A decade ago, Treasure Island’s beloved Robbie’s Pancake House transformed into Middle Grounds Grill, a culinary haven for seafood and steak lovers. Superb food, service and cocktails coupled with an elegant, boutique wine list and craft beers, brings locals and visitors flocking to this superb restaurant.
PN caught up with Dan Coover, who proudly said Middle Grounds is still a family affair. His dad, brother Scott and sister-in-law Wendy Coover, even Scott’s son, little Scott, are all involved in the restaurant, although Dad heads out to Montana in spring just after the bi-annual May classic car show at the restaurant.
What’s the secret to their success? “We get the freshest fish possible every day and deliver a dining experience that is like no other, especially with the aquarium that makes you feel like you’re dining under the sea,” says Dan. “We also offer wet-aged steaks, upscale entrees, delicious sauces and unique seasonal dishes in a casual, comfortable atmosphere without the fancy white tablecloths.”
You can get treated like a VIP in a tuxedo or flip-flops. It’s a local hotspot, with nightly light live music seven nights a week during season (including April), a full bar that you can dine at, magnificent martinis, a tempting kids menu, daily happy hour (4:30-7), $12.95 early bird specials (4:30-5:30) and ½ price wine bottles on Wednesday. There’s valet parking and a private banquet room that seats 48 for receptions and parties.
Earlier this year, Middle Grounds refurnished the patio with new tables and chairs making it more of a hip lounge experience where you can drink and eat as well. For Easter and Mother’s Day, the restaurant opens at 3 p.m. and serves the regular menu with a few holiday favorites, such as lamb for Easter.
Seafood rules here. The best fresh fish from here and around the world is delivered daily. Hogfish it sells out quickly. One of the most popular dishes is a three nut-crusted, fresh local, black grouper, served with mango beurre blanc.
On the apps and salad side, big hits are the Key West chowder, grilled Mediterranean octopus salad, fresh smoked mahi fish spread, tangy ginger calamari, coconut almond-crusted shrimp, artichoke gouda dip on toast points and Prince Edward island mussels hand-selected for presentation and delivered live on ice.
For meat lovers, order the 18 oz bone-in cowboy steak topped with gunpowder onion rings, New Zealand lamb shank, stuffed veal scaloppini or herb-crusted pork tenderloin. Says Dan: “All of our steaks are certified angus beef, wet aged unlike Bern’s that uses a dry aged steak and a totally fabulous flavor.” Get your steak Oscar style with crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce or served with a lobster tail.
Save room for desserts and after-dinner drinks, especially the deep-fried cheesecake rolled in Rice Krispies, the chocolate lava cake and tangy key lime stack with tuile cookies.
Middle Grounds serves some of the most innovative sauces to pair with their dishes. Right now, the chimichurri and mango habanero sauces have my vote. “The customers drive what dishes stay on the menu,” says Dan proudly. “It becomes a signature dish because they love it so much and tell their friends.”
So if you want to enjoy a little dish of paradise, head over to Middle Grounds Grill. Open at 4:30 daily.
If you get there too early, stop in next door at Coffee Grounds for a cocktail or vanilla cafe latte.
FYI: Open 4:30 daily. 10925 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island; 727-360-4253, wwwMiddleGroundsGrill.com