Nothing is more relaxing than escaping the world for time on the high seas. A bikini might not be appropriate for dining back in town, but a cover up is fine for many casual dining spots dotting the bay. After a day of cruising our beautiful waters, many can’t wait to tie up and/or tie one on. We wish you an appetite for adventure at these dock-and-dine eateries. Many of these have docks or a few public slips nearby. You can reach them all without hitting the road.
Patrons park their boats at one of three floating docks at the City of Dunedin Marina. Enjoy an easy walk a few blocks into town to Main Street’s many choices:
BON APPÉTIT RESTAURANT 2 minute walk (472 feet from the marina)
Lightly-dusted grilled grouper, pan-seared foie gras, lobster and avocado stack, or veal chop with black truffle butter are among the delicious European-style dishes at this Dunedin flagship. Find burgers and lobster rolls at its outdoor café with scenic views of St. Joseph’s sound.
KELLY’S 5 minute walk (0.2 miles from the marina)
Boaters unwind under oaks on the patio or cool off in the Chic A Boom Room Martini Bar. An eclectic menu offers diver scallops with sesame, Thai-peanut-crusted shrimp, grilled Scottish Salmon with dill crème fraiche, and crab cakes with cucumber relish, chipotle remoulade and chive-mashed potatoes.
THE DUNEDIN SMOKEHOUSE 8 minute walk (0.4 mile from the marina)
Sit on the patio and try such specialties as fall-off-the-bones tender ribs, wings, pulled pork and Texas-style brisket.
If you like noise and rumble, this lively place, which is open seven days a week, may be your ticket. Sip a Margarita as you bask in the sun or cool off in the shade of tiki huts. Burgers, coconut shrimp, conch fritters and soft-shell crab go down easy. Tying up the boat is effortless, as there are plenty of slips to choose from. Bring paddle boards and kayaks to explore the mangroves near the restaurant.
Boaters cruise here for Hula burgers, shrimp and crab paradise sushi, and fish selections like mahi-mahi and grouper cooked in a variety of styles. Find a chair, sip some Kahanamoku Kicks or other tropical libations, and watch the sunset with the popular bar crowd.
Boaters will race to get the slip at Mad Beach, then fill ‘er up with a bucket of shrimp, snow crab, mussels, clams, corn on the cob and potatoes—among other “Old Florida” style seafood selections. On Saturdays and Sundays, open your eyes and senses with a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar brimming with a spicy selection of accoutrements.
CADDY’S PUB (previously The Pub Waterfront Restaurant)
Pull up to the docks (you’ll find slips for big and small boats), kick off your flip-flops, and nibble on wings (a dozen or so varieties), grouper sandwiches, salads and smoked fish.
The food and ambience almost cause pilgrimages to this legendary landmark. The booths offer a good view of the fun on the Intracoastal waterway. Toast-worthy drinks, striking scenery, and great appetizers (“Medibbean” shrimp with vermouth and Kalamata olives, mussels Provençale and a chilled shellfish tower with lobster), make Salt Rock everything you want a modern restaurant to be. They do great USDA prime steaks (with massive, three-pound Tomahawk Chops cooked over a 1,200 degree fire), Mile High Meatloaf and Island Style Curry. Are you in the mood for fish? A crackerjack team of chefs churn out red snapper, red grouper and other daily specials brought aboard from Salt Rock’s fleet of boats.
This indoor and outdoor, boat-casual restaurant also welcomes your four-footed Scrappy or Fido. Its warm, friendly ambience is a good place to decompress after too many office meetings during the day. Order the royal red shrimp, fried hogfish or barbecue pork dinners.
The café provides indoor and dockside seating for those seeking grouper sandwiches, lobster rolls, fish and chips, and almondcrusted fried shrimp. A Happy Hour that starts at 3 o’clock brings in plenty of Margarita fans.
