14 Best Grouper Sandwiches in Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail • McCool Travel

Finding the best grouper sandwiches in Florida is one of my favorite travel quests.

After visiting hundreds of US Gulf Coast restaurants, seafood markets, food trucks, and craft breweries, I am thrilled to reveal the most iconic and coastal-worthy dishes for the inaugural Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail.

I have personally ordered, paid for, and eaten all of the mentioned grouper menu items and attest they are indeed the restaurants with the best grouper in Florida. I will update the Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail listings when I find other deserving places.

When searching Google for “best grouper sandwich near me,” take advice from someone who has been there and can provide an honest take on the topic.

perhaps the best grouper sandwich in Florida
best grouper sandwich in Florida?

14 Best Grouper Sandwiches in Florida: Gulf Coast Grouper Trail

My entries for best grouper sandwiches in Florida are listed alphabetically and I encourage you to visit them all and rank them yourself. Let me know your favorite places for grouper in Florida, whether or not they are on this list.

Congratulations to the following outstanding Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail stops, listed alphabetically. They serve the best grouper sandwiches in Florida along with other incredible seafood dishes. When you visit, mentioned you found them through McCool Travel.

  1. Charm City Seafood (Bartow)
  2. 4th Street Shrimp Store (St. Pete)
  3. HavAnnA Cafe (Chokoloskee)
  4. Keegan’s Seafood (Indian Rocks Beach)
  5. Lazy Days (Islamorada)
  6. Leebe Fish (Marco Island)
  7. Little Bar Restaurant (Goodland)
  8. The Rod and Reel Pier (Anna Maria Island)
  9. Seabreeze Island Grill and Bar (Redington Shores)
  10. Snook Inn (Marco Island)
  11. Star Fish (Cortez)
  12. Tide Tables (Cortez)
  13. Ugly Grouper (Anna Maria Island)
  14. The Waterfront Restaurant (Anna Maria Island)

Try all of my favorite 14 Gulf Coast restaurants and decide which prepares the best grouper in Florida.

 

Charm City Seafood, Bartow

blackened grouper sandwich at Charm City Seafood
blackened grouper sandwich at Charm City Seafood

When driving from Orlando to the Florida Gulf Coast or after visiting the magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Central Florida, a fantastic lunch stop is Charm City Seafood in Bartow. This Chesapeake Bay-themed seafood restaurant—Charm City is Baltimore’s nickname—features crab cakes and many other crab menu items, including a soft-shell crab po’ boy. Their superb Florida grouper sandwich is topped with lettuce, tomato, and a Chesapeake-style sauce and accompanied with cole slaw and chips made in house.

See favorite Fun Things to Do in Central Florida.

4th Street Shrimp Store, St. Pete

4th Street Shrimp Store in St. Pete FL
4th Street Shrimp Store in St. Pete FL

In a historic building on a busy St. Petersburg street is another surprising place to find one of Florida’s best grouper sandwiches. It was a surprise but that is what I do, find those hidden gems for you!

After visiting nearby sunken Gardens or the phenomenal St. Petersburg art museums, head to the funky 4th Street Shrimp Store for shrimp (of course) and other fresh seafood offerings—including their magnificent blackened grouper sandwich.

best grouper sandwich in Florida: 4th Street Shrimp Store
grouper sandwich 4th Street Shrimp Store, St Pete FL

The grouper filet spilled over the bun, giving them an excellent bun coverage rating (bun coverage being a term conjured up while I posted several of these grouper sandwiches on my Facebook page).

HavAnnA Cafe, Chokoloskee

Havana Cafe in Chokloskee FL
HavAnnA Cafe in Chokloskee FL

Growing up in South Florida, I am a sucker for authentic Cuban food. And no place is more Cuban than HavAnnA Cafe in Chokoloskee, located south of Everglades City off Tamiami Trail and near Ochopee.

P.S. getting to Chokoloskee via Tamiami Trail is one of the best Scenic Drives in South Florida.

When I asked the server what seafood was fresh and she pointed to the boat 50 feet away and said grouper came off it two hours earlier, I knew I had to delay the Comida Cubano for another time and another place. While the Havana Cafe’s sublime blackened grouper is available as a sandwich, I opted for the platter in order to pair it with plantains and Cuban black beans and rice.

This blackened grouper at HavAnnA Cafe was probably the freshest, moistest, and tastiest I have ever had. Cannot wait to go back to HavAnnA Cafe.

blackened grouper at Havana Cafe, Chokoloskee
blackened grouper at HavAnnA Cafe in Chokoloskee

See also favorite Naples Florida restaurants.

Keegan’s Seafood, Indian Rocks Beach

For 2024, I introduce you to a new spot, Keegan’s Seafood, which replaces one of our prior favorite places, Beach Waves Grill. Both restaurants are in Indian Rocks Beach.

blackened grouper sandwich Keegan's Seafood
blackened grouper sandwich Keegan’s Seafood

I made three trips to each Indian Rocks Beach restaurant in early 2024 and all three Keegan’s meals were fantastic. And each Beach Waves Grill visit was disappointing.

Keegan’s blackened grouper is generous (excellent bun coverage!), tangy, and consistent. Sides are fries, Cole slaw, or pasta salad. We like to visit on weekdays for lunch or linner (before 5pm) to take advantage of the 1/2 price draft beer special.

Desserts include a very good in-house-made key lime pie and a locally prepared rum cake.

McCool Travel tip: look for Keegan’s 10% off coupon in the local free newspaper.

McCool Travel note: My second choice for blackened grouper in IRB right now would be Original Crabby Bill’s. Their blackened grouper sandwich is fantastic but I also love their hot Nashville grouper sandwich. While Beach Waves Grill grouper has diminished, I still prefer their sides of black beans & rice, broccoli, and Mexican corn.

