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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
This is a wonderful Tampa Bay Area dining tradition. I've been visiting John's Pass all my life. And the fish doesn't get any fresher than the filets you'll dive into here. The restaurant sits right on the water's edge. Boats clear a bridge and then it's a straight shot into the open Gulf of Mexico.
The Friendly Fisherman is a very casual type of place. Great for families. And after your lunch or dinner it's always nice to go out on the boardwalk and check out all the boats that are anchored up there including the party boats that take anglers out for a day of fishing. And you're liable to see dolphins (Flipper type) cavorting around right in the channel.
For starters, you can't go wrong with the clam chowder. Rich and creamy. We always order the smoked fish spread, too. It's excellent. And they even have fried green tomatoes. If you haven't tried them, you should.
If you want to try a fish here that you probably won't see very often on menus, go for the amberjack. We used to catch 'em off my boat down there over submerged wrecks. They're known locally as AJs. Sometimes they are referred to as Gulf tuna, too. AJ is often but not always on the menu here.
The fried seafood platters are very popular here and another good local fish selection is the grouper, a mild, white flakey fish. We also love their stuffed flounder.
One of my fondest memories of this place was a two day fishing trip from Hubbard's Marina (the complex where the Friendly Fisherman is located) out to the "middle grounds" in the Gulf of Mexico. It's about an 8 hour trip out and back with plenty of fishing jammed between. Leaving that night there was an eerie fog in the air. Captain Wilson Hubbard, the founder of the marina, restaurant and fishing fleet, was there making sure all the gear got loaded for the 75 or so making the long trip. We did well on that trip with his son, Mark, at the controls. We brought in plenty of grouper and amberjack. Captain Wilson Hubbard is gone now. But he has certainly left his mark.
The Friendly Fisherman is located at John's Pass (technically the town they're located in is Madeira Beach) just north of St. Pete Beach. Their street address is 150 John's Pass Boardwalk Place. You can get vectors by checking out their web site here.