A trip to the coast

The Dewey Beach Bar and Grill on Pass-a-Grille is a bright spot for dining, cocktails and hospitality on the Gulf beaches.

Anchoring the Berkeley Beach Club, and named for owner Maryann Ferenc’s dog, Dewey, the cuisine is New American with a heavy emphasis on seafood. Chef Ben Hooper draws inspiration from coastal regions around the globe. Mixologist Josephine Liparuli’s signature cocktails, and a short wine list, reflect the same influences and enhance the cuisine. From the dining room’s casual sophistication to the sunset allure of the rooftop bar, the Dewey delivers more than most restaurants along the Pinellas County coastline. The Dewey sends diners on a culinary trip to coastlines around the world. 

Crab cakes studded with corn kernels are made with masa and served alongside celery root chow chow. The cakes are packed with fresh lump blue crabmeat, and flavor, and the chow chow adds bright acidity. A smear of crema, made with aji amarillo paste and lime juice, adds the slightest sizzle to this gluten-free, Mexican-inspired, appetizer. From Mexico, jump to Tunisia along the North Africa coastline for grilled harissa oysters. Breadcrumbs, shallots and harissa butter crown Louisiana oysters before roasting to toasted perfection. The oysters are tender, succulent and kissed by the warm spices of the harissa. Both these appetizers pair well with a glass of Naverran cava from Penedes, Spain. It’s a crisp, dry, sparkling, white wine that clears the palate for the next bite.

The Ybor Caesar salad is a fine homage to Tampa Bay’s Cuban influence, but the grilled stone fruit salad steals the show. It features peppery arugula, whipped goat cheese, dried cherries, red onions, toasted almonds and grilled, seasonal, stone fruit. Everything gets tossed with a hot-honey, white, balsamic vinaigrette. The chili added to the sweet vinaigrette completes this salad. You get sweet, tangy, spicy and toasty flavor along with creamy, crunchy, soft and chewy textures all on one plate. Wash it down with a glass of Febre rose from Provence and let the moment linger. You’re at the beach. Just relax.

Some of the finest crab fisheries in the world are found along the Maryland coastline. The Dewey delivers them to you in the form of a cornmeal-crusted softshell crab. Each bite is a fresh taste of the sea. The cornmeal crust provides a crunchy texture while creamy street corn, made with poblano goat-cheese puree and lime remoulade, delivers a rich, warm flavor. Gulf red grouper is pan-seared and served over orecchiette pasta swimming in a rich Calabrian tomato broth. This dish would make every Italian grandmother proud. Hooper churches it up with the addition of confit garlic, grilled leeks, rock shrimp and a pistachio gremolata. This dish pulls you in from the first bite and doesn’t let go until the last little ear of pasta is gone.

Seafood dominates the menu, but don’t pass on the chicken. Simply titled Grilled Supreme of Chicken, the name is deceptive. A lot is going on under the chicken breast. First off, it’s airline chicken, meaning the first joint of the wing is still attached. While some say it looks like the wing of an airplane, the bone boosts the meat’s flavor. Then it gets a dry rub coating before it’s grilled and served with andouille sausage grits and baby kale sauteed in pecan brown butter. A drizzle of Carolina barbecue sauce adds a little extra flavor and the entire Gulf coast smiles proudly. If airlines served chicken this good, I would have a lot more frequent-flier miles.

In one evening at the Dewey, diners can take a culinary trip to some of the world’s great coastlines. From the flavors of Mediterranean, and Mexico, to the taste of America’s Atlantic, and Gulf, coasts, it’s all right here, in a little restaurant on Pass-a-Grille. Seaside regions around the world offer their unique treasures, but the best place to end the night is back at the Berkeley Beach Club, upstairs on the rooftop bar. There you can relax with cocktails and watch constellations across the sky.

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