What brought me back?
I needed a nudge, I needed inspiration, I needed....a fried grouper sandwich and onion rings at Dockside Dave's on St. Pete Beach!
I feel compelled to share my half-pound black grouper bonanza with the food-following public. That, and to shout out a new Totally Tasty Find: Dockside Dave's onion rings!
Let's begin with those sweet vegetables of shame, shall we? They were sliced thick, dipped in a fairly light batter that was seasoned to salt and peppery perfection, and then fried to a golden crisp. Sure, there was some grease left behind on the tissue paper in the basket. Who cares? These babies rank among the best onion rings I have ever eaten. You know when you bite into an onion ring and the strand of onion sometimes disengages from the batter and all you're left with is a greasy, empty shell and chin-singeing onion trailing from your mouth? That doesn't happen here.What you bite into is what you get. No flesh-scorching facial surprises.Try them dipped in the horseradish sauce that is brought to your table. Yowza! I would return for a basket of those alone (along with the ice-cold Michelob I downed).
But, wait! This meal is just beginning. First of all, Hubmeister hilariously asked our amusing T-shirt-and-shorts-clad server if they had fish sandwiches, to which she flatly replied, "Nobody feels like reading today." Amen. She was a hoot.They sure as hell didn't feel like listening, either. On our way to the little beachside hangout, I explained to my loving husband that sampling the made-famous-by-Southern-Living grouper sandwich was the whole point of this mission. In addition, this beach dive features the hallowed fish sandwich at the top of its menu and states six different ways you can have it prepared, thus the waitress' comment about reading the menu. Earth to Hubmeister!
So, the Southern Living magazine article is hanging on the wall facing me and I can't wait to see if this sandwich beats out the best grouper sandwich in the Bay area (and possibly anywhere on the planet), which, in my opinion, is the beautiful beast served up by Frenchy's in Clearwater. (See my blog post: "Totally Tasty Find: Frenchy's Super Grouper Sandwich.")
Funny Waitress (and I call her waitress because she is old enough to be cool enough not to be insulted by the term waitress) told us that the beer-battered version is Dockside Dave's signature item, so Hubs and I ordered that preparation, while Son of Hubs opted for the blackened technique.The server also recommended that we scale down the sides because the fish portions are big. I believe she meant GARGANTUAN! A half-pound of fried grouper was placed before me, twice the size of the cornmeal-dusted bun it crowned, and I knew immediately I would be ditching the bread.
|The grouper fillet spanned the length of the basket. Can you find the bun? It's there!|
The grouper - fresh, mild and moist - was the heavenly star of the show. If you can manage to eat it sandwich-style, which Hubs and Son did, you can top it with the fresh slice of tomato, onion, pickle and romaine lettuce leaf that are served alongside the fish. The sandwich comes solo and is market price, which was $12.95.
In our blissful ignorance, we ordered small baskets of onion rings and waffle fries for the table. FYI - the adjective "small" is an understatement.They might be considered small to giants.The fries were totally wasted and it's a shame because they were piping hot and brought to the table by a guy from the kitchen who obviously didn't want them wilting under a heat lamp, indicative that the people here care about food quality. Nevertheless, we had no room for fries as we were practically morphing into fish and swimming out the door by the time we left. Note to self: When dining at Dockside Dave's remember the old adage, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
Despite our grouper afterglow, Hubs and I still place Frenchy's fish sandwich as winner by a nose. For me, it's mainly because I can manage Frenchy's rendition as an actual sandwich; and for Hubs, because Frenchy's version comes topped with melted cheese. By the way, you can order cheese on your sandwich at Dockside Dave's, and Dave's batter is crispier than Frenchy's, if you happen to prefer it that way.
All told, if you are in the area and feel like some bodacious onion rings and a monstrous portion of fresh seafood, don't hesitate to visit the cheesy (and greasy) Gilligan's Island atmosphere and wiseass waitresses at Dockside Dave's.
Verdict: Greasy thumbs up...and postworthy!