-conditioned, but should have a decent breeze making it comfortable enough.

Anywho, this is a relatively quick read of the review by Justin Grant, so take a look here.

Coffee Grounds website is here.

They are located at 10927 Gulf Blvd.  727-820-1909

Pinellas Farmers Markets

A more thorough post on the area’s Farmers Markets is forthcoming, but for now here is a snapshot of local farmers markets.  You’ll find everything from creative breads to veggies and fruits to jewelry and seafood.
Some markets are only seasonal, while others operate year-round.  Please make a note of the dates and times. But with all these to choose from, one of them is bound to fit in your schedule.

What’s the Fuss About Smoked Fish Spread?

Smoked Fish Spread

I love fish spread.  And I want you to love it, too.

Now that my motives are clear, I hope you’ll read on for “Splashy Ventures’ guide to Fish Spread” – my extensively researched (and taste-tested) manifesto for fully enjoying this Florida favorite.

Below you’ll find a dash of history, a restaurant and retail “hit list” for the best places to get fish spread and recipes for making your own.  (If you’ve crafted a winner, there’s even a list of contests to show off your masterpiece – or sample everyone else’s.)

Let’s dive in!

Where & When Did Fish Spread Start?

The popular history of smoke fish spread starts with Ted Peters.  While it’s unclear whether Ted Peters was the first local to turn smoked fish into a spread/dip, he’s certainly one of its earliest (and most important) aficionados.

Ted was a bit of a visionary.  After WWII. he took the fish-smoking process from out of sight in the backwoods and backyard to “out in front,” where he bet the smoking process would catch both the eyes and noses of passersby.  He was right – and smoked fish fast became a thing.

Ted’s original fish smoking location opened in the late 1940’s.  By 1951, the current Ted Peter’s Famous Smoked Fish restaurant was up and running, and neither smoked fish nor Ted Peters ever looked back.

The Peters family business really was a true family affair.  “Mom” created the German potato salad recipe and baked pies.  Ellen Peters created the fish spread recipe.  And five generations later, and the same family is synonymous with fish spread.  It’s an endeavor that is near and dear to all involved – and you can definitely taste their dedication.

Visit their website for a more complete history, media mentions (like Diners Drive-ins and Dives!) and short videos on the fish smoking process.

ted peters smoked fish

The Smoked Fish Spread of Today

Today, smoked fish spread (or dip) can be found on many a Florida restaurant menu, and is made from fish types ranging from mullet to amberjack to mahi-mahi to kingfish. Generally, the oilier the fish, the better. This is because the oil in the fish helps it withstand the lengthy smoking process without drying out.

Fish spread often features celery, scallions and mayonnaise and is always accompanied by crackers (Saltines, Club, or both). Favorite toppings—if any—include jalapeños, bell pepper, capers, or relish.

One of the many pleasures of fish spread is sampling your way through the many different versions our restaurants have on offer. Most commonly, fish spread is served as an appetizer—the perfect introduction to authentic Floridian dining.

Toppings—if any—include jalapeños, bell pepper, capers, or relish. One of the many pleasures of fish spread is sampling your way through the many different versions our restaurants have on offer.

For a more detailed dive into the smoked fish experience, check out this awesome post from Authentic Florida and Visit Sarasota.

If I’ve kept your attention this long, your next question is bound to be:

Where Can I Eat Smoked Fish Spread?

The fish spread at all the restaurants below is worth sampling! We’ve grouped the restaurants by town so you’ll have a handy list when you’re out and about.

Quite a few of these spots are in our 3 Day Dining Guide to Gulfport, so check out that post too.

Gulfport

O’Maddy’s
Sal’s Fresh Smoked Fish Spread

Neptune Grill
Smoked Fish Spread

Backfin Blue
Fish Spread

St Pete Beach /
Pass-A-Grille

Sea Critters Cafe
Smoked Fish Dip (good to know: parking is limited)

Rick’s Reef Restaurant & Patio Bar
Smoked Fish Spread

Bongo Beach Bar & Grille
Smoked Fish Dip

Jimmy B’s Beach Bar at the Beachcomber Resort
Smoked Fish Spread

St Petersburg /
South Pasadena

Mid Peninsula Seafood
Homemade Fish Spread

Treasure Island

Middle Grounds Grill
Smoked Fish Spread

Where Can I Buy Smoked Fish Spread?​

Once you’ve tried fish spread in a restaurant, you’re likely to want to have some on hand at home for lunch or late-night snacks.

Of course, you can always order fish spread to-go from the above restaurants. But sometimes you want to really load up. If that’s the case, try these suppliers:

Offshore Seafood Co

Fish spread is important enough to this family-owned business that it has dedicated a webpage to it. Created in 2012, the Offshore Seafood take on the spread is wild caught mahi-mahi smoked over real hickory wood logs, blended with top-of-the-line ingredients and sold to local restaurants, distributors, and directly to consumers.

And not to worry – if you get hooked, they can ship to you overnight!

Mid Peninsula Seafood

The fish is smoked on the premises and there are three varieties to choose from! Amberjack plain, Amberjack with jalapeno and Salmon.

Publix

If you’re hitting the local supermarket, pick up Smilin’ Bob’s Original Smoked Fish Dip or Smilin’ Bob’s All-Natural Smoked Fish Dip (both from the Key West Smoked Fish Co.) A family owned business with fish spread made right in the Keys. Read their story here and find out why Bob is smilin’.

Gulf Coast Seafood

It used to be that this well-respected business sold only to restaurants, stores, and resorts—not directly to consumers. But luckily, there’s now a storefront at 4921 9th Ave S in Gulfport where you can stock up. As Gulf Coast Seafood likes to say, you can’t get any closer to fresh unless you pull it out of the water yourself!

Ted Peters

Buy smoked fish spread by the half pint, pint or quart from the guy who made it famous. (Good to know: the business is cash only.)

How to Make Your Own Fish Spread

The logical next step in your “fish spread evolution” is to make it at home. For that, you’ll need some fresh smoked fish (see Ted Peters, Gulf Coast Seafood or Mid Peninsula Seafood above) and a great recipe.

Here are some of our at-home favorites. We’ve tasted them all, and we stand by ‘em!

Smoked Mullet Dip from Authentic Florida and Caroline Chambliss

Smoked Fish Dip from Allrecipes

Smoked Fish Dip from Food Network

Last but not least, here’s a lengthy mouth-watering collection of recipes from Salt Strong. (Warning: don’t view it on an empty stomach!)

Where Can I Compete with My Fish Spread (or Taste Local Recipes)?

And finally, if after all this you love fish spread as much as I do, there’s only one thing left to do. Enter a fish spread contest! Or at least attend one and taste test your way through local favorites.

Old Salt Foundation Fish Spread Contest

It would be well worth 5 minutes of your time to read about the Old Salt Fishing Foundation and learn about the foundation’s mission as well as where the name “Old Salt” comes from. Hint: it is not a reference to salty old fisherman.

The Old Salt Fish Spread Contest will be in its 9th year in November 2018. Registration is $10 per entry and qualifies you for both Judges and Peoples Choice Awards.  Additional rules can be found on the contest website.

I can’t think of a better way to get your fish spread game on. And to those who decide to enter the contest, may the fish spread force be with you.

Happy feasting!