The Florida Gulf Coast beaches region is filled with restaurants claiming to have the best grouper, fish tacos, and fish spread. As a prior Maryland resident and seafood snob married to the owner of the highly-regarded Maximo Seafood Shack, I now realize that there are three types of fish foodies in St Petersburg: locals who know everything about local seafood and won’t hesitate to question where their fish was sourced, tourists up north (like my parents) who regularly dine at Red Lobster and think that anything in Florida is delicious and fresh, and those who don’t know or care enough to ask about what’s on their plate.

Unless you are a Florida local attuned to the slight differences in grouper varieties, or are skilled in recognizing the differences between fresh and frozen fish simply by taste, you might assume that all tourist-filled seafood restaurants on the beach are equivalent. Sadly, you’d be wrong. While many restaurants in the St Pete Beach area offer superior food, too many tourist traps continue to disappoint.

When The Bilmar Beach Resort on Treasure Island invited me and my wife, Margaret, to dine at their legendary restaurant on the beach, Sloppy Joe’s on the Beach, I was excited and terrified at the same time. A midweek date night at sunset sounded romantic, but I was terrified that Margaret might make one of her famous “another-tourist-trap-with-terrible-food” faces. Fortunately for both of us, all I got were smiles. And after a few drinks, the grin was even wider!

The Food and Drink

We sampled several dishes that night, including the Fire Cracker Shrimp, Bleu Cheese Chips, Black and Bleu Bites, Caprese Salad, Bourbon Glazed Salmon, Grouper, and Ribeye Steak. Based on the name of the restaurant alone, I assumed the restaurant’s top seller would be The Big Sloppy, their “famous sandwich with a mixture of lean ground beef, onions, pepper and special sauce on a sesame bun.” And perhaps it is. But my wife and I were most impressed by their grouper – a fish that is an over-represented Florida staples that too often disappoints.

Sloppy Joe's on the Beach
Sloppy Joe’s on the Beach is known for their Margaritas! Sip and savor during sunset and save the souvenir glass. Image provided by Bilmar Beach Resort

While the Fire Cracker Shrimp appetizer was sweet, savory, and satisfying, and the Bleu Cheese Chips crunchy, ooey-gooey and addictive, it was their grouper dinner that gave my wife the biggest smile. The fish was perfectly prepared, fork flaky, and scrumptiously seasoned. Their salmon was also tender and tasty.

The Ambiance

My favorite part about living on the Gulf Coast of Florida is the romantic low-key vibe. There is no need to dress up for a sunset dinner by the water, as one might expect to do in cities like Miami. In general, the Gulf Coast is a place to relax and have fun. The same can be said for Sloppy Joe’s.

Sloppy Joe's on the Beach
The Bilmar Beach Resort provides the perfect atmosphere for romance or family fun. Image provided by the Bilmar Beach Resort

The Bilmar Beach Resort offers a family-friendly atmosphere with opportunities for romance and the restaurant provide the perfect pairing to the hotel. The sunset views, aqua colored bar, wood decor, and both intimate and family-friendly seating options set the mood for various dining occasions: anniversaries, birthdays, and romance.

The Location

There is only one word for the location of Sloppy Joe’s – PERFECTION! This restaurant bodes one of the best locations on the Treasure Island. The white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, and fiery sunsets make this a place worth visiting, even if only for one of the restaurant’s famous cocktail concoctions. To savor the moment and memories, you can even take home a souvenir cup or treasure from their gift shop.

Sloppy Joe's on the Beach
Sloppy Joe’s on the Beach is the Bilmar Beach Resort’s popular restaurant, located on Treasure Island. Image provided by Bilmar Beach Resort.

The next time you’re craving grouper, or a fish feast by the water, skip the seafood restaurant and head to Sloppy Joe’s on Treasure Island. It’s fishmonger approved.