Restaurant review: Tourist-happy Sculley’s in St. Petersburg

Macadamia-crusted tilapia came with a lightly steamed tangle of green beans and other vegetables.

The corals and blues of a rich sunset kept us on the beach too long so we reached our first pick restaurant too late for dinner. We talked to some couples outside who directed us to The Hut on the tourist-happy, John’s Pass Boardwalk next to Madeira Beach.

Off we went. When I entered the place and saw too many distracting televisions, I asked a waitress about the food. To my surprise, she announced it to be just so-so and recommended another place with the same owners. Off we went to yet a third destination, Sculley’s, with a 70-foot bar right on the inlet, on the upper level boardwalk. I talked to a couple who was enjoying their $24 Alaskan snow crab dinner al fresco. We liked the sights and sounds of a festive fleet of boaters coming and going, but it was a warm evening.

So we dined inside in one of Sculley’s ramshackle, nautical themed, but noisy dining rooms. Our sweet waitress was friendly enough but didn’t know her stuff. When I asked if the mashed potatoes were the real deal, she said they didn’t tell her such information. OMG.

Scully’s menu, which shares space with ads for T-shirts and a fishing charter, offers a selection of amberjack, mahi mahi, salmon and tuna, and a number of poultry and pasta dishes.

I soon learned that decent food here remains a matter of luck, choice and attitude. The starters include three kinds of mussels: with marinara, fra diavolo and a chardonnay-wine sauce; smoked fish spread; coconut shrimp; and tuna sashimi. The best deal looks like the you-peel-‘em shrimp, served cold or hot.

Shrimp is also ordered as a Santa Fe tortilla shell salad, grilled, fried or over angel hair. The dozen blackened shrimp had good texture. Lump crab is the draw for a meaty crab sandwich, with a side of horseradish and cayenne aioli, served between lettuce and tomato on a bun. A mild-mannered tilapia, crusted with macadamia nuts, embraced a likable lemon-butter sauce. Two grouper dinners were not so fortunate. Cooked on a flat grill, they had no grill marks, no crust and no color so it had an anemic lack of eye appeal and was served on a barren, white plate.

While contemplating dessert, a server entered vacuuming the rug. Lights out.

As our dinners ranged from OK to downright dreary, Sculley’s seems content to simply coast on a collective tourist base.

Sculley’s Boardwalk Grille
190 John’s Pass Boardwalk
Madeira Beach, FL
(727) 230-0608
www.SculleysRestaurant.com

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Drink up, slim down: The “Eat This, Not That!’’ book series is fun to flip through and can save us a few pounds. The “Drink This, Not That!” (Rodale, from $7.80 on on Amazon) book takes on smoothies, soft drinks and shakes. Drink a Cold Stone Creamery PB & C (peanut butter chocolate shake) at 2,000 calories and 68 grams fat doesn’t leave much leftover for dessert.

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Nothing sublime about this fella: Twenty years ago, Chef Miles Norris wrote a column for the Tampa Tribune where we excelled in giving each other a hard time. A Tampa native, AKA Cheffy Baby, he is culinary mercenary, writer, caterer, and promoter (Cheffy Baby World Food Tours). Now, he is hunkered down in Thailand working on a cookbook and opening a cooking school in Phuket.

Thai cuisine offers bold flavors, looks glorious and is like “tasting colors.’’ Miles says Thai cooking is “more tasty, dynamic and vibrant than any other cuisine.’’ We agree on this one. More information.

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Have you found a favorite Thai restaurant? Let me know. I’m as good as there.

Sculley's Boardwalk Grille on Urbanspoon

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