Gulf Coast Eateries

 Eateries on the gulf coast worth the trip.
FLORIDA
Basmati's Asian Cuisine and Sushi, 3295 County Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL; 850/267-3028. (May-June 2003)

Bellini Restaurant, 487 Main Street, Dunedin, FL; 727/733-5449. Italian and extravagantly romantic; Dinner Monday-Saturday. (September 2007)

Bern's Steak House, 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL; 813/251-2421 or bernssteakhouse.com. On the Howard Avenue restaurant row. (September 2006)

Bert's Bar & Grill, 4271 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, FL; 239/282-3232 or bertsbar.us. Watch the sunset on the outdoor deck. (December 2006)

The Black Pearl, 315 Main Street, Dunedin, FL; 727/734-3463 or theblackpearlofdunedin.com. Intimate and elegant, with excellent seafood; Dinner nightly. (September 2007)

Boss Oyster, 123 Water St., Apalachicola, FL; 850/653-9364 or apalachicolariverinn.com/boss.html. Sit down right on the river and eat raw oysters until you are happy. (2000)

The Broken Egg, 140 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, FL; 941/346-2750 or thebrokenegg.com. Hearty omelets. (July-August 2005)

Bud & Alley's, 2236 East County Hwy. 30-A, Seaside, FL; 850/231-5900 or budandalleys.com. South Walton's longest established restaurant. (May-June 2003)

Cajun Café on the Bayou, 8101 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, FL; 727/546-6732 or cajuncafeonthebayou.olm.net. A rollicking spot for displaced Louisianans and all fans of Cajun fare and music. (March-April 2002)

Casa Tina's, 369 Main Street, Dunedin, FL; 727/734-9226 or casatinas.com. Casual; Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. (September 2007)

Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East Seventh Avenue, Tampa, FL; 813/248-4961 or columbiarestaurant.com. The Web site offers the restaurant's recipe for Paella a la Valencia. (October 2005)

Cortez Kitchen Seafood Restaurant & Retail Market, 4528 119th St. W., Cortez, FL; 941/798-9404. Serves lunch and dinner daily. (July-August 2003)

Crabby Bill's, 401 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, FL; 727/595-4825 or crabbybills.com. Dan White's "Don't Worry, Be Crabby" place is famous for its fish dip. (2001)

Criolla's, 170 East Scenic Hwy. 30-A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL; 850/267-1267 or criollas.com. This is the place for a special meal, offering such dishes as pineapple-crusted grouper and Blue Mountain short ribs (named after nearby Blue Mountain Beach). Florida Trend magazine has named it one of the state's 20 best restaurants every year since 1991; Serves dinner Monday-Saturday. (July-August 2007)

Daiquiri Deck, 5250 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, FL; 941/349-8697 or daiquirideck.com. Indoor-outdoor eatery where tropical potions swirl hypnotically in a wall display of mixers. (July-August 2005)

Indian Pass Raw Bar, 8391 Indian Pass Rd, Port St. Joe, FL; 850/227-1670 or indianpassrawbar.com. (November 2006)

Jackie's Family Restaurant, 3002 Stringfellow Rd., Pine Island, FL; 239/283-4225. Local breakfast joint. (December 2007)

Javier's Restaurant and Wine Bar, 6621 Midnight Pass Rd., Siesta Key, FL; 941/349-1792 or javiersrestaurant.com. Peruvian cuisine. (July-August 2005)

Kelly's For Just About…Anything!, 319 Main Street, Dunedin, FL; 727/736-5284 or kellyschicaboom.com. A longtime favorite because of its funky décor, casual atmosphere, and menu featuring what's best described as gourmet bar food; Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. (September 2007)

La Tropicana Café, 1822 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL; 813/247-4040. Try a Cuban sandwich at La Tropicana Café. (September 2006)

Matlacha Oyster House, 3930 Pine Island Rd. NW, Matlacha, FL; 239/283-2544. (December 2006)

Maximo Restaurant & Safari Bar, 149 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, FL; 941/346-7865. Sample the ostrich filet. (July-August 2005)

Moretti's Seafood Restaurant, 4200 Pine Island Rd. NW, Matlacha, FL; 239/283-5825. (December 2006)

Olde Fish House Marina Restaurant, 4530 Pine Island Rd. NW, Pine Island, FL. (December 2007)

Picolo's Restaurant and The Red Bar, Grayton Beach, FL; 850/231-1008 or theredbar.com. The quintessential Grayton Beach experience; At this funky, New Orleans-style joint, Christmas lights crisscross the ceiling, which also sports the odd chandelier and disco ball. Movie posters, tin placards, and circus bills plaster almost every inch of wall. Behind the décor, graffiti survives from when the building housed the Grayton Store. Old-timers remember dancing to the jukebox and drinking 10-cent beers. Today, the attractions include gumbo, mahi-mahi sandwiches, and scrumptious Bloody Marys-plus, most nights, live music; Serves lunch and dinner daily. (July-August 2007)

