Two days before our arrival in St. Pete, I contacted some friends that live in the Tampa Bay area (not actually close to where we were, but whatever…) Imagine my delight when I found out they were free for dinner our first night in town. They drove in to meet us at the Don Cesar hotel, where we would enjoy Champagne and a lovely dinner.
Don Cesar is a large, imposing, iconic pink building that you see when first coming over the bridge to St. Pete Beach. It is about a mile and a half from the Inn on the Beach, where we were staying. Naturally, we decided it was a short enough distance that we would walk. Three quarters of a mile was a lovely beachside stroll, and the rest along the street. Only, there were a few blocks that were under heavy construction, so the sidewalk was closed, leaving us strolling in the street. Fortunately, Pass-A-Grille is a sleepy town, so danger was minimal.
We arrived well before our reservation time and hunkered down in the bar area with a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne – always a delightful beginning to any evening, and good preparation for our upcoming Seabourn cruise, where it is in constant supply.
Just days before Christmas, the weekend was quiet everywhere, so we didn’t actually need reservations at the restaurant where one other table was in use. Sea Porch, the more casual restaurant in the hotel, was recommended to us by the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater folks, plus our friends wanted to try it. The overall feel is sterile, but there is a nice view. It seems that the restaurant must be more popular for breakfast and lunch, than dinner, although we did have a good meal.
Highlights included the fried goat cheese fritters. (Honestly, have you ever met a bad piece of fried cheese? I didn’t think so. But these were particularly good.) We also enjoyed the spicy garlic shrimp, which was more fried green tomatoes than spicy shrimp (also not a bad thing). Next came Caesar salads with a tangy garlic chipotle dressing. Our friends enjoyed nicely seared scallops, FKGuy had a grilled swordfish, and though I had thought about the fish tacos (which, in retrospect, I should have ordered) I had the short ribs. The beef was flavorful and perfectly cooked, but was a little heavy. (I understand that this is my fault – all short rib dishes are heavy. Whatever. It tasted good.)
The wine list at Sea Porch is lackluster, so we brought our own (normally $20 corkage per bottle; they waived our corkage fee). Knowing our friend is a pinot noir guy, we brought a Martinelli Blue Slide Ridge, 2009, and he brought a Le Cadeau Equinoxe, 2007. Somewhere towards the end of the meal, our bottle of Joan Simo Les Eres Priorat, 2006 made an appearance to finish off the night.
All in all, it was a lovely night with good friends. While I would probably try other places next time, this was a good meal, and if the opportunity presented itself, another meal at Sea Porch would certainly not disappoint.
Accommodations for this trip were provided by Inn on the Beach. Museum tickets and entrance fees provided by Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater.