By Kelly Kocher
“One love, one heart, one beer.”
With a slogan inspired by singer/songwriter Bob Marley, who could resist?
It’s very hard to believe Clearwater Beach needed yet another addition to its already diverse collection of restaurants, but this is definitely one for the books. Owned and operated by Bill Lagamba, Surfside Tap House is the newest occupant of 395 Mandalay Ave. Snuggled right in between a breakfast café and Dunkin Donuts, Surfside snagged an amazing location on North Beach across from The Hilton Hotel. It’s just a few minute walk to the Pier!
Formerly Mandalay Grill, the new owners bought the space back in June and completely remodeled from floor to ceiling. Officially opened for business on December 1, 2014, all new seating, bar, and kitchen areas give the newly designed eatery a surf shack feel without the run-down look.
First thing you notice when walking up to the restaurant are the friendly faces of the waiters eager to serve their next customers. After being greeted with a warm smile, hungry customers are seated almost immediately at the bar, a high top, or traditional style tables. There is limited seating outside, but there are plenty of tables inside to escape Florida’s hot summer sun. The employee’s uniforms are a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, and the food is served in plastic baskets with paper liners that make for a laidback environment. The service is quick and precise and it appears that the front of the house runs smoothly.
Their full liquor bar is completed with 48 beers on tap ranging from everyday domestics to never-heard-of-that-before beers. Don’t know which to try first? No worries! They have a beer sampler on the menu where a choice of three different kinds are served in highball glasses to taste. In addition to their endless amounts of beer, Surfside offers many unique cocktails for the non-beer lovers, and if you’re lucky, their fire-breathing bartender might be working.
As for the rest of the menu, although still being revised, there is a wide variety of items to choose from. Inspired by classic beach eats and their own creations, Surfside has some of the most unique dishes available on the island. In a brief interview, Lagamba he explained the process he went through to decide what to put on the menu. “I live on the beach”, he started, “[so] I’ve eaten at all the restaurants around town. Of course I had to put the traditional grouper sandwich and classics like burgers and wraps on the menu to give it the beach-feel, but I also wanted to have dishes that no one can get at any other restaurant on Clearwater Beach.”
Their signature sandwich is a delicious grilled grouper club piled high with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and house made spicy mayonnaise stuffed in between three slices of toasted white bread and is highly recommended. The burgers are cooked to perfection with choice of toppings like sautéed mushrooms and onions to a fried egg or even jam. Another favorite is the mozzarella sticks that Chef Anthony prepares and makes himself. From ordering mozzarella cheese blocks, cutting, breading and frying everything himself, they’re the freshest one can get. Prices are moderately fair for being on the beach with appetizers start at around $7.00 and entrée’s at about $12.00, but watch out for items that depend on the market price; they can get to be a bit pricey.
Opening a new restaurant is always risky, but with all the key elements in place Surfside is on the road to success. For pictures and contact information please visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SurfsideTapHouse
Header photo is courtesy of Surfside Tap House Facebook page.