If Florida were to have an official state food, the choice would be pretty clear. Nothing against oranges, key lime pie, or even the Cuban sandwich (invented in Tampa!) But one dish, available nearly universally, stands above them all – the grouper sandwich.
From beachside fish shacks to five-star restaurants, a good grouper sandwich is the one dish you’ll find just about anywhere. And just as many spots make their own variation of the beloved handheld, it seems anyone with a taste for fish has a particular place they set on a pedestal above the rest.
Initially, our I Love the Burg team discussed putting together a guide for where to get good grouper sandwiches in St. Pete and the surrounding area, much like we’ve done before for breweries, donuts, and even breakfast sandwiches. But we quickly realized: a list of restaurants in St. Pete that have a grouper sandwich (or something close to it) amounts to just being a list of all the restaurants in St. Pete, minus a few pizza joints.
So, instead of bogging readers down with a glossary of available options, we decided to narrow things down by having members of our crew share their personal favorites. This gave us an opportunity to wax poetic about the grouper sandwiches that may or may not have changed our lives for the better, while admittedly inviting what we hope is friendly disagreement. If there’s a spot you think we missed, definitely let us know so we can give it a try. On a list this short, we know there are several great ones deserving of mention that aren’t on here.
In the meantime, here are our staff picks for where to get the best grouper sandwiches in St. Pete.
Mullet’s Fish Camp, picked by Bob
You can make a list of just about any food group and I’m going to say Mullet’s has one of the best in town. Fries, chicken wings, fish spread, even tiki cocktails. The south side restaurant is a favorite of the entire I Love the Burg staff for a reason, and when it comes to the Florida classic grouper sandwich, few places – if any – do it better than Mullet’s.
I go for it blackened, served on a hot bun, and to be sure, getting it in the classic style with simply lettuce and tomato will leave anyone pleased with flaky and flavorful sensations throughout. However, what makes Mullet’s fun is the ability to change it up in any of their signature styles. My go-to is Florida Man, sauteed in a house-made citrus-herb butter and served with Mullet’s own Florida-inspired slaw. All of that said – no matter how you get your grouper, don’t skip the smoked chicken wings for a starter; preferably with a Cajun dry rub and the Merman sauce on the side for dipping.
Mullet’s is located at 3901 6th St S
Shaner’s Land & Sea Market, Picked by Andrew
This spot is in Pass A Grille, but it is so worth the trip. The powder blue facade and kitschy neon sign are a feast for the eyes, and it’s been a beachy fixture for more than 28 years.. Inside, this family-owned operation keeps it simple. I’ve been eating here since I was an Eckerd kid back in 2012 and it has never disappointed me. It’s affordable, it’s efficient, and everytime I see a copy of Smuggler’s Ghost at the cash register I get a little nostalgic. The fish is fresh, and the entire deli counter will make it hard for you to leave with just one meal. This market is also a perfect pit stop for drinks, snacks, and provisions ahead of a full day in Pass A Grille.
I used to just get a plain grilled slab of grouper on a toasted bun. The flavor of the fish is that good. Since my college days I’ve leveled up to a blackened grouper sandwich with tartar sauce. Side note: if you’re feeling fancy and want to eat like royalty on the beach, then grab a few scallop kabobs to-go.
Shaner’s is open 7 days a week from 8am-5pm at 2000 Pass A Grille Way.
Hookin’ Ain’t Easy, picked by Alexa
Newer on the scene, but definitely a strong contender for best grouper sandwich in the Burg because you know you’re getting fresh fish when the menu is handwritten. Plus, the vibes are immaculate from the sandy outdoor patio to the tiki bar and live music.
Here, you can get your grouper sandwich either blackened or fried served with fries, lettuce, tomatoes, and onion. Other favorites on the menu are the smoked wings, fried biscuits, zucchini fries, and the stone claw crabs if you can get them!
Hookin’ Ain’t Easy is located at 3660 22nd Ave South St. Petersburg and is open Wednesday-Saturday 11 am – 7 pm, and Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm.
Tavern at Bayboro, picked by Bob
This local haunt on the USF St. Pete campus is one of the few remaining gems near downtown that never gets overrun by tourists, despite the fact that nearly anyone who’s been in St. Pete for long will tell you that Bayboro is an absolute must-try for grouper sandwiches.
As a rule, I get grouper blackened. But rules are meant to be broken, and Bayboro is the reason that rule not only needs to be broken, but deserves to be broken. Their fried grouper sandwich is a thing of absolute beauty inside and out, a massive hunk of fresh grouper golden fried with corn flakes and crushed almonds, creating a buttery smooth crunch that will melt the hearts of even the staunchest anti-fried-fish eaters among us.
Tavern at Bayboro is located at 120 6th Ave S
Dockside Dave’s, picked by Alexa
I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. It’s a beach staple famous for its fresh caught half-pound grouper sandwiches. You can get your grouper prepared seven different ways: Chargrilled, Blackened, Lightly Blackened, Country Fried, Batter Fried, Lemon Peppered on the Grill, or Buffalo Style, served on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and pepperoncini.
My personal favorite is country fried with a side of onion rings and a cold corona. There’s nothing better after a day in the Florida sun. Other standouts on the menu are the gator bites, smoked fish spread, and their tomatoes!
Dockside Dave’s is open 7 days a week at 14701 Gulf Blvd, Madeira Beach and is first come, first serve!
Harvey’s 4th Street Grill, picked by Andrew
This St. Pete institution is known for its wild Moon Parties and big breakfast plates. Its patio may leave you starstruck as pieces of wood reclaimed from St. Pete’s first million dollar hotel, The Soreno, now comprise its ceiling. With revelatory burgers, and a 5-star brunch, it’s easy to forget Harvey’s whips up a mean fish sandwich. The grouper sandwich here may as well have its own orbit. It’s big. It’s fresh. It’s made with care. The kitchen crew at Harvey’s filets thousands of pounds of fresh fish every single week.
I get it broiled and blackened. The butter toasted bun is flaky and crunchy and honestly could stand on its own (I’m not joking). Let’s get this bread ASMR. It’s served with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and a generous portion of tartar. There’s a reason Harvey’s has been killing it on 4th Street North for 39 years (that number is official on April 1, 2023).
Harvey’s is located at 3121 4th St N.
Mary Margaret’s Olde Irish Tavern, picked by Bob
This one may seem out of a place. After all, Gulf grouper isn’t exactly a Celtic delicacy. However, anyone who has eaten at Mary Margaret’s knows their food is some of the most underrated in town. And in this instance, what makes the Irish pub stand out is that its version of the classic handheld is different from any other grouper sandwich in town.
At Mary Margaret’s, the beloved dish comes with an Irish twist as they proudly present: the Great Bay Grouper Reuben sandwich. Imagine your grandfather’s Reuben (literally, my grandad was a huge Reuben fan) but with your favorite fresh grouper instead of corned beef. This bad boy comes with grilled Gulf grouper, baby Swiss, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing, all piled high on seedless marble rye.
Mary Margaret’s is located at 29 3rd St N