Monday, July 14, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

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Phillies pitchers run along the warning track on one of the practice<br />fields during spring training. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitchers run along the warning track on one of the practice fields during spring training. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitchers run along the warning track on one of the practice<br />fields during spring training. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer) Gallery: 2014 Phillies Spring Training

They said I should write a column about things to do in Clearwater, and so that's what I'm going to do, right after I tell you that the best thing to do in Clearwater is get into your car and drive to Tampa, where you'll find better bars, better shopping and fewer tourists.

But, then, you will be a tourist, and part of the allure of being a tourist is the license it grants you to act like one. After all, there are only so many places where it is considered socially acceptable to wander around in a cutoff Gregg Jeffries shirsey drinking light beer out of a solo cup while splotches of sunburn form at random intervals on the surface of your haphazardly-protected body.

And Cottman Avenue is too cold right now. So, Clearwater it is.

The first thing to know about Clearwater in the spring is that it feels a lot like somebody snuck off with the Delaware River and replaced it with an ocean. Or, rather, a gulf.

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  • Clearwater is on the Gulf of Mexico, a large expanse of saltwater that, one of these days, somebody in Congress is going to attempt to rename the Gulf of America. There are not a lot of waves on the Gulf of Mexico, so leave your surfboard at home, but bring your ibuprofen and your sorrows, because there are plenty of places to drink.

    The old time sports writers prefer a place called Frenchy's Cafe, mostly because old time sports writers dislike people, and the cafe fits fewer of them than most of the joints that surround it, but also because they serve a mean seafood gumbo, and the bartenders can remember your name, which is helpful when you reach a point where you can't.

    There are several other Frenchy's (Frenchies'? Frenchy's'?) establishments in Clearwater Beach proper, including Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, which is right next to the Palm Pavilion, either of which is an excellent place to drink cocktails out of plastic cups and watch the sun go down. At both places, you'll find upbeat music and young people and the occasional Phillies broadcaster - probably the only places on Earth you'll find those things together - and you'll do it all with the saltwater breeze bathing your face.

    If you have a young son or daughter, I would stay away from Shephard's, which is a dance club where you will catch a glimpse of what some other people's sons and daughters have grown up to become.

    The best place to watch a sporting event - March Madness is in March, after all - is probably the Brown Boxer, which is the most "Philly bar" bar in Clearwater Beach.

    Some folks will make the case that, in the midst of all of this drinking, a wise thing to do is eat dinner. If you are one such folk, I'd recommend the Island Way Grill, a nice-but-not-formal seafood-and-steak-and-cocktail place that is partially owned by former Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott.

    I've heard plenty of good things about the Sunday brunch, but I work Sundays.

    Two other recommendations: Cesare's for Italian food, and the Columbia Restaurant for Cuban, although the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Tampa, is a place you should get to if you appreciate authenticity. In fact, the Columbia in Ybor is Inquirer Eagles beat writer Zach Berman's favorite restaurant in the world, unless he has found some place better in the two years that have elapsed since he told me that. I also recommend getting to a Lee Roy Selmon's, a local chain that features excellent upscale BBQ/soul food.

    Of course, no Things To Do In Clearwater column would be complete without a reference to Lenny's, which is probably the best breakfast you'll ever eat in a restaurant that shares a parking lot with a TraveLodge. But get there early if you go before a home game. The Tiki Bar at Bright House Field fills up quick.

    David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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