June 19, 2015
By Gary Smith
Gulfport, Florida is a charming, eclectic, artsy little beach town on Boca Ciega Bay that makes you just take a deep breath and say, ‘Ahhh.’ It’s timeless, like waking up in a Florida beach town in 1950.
No, I wasn't around then, hilarious reader.
It has wonderful art walks, small town parades, Tuesday morning markets, and oh so interesting people. Yes, the people.
Dead Heads and scalawags, old salty sailors and hip young artists and restaurateurs, bed and breakfasts, art shops and musicians singing for their supper, plus one of the strongest, most active sailing clubs in Florida.
Did I mention the restaurants Mexican, Italian, French, American Dive Bar, Fish House, Blue Crab served on what was once someone’s back porch of their home.
You name it, you can find it here.
Along with its own beach and fishing pier and timeless Casino on the Bay, the sunsets and dogs and kids and sailboats and visionaries, this town yanks the sunset diners away from the glitz of downtown St Pete (which has morphed into South Beach in English on Old Tampa Bay).
O’Maddy’s, an open air diner on the corner of fishing pier and Boca Ciega Bay, will certainly offer you fresh sashimi, steak or grouper among the many upscale menu items, and generally with a smaller price tag than St Pete’s glamorous Beach Drive’s offerings. Or you can opt for Dr. Randy Shuck’s Hangover Burger, the Big John Sandwich (Rare roast beef), or Escargot with a side of Jenny’s Truffled Parmesan Fries. Or build your own pizza.
Eclectic Why, yes. Maddy’s in Gulfport, here we go. This place mimics it’s town, with live music, a big day bar crowd, pool tables, tourists, locals, St Petersburgers, rich and poor sharing beers at the bar, and excessive waterfront views.
We sat outside about 6:45 on a Thursday evening with some thunder clouds rumbling overhead, cooling the hot Florida summer evening. For openers a cold beverage, and a management decision to go with a smattering of apps as opposed to soup, salad, cumbersome entree on a hot summer night.
First we busted into smoked fish spread, served with crackers, onions, sweet relish and greek peppers and lots of hot sauce. Smokey, a bite of heat, and a cooling take back with the relish and carrots and cucumber. Nice!
Tempted by the usual seared diver’s scallops and ahi sashimi, my Foodie/Realtor accomplice Cat (Burglar) took a left to Julie’s Calamari Salad, with cold strips of sauteed squid tossed in an asian sauce and fresh spinach drizzled over a sesame ginger and wasabi aoli. Wow!
My entree next time I get to this cool joint.
The band started up and honestly sounded like Janice Joplin with a hangover. I suggested she look into the Dr. Randy’s Burger but got nothing. The hostess was nice enough to turn our remote dining area speakers down.
And the band played on.
Cat said the wings were good and the homemade blue cheese dressing rocked it, and they were messy but good.
Heading back from washing my hands, it looked like there was going to be a lady landscaper throwdown by the pool table. Out of nowhere a waitress showed up with a pitcher of cold beer and a whopping order of Big Mom’s Lobster Mac and Cheese and the chainsaws were stashed. Something about hot mac and cheese and a chilled mug that settles the nerves. Cold beer giveth and taketh away.
O’Maddy’s truly has a colorful cross section of personalities, just like the awesome city it occupies.
We finished it off European style (salad last don’t you know) with a Caesar that was adequate, but any one of my foodie friends will tell you mine’s better.
Two drinks each, four appetizers, excellent service and a stunning summer evening experience was $54. Try that at Cassis or Bella Brava and reach for that equity line when you get your bill!
Then a peaceful walk on the pier, nice people, many smiles and hellos, dog walkers, fathers and sons fishing together, beautiful sunset and Cat wooing the Blue Heron perched on the handrail to pose for a pic. The sound of a spinning rod fighting a hooked fish ended that photo op.
Ah, Florida! We’ll be back to this place to escape our hectic lives again soon.