Fresco's Waterfront Bistro in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida

Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro in St. Petersburg, Florida

It is the only waterfront restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.  As I peruse the menu, the song, “Sitting on the dock of the bay,” is running through my head. Otis Redding sang about San Francisco Bay, but the song works just as well on Tampa Bay.   Whether you’re dining around sunset, enjoy yacht gawking, or just watching the seagulls and other marine birds go fishing, you just can’t beat a meal on the water.  Otis Redding might have thought this kind of day was, “wastin’ time,” but I think it is living life at its finest. 

If you charter a boat for a day of fishing, Fresco’s will be happy to cook your catch for you.  A perfect way to end a fabulous fishing day.  If you don’t have the time or interest to catch your own, then head straight for the hostess station, or make a reservation.  You still get fresh fish, just be grateful that someone else did all the hard work. 

Location:  300 2nd Avenue NE, St. Petersburg Florida

Menu: The lunch and dinner menu are similar, with a few higher end entrees added at dinner.  A variety of soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches and burgers are offered.  Fresh seafood is the main theme, with grouper, red snapper, salmon, scallops and shrimp as staples on the menu.  Fresh catch specials are also available. 

The Lobster Bisque is a signature offering, as is the Black and Blue Ahi.  The Ahi is served as a starter or a salad.  As a starter it begins with blackened and seared yellow fin tuna.  Served with seaweed salad, sriracha, wasabi, ginger and soy sauce, it is gluten-free.  As a salad it sits atop mixed greens, crispy rice, red onions, carrots, cucumber, wasabi, sriracha and ginger. 

There are plenty of fresh seafood options with more casual preparations.  The grouper sandwich is perfect for burger lovers who want to seize the opportunity to enjoy local seafood.  Shrimp tacos, fish tacos, and lobster rolls served hot or cold are also good choices. 

For those who really want a cheeseburger in paradise, the Fresco Burger is an 8-oz burger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and chipotle mayo on a Kaiser roll.  It is a very traditional American burger.  I am guessing the large population of international visitors to the area, many Canadians and Europeans, appreciate an all-American burger during their visit to the states. 

Land lubbers will also enjoy the 8 oz. grilled sirloin, the 12 oz. New York strip or the 7 oz. filet.  Steaks can be ordered plain or with mushrooms, sautéed onions, crispy fried onion strings, or with blue cheese crumbles.  I like the mix and match style of the preparations, allowing patrons to custom order their favorites.

Fresco’s seems to be able to accommodate all preferences with lots of choices side dishes.  I enjoyed the pineapple coleslaw, a traditional mayonnaise-based slaw, with the addition of pineapple, which made for a refreshing accompaniment.  A quinoa salad and fresh vegetable medley are also offered for a variety of healthy options.  The hearty traditionalists will not be disappointed with a choice of fries, mashed potatoes or tater tots. 

Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday.  A variety of omelets and benedicts give a wide selection, with similar preparation. Hollandaise sauce seems to be what puts each dish in the benedict category.  There is bread on the bottom, but not always the traditional English muffin.  For example, there is the traditional eggs benedict with Canadian bacon on an English muffin.  A crab and avocado benedict and the lobster benedict stay within the seafood theme.  But, the most unique offering is the slider benedict, ground beef patties with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and hollandaise sauce served on a potato roll.  Fresco’s recognizes that fisherman work up a hearty appetite.

Thoughts: I typically would assume a waterfront view would mean a pricier menu, but I don’t think this is the case in downtown St. Pete.  There are lots of lovely restaurants across Beach Drive with attractive outdoor seating and a distant view of Tampa Bay.  My impression is the menu pricing is similar, with price differences being in what is offered on the menu. 

I like that you can go to Fresco’s for a three-course fresh fish dinner or a fine steak and a nice glass of wine or sit at the same waterfront table for a tropical cocktail and appetizer, or just a burger or sandwich washed down with a local beer. 

The dock is adorned with artificial owl statues, used to keep the seagulls at a distance.  One of the consequences of dining at the docks could be the unexpected gifts dropped from the birds trying to make your dinner theirs.  The owl decoys work amazingly well, keeping the birds at a distance close enough to enjoy, but not so close that they irritate. 

The dress code is beachy casual, as you will see everything from swimsuits and cover-ups on people hopping off their yachts to come in for dinner, to tourists dressed up for a nice evening out.  Anything goes! 

Fresco’s is walking distance from the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the historic Vinoy Renaissance Hotel.

Price Range:  Salads $7-$6.  Tacos and Sandwiches $11-16.  Entrees $16-30. Saturday and Sunday Brunch $10-15.

Victoria Hart

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