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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Dining review: Sunsets, wildlife set mood at Whiskey Joe's

The old Whiskey Joe's on Rocky Point Drive was a popular draw with its shanty-like theme, fresh seafood and roasted peanut shells littering the floor. In 2004, the restaurant closed because of hurricane damage. It resurfaced in 2009 in the former location of Castaways, and it's still a fun place with an old Florida feel and atmosphere — and the seafood still rocks. Located on the water, Whiskey Joe's Bar & Grill has indoor and outdoor patio dining offering spectacular views of the sunset and wildlife. We spotted pelicans, snowy egrets and an occasional heron. We even saw fish jumping out of the water.
This is a laid-back place with an efficient kitchen, great customer service and a friendly staff that makes you feel welcome. It entices visitors to pop in wearing board shorts and flip flops for happy hour. It also attracts diners who are comfortable in dressier attire looking for a superb waterfront view while celebrating a birthday or other special occasion. Outside, you'll find the Barefoot Beach Bar where you channel your inner Jimmy Buffet and slide your toes in the sand, grab a bite and sip a margarita under a shaded Tiki bar or table inches from the water. If you're in a more festive mood — and want to get your groove on — the restaurant offers great live music inside and out. (Call for days and times). We were so caught up with the killer view, it took us a while to get to the menu. When we did, we launched into Whiskey Joe's signature Calamarty. The dish featured huge, beer-battered pieces of meaty calamari, peppers and zucchini. The chipotle mayo drizzle added a nice kick. The Tequila & Garlic Dippin' Shrimp also was very flavorful. The Spicy Chipotle Cajun shrimp were lightly sautéed with feta cheese and diced tomatoes and served with bread for dipping. And dip we did. The shrimp and sausage quesadilla also was a good choice with grilled andouille sausage and shrimp in a blend of cheeses that didn't overpower. We also sampled the seafood gumbo. Although the menu describes it as "loaded with seafood and lots of spice," we found a thick, spicy broth that held bits of chicken, but little sausage and no shrimp, served with rice. For dinner, we found the Whiskey Joe's Famous Tacos simple but tasty. The grilled white fish was nicely seasoned, tender and flaky and served with shredded cabbage and corn salsa inside a soft taco. It arrived with a side of crispy tortilla chips. We loved both seafood entrees we tried. A grilled Mahi Mahi with Shrimp Bertie was excellent. The Mahi Mahi was fresh and flaked at the touch of a fork. It was topped with sautéed shrimp in a lemon butter garlic sauce that didn't drown the flavor of the fish. The accompanying jasmine rice and vegetables also were perfectly cooked. The "Best Blackened Grouper" was a similar success. The mild white fish was enlivened with a Creole cognac sauce, a delicious mixture of caramelized shallots sauteed with shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes in a light and creamy cognac sauce. We all wished a side of collard greens with bacon held more flavor and had been cooked down more. The collards were a little crunchy. We also ventured into salad territory with the Shrimp and Crab Louie, "lump crab meat, shrimp and crispy greens, asparagus, cucumbers, artichokes, tomatoes, eggs and Louie dressing." When the salad arrived, it contained barely any seafood. In fact, our server noticed the look on my face and asked whether there was a problem. I mentioned the dearth of seafood; she disappeared into the kitchen, only to resurface with another container of seafood, which made the salad a stand-out. For dessert, the Fosters-Banana, a pound cake topped with ice cream, bananas and whipped cream, drizzled with bananas foster sauce was a good choice, as was a rich, savory Mud Pie.

Dining review: Whiskey Joe's Bar & Grill

Bottom Line: Comfortable waterfront restaurant offering fresh seafood and epic views while you chew

Where: 7720 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Yes

Children's Menu: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Price: $10.99 to $20.99

Contact: (813) 281-0770; whiskeyjoestampa.com

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