Purple Moon, 833 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin, FL; 727/738-1540 or purplemooninc.com. A New Age coffeehouse/gift shop; Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. (September 2007)

Sea Sea Riders Restaurant, 221 Main Street, Dunedin, FL; 727/734-1445 or seaseariders.net. Casual; Lunch and dinner daily. (September 2007)

Siesta Key Oyster Bar, 5238 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, FL; 941/346-5443 or skob.com. (July-August 2005)

Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Rd., Tampa, FL; 813/971-0666 or skipperssmokehouse.com. "We shape [our seafood dip] with yellowfin tuna into a fish and serve it with gourmet crackers," says catering manager Vicky Szempruch; deliciously out of character for a place with a sandy dance floor. (2001)

Star Fish Company, 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, FL; 941/794-1243 or starfishcompany.com. Located in Cortez Village on the Sarasota Bay waterfront this restaurant and fish market serves lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. (July-August 2003)

Tarpon Lodge, 13771 Waterfront Dr., Pine Island, FL; 239/283-3999 or tarponlodge.com. Overlooking the flat-water sound and mangrove island's this vintage lodge offers an ever-changing gourmet menu. (December 2007)

LOUISIANA
7 on Fulton, 700 Fulton Street in the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, New Orleans, LA; 504/525-7555 or 7onfulton.com. Enjoy their barbecue shrimp and duck breast with dirty rice and duck-leg confit. (June 2006)

Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville St., New Orleans, LA; 504/522-5973 or acmeoyster.com. Great food, genuinely friendly service, and a rollicking atmosphere founded on an appreciation for customers; if you can't have a good time in this French Quarter institution, you're either a confirmed grouch or dead. (November-December 2003)

Badeaux's Drive-In, 109 Highway 22 W., Madisonville, LA; 985/845-7221. Serves an excellent po'boy (as well as delicious malts and shakes). (April 2006)

Black's Oyster Bar, 319 Pere Megret St., Abbeville, LA; 866/443-8019 or blacksoysterbar.com. An 1890s general store now famous for its-as the neon sign says¬-"fresh topless salty oysters." (May-June 2001)

Brigtsen's Restaurant, 723 Dante St., New Orleans, LA; 504/861-7610 or brigtsens.com. Chef Frank Brigtsen's Louisiana cuisine gives equal time to tradition and originality in a comfortable Riverbend cottage. (November-December 2003)

Café Des Amis, 140 East Bridge St., Breaux Bridge, LA; 337/332-5273 or cafedesamis.com. A storefront café in "downtown" Breaux Bridge; funk restaurant filled with artwork and Cajun flavor. (May-June 2001)

Carlyss Barbecue, 5047 Highway 27 South, Sulphur, LA; 337/583-8744. This roadside drive-through serves wonderful boudin sausage, ribs, and chicken for lunch and early dinner daily. (January-February 2007)

Casamento's Restaurant, 4330 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA; 504/895-9761 or casamentosrestaurant.com. This 1940s-era neighborhood raw bar serves impeccably fresh oysters. (November-December 2003)

Check-In Check-Out Deli, 1800 Old Spanish trail, Slidell, LA; 985/641-9773. This no-frills diner (pinball machine in the corner, blaring TV over the counter, tattooed fishermen on lunch break) packs 'em in. (March-April 2002)

Cigar's Cajun Cuisine, 1125 Highway 1, Grand Isle, LA; 985/787-2188. Serves fried flounder topped with a creamy crawfish, crabmeat, and shrimp sauce. (March 2004)

Coffee's Boilin Pot, 305 Covington Hwy., Madisonville, LA; 985/845-2348 or coffeesboilinpot.com. Locals favor this spot for terrific crawfish and other delights in a no-frills concrete-block building. (April 2006)

Friends Coastal Restaurant, 407 St. Tammany St., Madisonville, LA; 985/845-7303 or friendscoastal.com. located on the Tchefuncte River, this is the only Madisonville restaurant that sits directly on the water; casual décor, and a menu that is described as "a blend of Key West, Naples, Destin, and New Orleans." (April 2006)

Hackett's Cajun Kitchen, 5614 Route 14, Lake Charles, LA; 877/561-5614. Offers fresh boudin and other take-home items. (January-February 2007)

Hymel's, 8740 State Highway 44 (River Road), Convent, LA; 225/562-9910. An unassuming seafood restaurant with delicious boiled crabs. (May-June 2001)