Open since 1994, with boat slips for about a dozen, The Wharf helps the skipper who is looking to order peel-and-eat shrimp, grouper, burgers and seasonal blue crab claws. The bonus: almost two dozen beers on tap.
Castile Restaurant in the Kimpton Hotel Zamora transitions between traditional and contemporary cuisine. Undeniably creative, it offers a painter’s palette of colorful, earthy Mediterranean and Latin dishes. Chart your own course with Octopus Mediterranean with Potato Confit or Andalusia-style gazpacho with lobster, compressed watermelon and croutons. Whet your appetite with Romesco Butter Sea Scallops with pepper coulis, Smoked Bacon Monkfish with tomato jam and basil risotto, or 28-day, dry-aged New York strip loin with wild mushrooms and grilled eggplant. Check out the gulf and cityscape from its 360ºRooftop where you can hear live music on weekends.
Fresco’s has been a popular downtown waterfront destination for two decades featuring a wide variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers. You’ll find blackened sea bass, fried oysters, tacos and a shrimp, fish and blue crab combo wrap to entice you.
An active full-service restaurant with boats all around, Fish Tales is the place to find seafood bowls (scallops, shrimp, clams, corn and mussels), BGFB fish, shrimp, and scallops, deviled crab, and ultimate nachos. A Spicy Seafood Volcano bursts with lobster and shrimp dabbed with spicy mayonnaise. Keep the nautical theme by finishing with Shark Teeth—fried tortillas with confectioners’ sugar.
Skippers leave the hustle of downtown and mosey from nearby public docks to enjoy its Modern American comfort fare. Dufrain’s smashed steak burgers have a popular ketchup mustard sauce, Shrimp Ceviche, Banh Mi Style Chicken sandwich does not disappoint and both Argentinean skirt steak and Andouille sausage with grits are winning options.
You’ll find Spanish and Cuban favorites at Columbia Restaurant’s café cousin, which is run by members of the five-generation Gonzmart dynasty. Arrive by boat (or water taxi) for the hearty “1905’’ salad, Cuban sandwich, Spanish bean soup or a variety of tapas. Sip mojitos and walk back in time at the Tampa Bay History Center. Dine indoors or on its waterfront patio and listen to live music on the weekends.
Up the river from Ulele you’ll find Rick’s on the River, seemingly always busy dock-wise. It’s also reachable by Pirate Water Taxi or by renting an electric boat at the convention center. Here you’ll find oysters (fried and raw), catfish, shrimp, and clam baskets. A family favorite are the fish fingers, and the smoked fish spread appetizer is very good. We’re sure they have some menu items that weren’t swimming at one point, but we can’t remember. Rick’s is reliable, unpretentious, family friendly, and features nice large covered patios overlooking the docks and the Hillsborough River.
Beach Bar at the Bay Harbor Hotel Tampa slings big flavors with grouper sandwiches, seafood pasta in white cream sauce, Caribbean steak, and four kinds of tacos. All-American burgers have interesting cousins: Cajun blackened or Doughnut beignet-style hamburgers (with Applewood smoked bacon). All go down easily while sipping a Beach Berry Coco (rum, strawberry puree and coconut water served in a Thai coconut).
Another Gonzmart home run, the picturesque 1906 Water Works Building houses Ulele (You-LAYLee). The menu at this historic city utility fuses Native-American and multicultural influences. It’s easy to fill up on crab mac-and-cheese, chargrilled oysters, Florida jumpers, and okra fries at Ulele. The pork shank, a sundried cream and tomato pompano and stuffed Maine lobster make friends. Guests rave about the variety of house crafted beers. You’ll find three slips at the repurposed Water Works Park (the Pirate Taxi also stops here). Make a reservation or be prepared for a wait.
For more than 40 years, residents have returned to Billy’s for oysters on the half shell, Key West conch fritters, fresh soups and steaks and seafood. You’ll find medium, large, jumbo and colossal stone crab claws here. I like them chilled but you can order them hot as well.