Willy’s – St. Pete Beach, FL

If you find yourself in beautiful St. Pete Beach, Florida you have to find your way to Willy’s for a burger, grouper sandwich, or one of their tasty and affordable specials.

Willy’s is about the smallest place on “the beach” with 6 tables in a covered open air area, a small covered bar, and an even smaller indoor dining room with 4 small tables and a half dozen bar seats. The small and unassuming appearance might cause a visitor to walk on past but the food is well worth the stop and the wait (during busier peak-season evening hours).

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During our many visits with family and friends we have seen and tasted the Grouper Sandwich, the Fried Dover Sole, the Big Blue Burger, the BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich, and the Blackened Sea Scallops (the priciest item at $8.95). We usually add an order of the Onion Rings (served with a spicy sauce) or the Tater Tots. Most dishes come with your choice of coleslaw or barbecued-baked beans.

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Willy’s offers an interesting array of appetizers, including Spam Fries – fried slices of Spam. Ample Bites particularly likes the Smoked Fish Spread which is smoked mackerel in a mayonnaise-based spread. It is not too smoky and the taste of the mackerel shines through. We were told that it is made in bulk by Ample Bites’ favorite area fish house, Shaner’s Land & Sea in Pass-A-Grille.

Ample Bites has tried most of the items above and my wife covets the Grouper Sandwich and must have it at least once during each visit to St. Pete Beach. During my last visit I tried the special, which was the BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich. It was outstanding. The beef was tender, smoky and the barbecue sauce was flavorful but did not overpower the beef. At $5.95, it was a bargain. This is true of all of the daily specials including a Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner for $4.95 – you cannot make most of this food at home for the price that Willy’s charges.

Willy’s also offers a food selection of cold beers. The Yuenling Lager is cold and goes well with all of their meals. The wine selection is limited and, I will admit, we haven’t tried the “beach drinks”.

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Willy’s is not right on the beach but it less than a block away from the Inter-coastal Waterway where it comes in from the Gulf of Mexico between Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. If you walk to the public parking lot along the Inter-coastal you can see a great sunset and perhaps spot a dolphin or two.

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O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille – Gulfport, FL

O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport, Florida is a classic beachside pub that serves well-prepared, eclectic food along with more than a dozen draft beers, an extensive wine list, and the full variety of beach cocktails.

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Ample Bites visited on a Tuesday, which is the day that Gulfport holds their Fresh Market along Beach Drive. The market features local artists, handmade Florida trinkets, a few food tents, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The stores along Beach Drive are packed with art and souvenirs appealing to most any shopper. Because the market was being held O’Maddy’s was packed and we had about a 30 minute wait to be seated. The wait was worth it!

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Two of us enjoyed the Lobster BLT and we concurred that it was like a Lobster Roll on steriods. The sandwich had a ton of lobster in it. It had just enough mayonnaise on the lobster salad but not too much and the applewood smoked bacon was a perfect accompaniment for the ripe tomato slices. It was served with a side of perfectly crispy french fries.

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Others in our party enjoyed two different fish sandwiches. The Triple-Tail Sandwich featured a flaky white fish that was served on a hefty marble rye bread with a pesto aioli and provolone cheese. The other was the Florida classic Grouper Sandwich.

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While we dined we noticed that that burgers looked amazing and their was even a Lobster and Bacon Pizza, which is likely to be sampled by Ample Bites on a return visit.

If you ever venture to Gulfport make sure to walk down Beach Drive to the old casino on the end of the street, take a left and go the block and a half to O’Maddy’s and enjoy the experience. Finally, just a quick tip, make sure to bring a hat and sunglasses because most of the tables are right out in the beautiful, warm Florida sun.

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