Safety Harbor is one of my favorite towns in the Tampa Bay area. In any other neighborhood, the mix of houses and stores, each with their own flair and style, would seem like a hodgepodge. Perhaps it’s the whimsical way the town uses art, splashes of color, or unusual designs in its buildings and streets. Maybe it’s the people, with their happy smiles, laid back attitudes, and penchant for rollerblading and jogging. Or maybe I just like artsy little towns that throw block parties and have fourth of July fireworks on the lawn.
The thing is, for such a small area, they’ve managed to pack a lot of really good stuff in there, from a park on the water to a main street bustling with shops and restaurants. Laura and I had the opportunity to visit one of those restaurants recently. The Bar Fly Saltwater Grill was very much the type of restaurant you’d find on the beach, with nautical themes galore. The restaurant has an attached bar which, if you’re looking for a good place to get an unusual drink from, I would recommend trying out as, just as we were leaving, I saw another patron with an enormous drink that had oysters on skewers sprouting from the top of the glass. It looked amazing and, judging from his reaction when he took a sip, was totally worth ordering. But back to the restaurant and the food.
Laura and I started the meal out with a taste of their soup special of the day: crab corn chowder. The soup was rich and sweet, all at the same time. The broth, sprinkled with Cajun seasoning and parsley, was good enough to sip alone, but it hid a wonderful pairing of crab bits and what I believe to be creamed corn (both of which would help explain the sweetness inherent in the soup.) Just fantastic!
Our next appetizer was the grouper bites, a half pound of grouper lightly fried to perfection. They weren’t greasy, like a lot of fried foods, but kept the freshness of the grouper intact. The creamy cilantro lime aioli had a bright, herbaceous flavor with a touch of that same Cajun seasoning from earlier. We greatly appreciated the care and respect the chef treated the fish with, only using techniques to enhance the grouper, not mask it.
My main dish was the Cedar Key clams, which you could order by the dozen, dusted with Cajun seasoning (yes, they really, really like their Cajun seasoning! But then again, so did Laura and I, so I’m not complaining.) These are middle neck clams and they’re not huge physically, but they make up for it in taste. I hardly even used the melted butter; they seriously didn’t need it as that seasoning we had become so familiar with made the steamed clams a stand out dish which, considering how good everything had been before it, was truly impressive!
Then we came to Laura’s dinner. Have you ever ordered a lobster roll and gotten a sandwich that seemed to be brimming with lobster, only to find there was actually very little crustacean that was being fluffed up by a giant bed of lettuce? Well, you won’t find that at the Bar Fly! Laura’s sandwich was a toasted bun and lobster. Period. The end. No useless lettuce taking up precious space on that New England style bun. And the chunks of lobster, some of which were over an inch long and almost as thick, weren’t muddled by loads of mayonnaise. There was a melted butter sauce which you could pour over it to your liking. (I personally liked that touch as it kept your bun crunchy and not a soggy mess.) The island slaw was good, with a light mayo dressing, and obviously made fresh, as were the home made potato chips. But both were completely overshadowed by that magnificent pile of lobster! It’s hard to believe that this treat of the oceans was once universally scorned as a “sea bug” or a “trash fish” and discarded without a second thought. Our ancestors didn’t realize what they were missing!
If you’re craving great seafood, outrageous drinks, and an unostentatious atmosphere (or you simply want to see the most lobster per square inch of bread in Florida and quite possibly the U.S,) head over to Safety Harbor and grab a seat at The Bar Fly Saltwater Grill. You’ll have an excellent meal and can then walk the main strip, exploring the many little shops, enjoying the fresh air, and creating a memory you’ll look forward to duplicating in the near future.
The Bar Fly Saltwater Grill
100 Main Street Suite 106
Safety Harbor, FL 34695