It’s summertime in Florida and both tourists and locals are heading to Florida’s 663 miles of beach (not shoreline – beach). Part of the sandy excursion for many adults is a stop at a restaurant on the beach for burgers, seafood, and lots of cold refreshment. The older you get, the more important the food becomes compared to the warm water and hot sun.
I have a few rules about what constitutes a “real beach-side restaurant” – first, it must be ON the beach. Not across from the beach which is often the case in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and other urban haunts. You want to be able to go from restaurant to water in sixty seconds! Restaurant owners are as sneaky as resort PRers when it comes to website descriptions.
Beach food should come on paper plates: seafood, seafood!
“Waterfront restaurant” in Florida may mean it is on the Intracoastal Waterway or bayside. “Ocean view” may even mean a narrow speck of blue water between two condos. If the diners are wearing anything less than shorts and beachwear, you can be suspicious of its location. Even restaurant websites can disguise shortcomings so I like to examine the customer photographs in Yelp and Tripadvisor.
To my criteria, a good “beachside restaurant” is on a public beach, preferably near a pier and beach volleyball courts. The view should not be buried behind twenty foot sand dunes and the menu should be Florida or tropical and the drink list as long as the food listings.
My Summer Hangout: Frenchy’s Rockaway on Clearwater Beach
My favorite nearby beach-side restaurant is Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill on Clearwater’s North Beach parking by the Art Deco hotel and the 1920’s beach pavilion. Great grouper dishes, large menu, great views of volleyball and North Pier. Like many places, you better arrive early to get the best parking.
Here are some of the best beachside restaurants I know:
Salute On the Beach on Atlantic Boulevard in Key West is not just distinctive in its funky open-air beachside ambiance, it makes seafood Italian style on its menu.
Salute in Key West is ON the beach
I love to vacation over at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, a compact concave of hotels, restaurants, and shops with a downtown strip seconds from the beach. There by the City Pier is the cool Aruba Beach Café, where as one might expect there is always a party going on. Look for big tropical drinks, live Caribbean music, and good seafood.
It seems that having a nice fishing pier sets the stage for the correct beachside restaurant. That’s the case with Benny’s on the Beach by Lake Worth Pier on South Ocean Boulevard. If you have ever visited Daytona Beach, you probably have heard about the Ocean Deck Restaurant and Beach Club. The three-story complex has been serving seafood and loud reggae music since 1940.
Benny’s Is Not One of Those Expensive Pier Restaurants
Jacksonville Beach has several beachside places, but I like the outdoor seating and Mexican menu at The Pier Cantina and Sandbar. A good margarita even enhances the nearby view of Jacksonville Pier.
I once lived in the Panhandle and its newly beachside communities attract younger families from the Deep South. It’s hard to pick one in Panama City, but I’ll select the Hooked Pier Bar and Grill with all the necessary ingredients: view of pier, on the beach, fish tacos that are killers, and lots of parking at a nearby shopping center.
Since we started at Key West, we must end 700 miles away on Pensacola Beach. The Casino Beach Bar and Grill down Fort Pickens Road serves up signature glorious seafood and drinks from 7 am to 2 am in the summer months.
Casino Beach has a pier and a great seafood grille.
Have a wonderful trip to the beach and visit a beachside restaurant.