La Crêpe Nanou, 1410 Robert St., New Orleans, LA; 504/899-2670 or lacrepenanou.com. A romantic, velvet-lined bistro with a Parisian feel. (November-December 2003)

Lighthouse Seafood and Steak, Grand Isle, LA; 985/787-3331. Serves broiled duck leg quarters-crisp on the outside, tender on the inside-with a rich mushroom sauce. (March 2004)

Lilette Restaurant, 3637 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA; 504/895-1636 or liletterestaurant.com. Updated bistro cuisine in a boutique row. (November-December 2003)

Middendorf's, 30160 US Hwy 51, Ponchatoula, LA; 504/386-6666. Has perched over the vast Manchac swamp since 1934. (May-June 2001)

Morton's Seafood Restaurant, Madisonville, LA; 985/845-4970 or mortonsseafood.com. Overlooks the waterfront; its sign reads "Hot boiled seafood when arrow is flashing." (April 2006)

Muriel's Jackson Square, 801 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA; 504/568-1885 or muriels.com. Try their smoky crab cake and grilled scallops. (June 2006)

Palace Café, 605 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA; 504/523-1661 or palacecafe.com. Enjoy oyster pan roast and white chocolate bread pudding at this French Quarter restaurant. (June 2006)

Richard's Conoco & Deli, Grand Isle, LA; 985/787-3707. Delicious crawfish boudin (rice-onion sausage). (March 2004)

Richard's Seafood Patio, 1516 Henry St., Abbeville, LA; 334/893-1693. In 1957, this dive opened as just a patio for baptizing crustaceans. Today, an enclosed building sparkles white with cheerful red accents. (May-June 2001)

Rue de la Course, 1500 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA; 504/892-0242. Fantastic people-watching at this huge, relaxing coffee shop. (November-December 2003)

Sand Dollar Deli & Café, Grand Isle, LA; 985/787-2500. Some of the island's best beignets and po'boys. (March 2004)

Steamboat Bill's, 1004 North Lake Shore Drive (337/494-1070) and 732 South Martin Luther King Highway (337/494-1700); steamboatbills.com. Visit ultracasual Steamboat Bill's for crawfish étouffée, shrimp pistolettes, red beans and rice, or oysters. (January-February 2007)

Upperline, 1413 Upperline St., 504/891-9822 or upperline.com. Chef Ken Smith and owner JoAnne Clevenger preside over this art-filled "new Creole" establishment. (November-December 2003)

Urban Cup Café, 4532 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA; 504/373-5867. One of the new businesses that has sprung up on Magazine Street since the recent hurricanes. (June 2006)

Voleo's Seafood Restaurant, Highway 45, Lafitte, LA; 504/689-2482 or voleosrestaurant.com. Offers some unusual-and delicious-twists on old favorites. Try deep-fried cheese grits with shrimp and crab. (September 2003)

Water Street Bistro, 804 Water Street, Madisonville, LA; 985/845-3855 waterstreetbistro.com. Offers the most elegant experience, with hunter green walls, soft music, fragrant crawfish pasta, terrific white chocolate flan with amaretto sauce. (April 2006)

Yellow Bowl, 19466 State Highway 182 West, Jeanerette, LA; 337/276-5512. Has hidden in sugarcane fields since 1927 and has been owned by the same family since 1953. (May-June 2001)

MISSISSIPPI
Al Fresco Italian Bistro, 708 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/818-9395 or alfrescoitalianbistro.com. The fresh-baked bread alone is worth the trip, and repeat customers know to buy a bottle of house vinaigrette. (March 2008)

Bayview Gourmet, 1010 Robinson St., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/875-4252 or bayviewgourmet.com. On a Saturday morning, locals linger here over breakfast. (March 2008)

BB's Po-Boys, 1300 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/875-2702. (March 2008)

Benigno's, 128 Blaize Ave., near Bay St. Louis, MS; 228/466-0105. One of the area's best seafood establishments, run by New Orleans native Roy Dedeaux. (March-April 2002)

Manhattan Grill, 705 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/872-6480. (March 2008)

Phoenicia Gourmet, 1223 Government St., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/875-0603 or localbiz-ms/phoenicia. (March 2008)

TatoNut Shop, 1114 Government St., Ocean Springs, MS; 228/872-2076. (March 2008)

TEXAS
Charlotte Plummer's Seafare Restaurant, 202 N. Fulton Beach Rd., Fulton, TX; 361/729-1185 or charlotteplummers.com. At Charlotte Plummer's Seafare Restaurant, overlooking Fulton Harbor, the group at the next table might be businesspeople straight from a day of seminars or fishermen straight from the boat. (November-December 2004)

