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First Bite

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[Times photos: Jim Damaske]

By CHRIS SHERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 2001


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The new star on Clearwater Beach

What do you call a waterfront restaurant with Buccaneer star owners, lots of steak and Gulf fish, plus sushi, a raw bar, modernistic decor and a decided Asian bent, even in its mashed potatoes?

An instant success, especially on Clearwater Beach, where new ideas rarely land.

Island Way Grill is a massive and handsome remaking of the former Crab Shack and Flagship, redone with the style of Salt Rock Grill's Frank Chivas (and glass maestro Duncan McClellan) and the backing of Bucs Mike Alstott and Davey Moore. Since opening last month, it's built not one but two big crowds, early diners from the second homes and condos of neighboring Island Estates and by dusk, customers with more youth and flash.

Main features of design are fixed: big, sweeping rooms; large glass wine cellars; a Peter Max turtle and an outdoor deck with tiki bar and 20 tables. Menu by Chivas and Salt Rock chef Tom Pritchard is evolving. Conch soup is hearty and spicy; Vietnamese crab rolls light (too much so, they need more crunch and herbs); salmon moist but grilled vegetables dull. Korean barbecue sauce gives T-bone steak extra kick, but best bets are probably in fresh local fish, heaped in a fishing boat ice chest in front of the display case. They show up in sushi rolls or on the grill.

While the final menu and full review are yet to come, Island Grill's already started a two-story expansion. Entree prices, $8 to $20. Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way, Clearwater; (727) 461-6617.

-- CHRIS SHERMAN, Times food critic

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