Dolphin Cove Oyster Bar, Channel View Rd. S., South Padre Island, TX; 956/761-2850. A friendly, open-air place at the south end of the island; great oysters, seviche, and boiled shrimp, plus great engaging views of boat traffic; you pay an Isla Blanca County Park day-use fee or $4 per vehicle. (March-April 2002)

Java Bay Café, 415 S. Austin St., Rockport, TX; 361/727-0909 or javabaycaffe.com. A coffee shop that also serves sandwiches and desserts. (November-December 2004)

Joe's Crab Shack, 444 N. Shoreline, Corpus Christi, TX; 361/904-0227 or joescrabshack.com. Located at the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina. (September-October 2002)

Landry's Seafood House, 600 N. Shoreline Dr., Corpus Christi, TX; 361/882-6666 or landrysseafoodhouse.com. Located at the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina. (September-October 2002)

Latitude 28º02, 105 N. Austin St., Rockport, TX; 361/727-9009 or latitude2802.com. This more elegant restaurant takes its name from the parallel at which Rockport can be found on nautical charts. Local artwork hangs above each table. (November-December 2004)

Los Cucos Mexican Cafe, 1601 First St., Palacios, TX; 361/972-6024 or loscucos.com. Serves a nice variety of fish dishes. (September 2004)

Louie's Back Yard, 2305 Laguna Blvd. S., South Padre Island, TX; 956/761-6406 or lbyspi.com. Not usually associated with reverence; the house drink, the Whammy, contains seven shots of various liquors. (March-April 2003)

The Other Guys Seafood Café, 106 E. Cotter Ave, Port Aransas, TX; 361/749-4972. Even though orders are placed at a counter and the chairs are plastic, everything else here is fish-camp chic. (March-April 2002)

Outrigger Restaurant, 515 Commerce, Palacios, TX; 361/972-1479 or outriggerrestaurant.com. Puts on a shrimp boil the first Sunday of every month. (September 2004)

Palacios Mexican Restaurant, 511 Main St., Palacios, TX; 361/972-2766. Delicious fried and grilled shrimp. (September 2004)

Republic of Texas Bar & Grill, 900 North Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, TX; 361/866-3515 or omnihotels.com/republic/. Located on the 20th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel's Bayfront Tower. (September-October 2002)

Scampi's Restaurant and Bar, 206 W. Aries, South Padre Island, TX; 956/761-1755 or scampisspi.com. Excellent smoked shrimp and grilled fish; more upscale. (March-April 2003)

Sea Ranch Restaurant and Bar, 33330 State Park Rd. 100, South Padre Island, TX; 956/761-1314 or searanchrestaurant.com. Nice boiled seafood; more upscale. (March-April 2003)

FLORIDA KEYS
Blond Giraffe, Seven locations: 802 Duval St., Key West, FL (305/293-7874); 1209 Truman Ave., Key West, FL (305/295-6776); 614 Front St., Key West, FL (305/296-2020); 412 Green St., Key West, FL (305/294-0080); factory and store, 107 Simonton St., Key West, FL (305/296-9174); U.S. 1 and Mile Marker 50, Marathon, FL (305/743-4423); 6022 South Dixie Hwy, South Miami, FL (305/661-2744); key lime products available at blondgiraffe.com. Officially dubbed Key West's best, the Blond Giraffe's cookie-dough crust key lime pie is eggless and creamy, served with swirls of meringue tinged brown in the oven, and dusted lightly with lime zest. (July-August 2006)

Kaiyo, 81701 Old Highway, Florida Keys; 305/664-5556 or kaiyokeys.com. Beautiful décor, and a fusion of Japanese and Caribbean cuisines. (January-February 2004)

Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar, 81924 Overseas Hwy., Florida Keys; 305/664-4656 or loreleifloridakeys.com. Enjoy live music and pina coladas at this hot spot. (January-February 2004)

Louie's Backyard, 700 Waddell Avenue, Key West, FL; 305/294-1061 or louiesbackyard.com. On a private patch of oceanfront among palms and a sprawling coco plum tree; Niall, pastry chef at Louie's Backyard in Key West, uses real ginger and molasses folded into a sugar dough. (July-August 2006)

Mangrove Mike's Cafe, Florida Keys; 305/664-8022. Outstanding breakfasts (January-February 2004)

Morado Bay, Florida Keys; 305/664-0604. Innovative food and great margaritas on the edge of a stunning beach. (January-February 2004)

Sloppy Joe's, 201 Duval St., Key West, FL; 305/294-5717 or sloppyjoes.com. A Key West landmark, where Key West Smoked Fish Dip comes with Cuban-style chips.(2001)