See also favorite Indian Rocks Beach Restaurant and Things to Do in Indian Rocks Beach.

Lazy Days, Islamorada

Skip the flashier Islamorada restaurants and head to the Old Florida setting of Lazy Days. This place is popular with local and visiting fishermen (and women) because they have dozens of preparation methods to cook your catch. But we opted for a pair of blackened grouper sandwiches from Lazy Days and they were magnificent.

Lazy Daze Islamorada grouper sandwich
Lazy Days Islamorada grouper sandwich

A huge bonus is the phenomenal waterfront location of Lazy Days and I also include them in my favorite Florida waterfront restaurants. Request a waterfront table or at least one in the sand, kick off your Olu Kais, and savor one of the best blackened grouper sandwiches you will ever have.

Leebe Fish Restaurant and Seafood Market, Marco Island

Knowing I was on a quest to find the best grouper sandwiches in Florida, several Facebook friends mentioned Leebe Fish in Marco Island as their favorite. When one person mentions a place, it gets my attention. When several people do, I must go!

some of the best grouper in Florida at Leebe Fish, Marco Island
blackened grouper at Leebe Fish on Marco Island

Well, I declare Leebe Fish as one of the top baker’s dozen places for best grouper in Florida. Good enough? Oh yeah, I also recently went there twice in one week if that will help convince you. Their fries are really good but I preferred the black beans and rice with the platter. Also their grouper sandwich has cheese on the bottom bun so my tip is to request they skip the cheese.

McCool Travel tip: bring cash to Leebe Fish because they do not accept credit cards. And their key lime pie is really good.

See also favorite Things to Do in Marco Island

Little Bar Restaurant, Goodland

Just.a few miles from the hustle and bustle of Marco Island and on the edge of the Ten Thousand Islands portion of the Florida Everglades is the tiny fishing village of Goodland Florida.

At Little Bar Restaurant, they say the best food, friendliest people, and greatest entertainment appear where the land meets the water, where you can go no further. In places like Cape Cod, Key West, and Goodland Florida.

My linner experience at Little Bar was nestled in between the lunch rush and the early evening entertainment but the blackened grouper was exceptional. As you can see, the bun coverage was well over 100% and the waterfront table was more than ample entertainment.

grouper at Little Bar Restaurant in Goodland FL
grouper at Little Bar in Goodland FL

See also Things to Do in the Everglades

The Rod and Reel Pier, Anna Maria Island

Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria Island FL
Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria Island FL

We at US Gulf Coast LOVE waterfront restaurants in Florida. The Rod and Reel Pier restaurant at the northeast end of Anna Maria Island has an even better setting—OVER the water. In peak season there can be a long wait and people head to the first level bar or hang out on the pier until their name is called.

McCool Travel tip: check in 3-4pm for best results and shortest waits.

The blackened grouper at Rod and Reel Pier is very good, made to taste even better with the wonderful water view. Ask about other fresh seafood; I had fried oysters on my last visit. Enjoy $1.50 draft beers or $4.75 wine glasses while waiting for a table or your food, or people watching the pier walkers or fishermen (one caught a fascinating bat fish last visit).

grouper sandwich at Rod and Reel Pier in AMI
grouper sandwich at Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria Island FL

See also favorite Anna Maria Island Restaurants.

Seabreeze Island Grill and Bar, Redington Shores

One of my favorite go-to US Gulf Coast places is Seabreeze Island Grill in Redington Shores. Located on the intracoastal, just south of The Narrows, SeaBreeze offers amazing views (ask for outside seats), excellent drinks ($5 margaritas), and superb seafood. Plantains at SeaBreeze are amazing and is my favorite side item with my blackened grouper sandwich.

blackened grouper at SeaBreeze in Redington Shores FL
SeaBreeze in Redington Shores FL

Snook Inn, Marco Island

grouper sandwich at Snook Inn Marco Island
blackened grouper sandwich at Snook Inn Marco Island

I passed the Snook Inn entrance a couple of times, while on the way to LeeBe, but did not go until after friends at Naples Florida Travel Guide suggested it. And yeah I are so glad I did. Snook Inn serves a magnificent blackened grouper sandwich.

Because of their enviable waterfront location, there is usually a long wait for an outside table. Put your name on the list, grab a drink from the tiki bar, and enjoy the views from the upstairs landing. The tasty and more than ample blackened grouper sandwich comes with fries or beans & rice but I asked for plantains and the server said no problem. Always ask! And every meal at Snook Inn comes with a salad bar trip and do it because those veggies are important.

Star Fish, Cortez

Star Fish in Cortez may have the best grouper sandwich in Florida
blackened grouper at Star Fish Company in Cortez Florida

If you like throwback hidden gems, head to the Old Florida fishing village of Cortez and Star Fish Company. Parking is often hard to find but this trek is worth it. Trust me. The front of Star Fish is a seafood market but you want to walk around the back, turn left at the fishing boats (and pelicans) and join the line.

There is always a line at Star Fish but magnificent things are worth the wait. And here you will savor perhaps the best blackened grouper sandwich in Florida. Certainly the setting is amazing. The fish chowder, oysters, and key lime pie are really good and people love their stone crab claws (although I have not had them).

McCool Travel tip: bring cash to Star Fish because they do not accept credit cards.

Tide Tables, Cortez

amazing blackened grouper sandwich
incredible blackened grouper sandwich at Tide Tables Restaurant in Cortez FL

A nearby option to Star Fish (above) is Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina also in Cortez. Although Tide Tables has sit-down table service and accepts credit cards, it also has that Old Florida feel—with a waterfront setting on Sarasota Bay, a tiki bar, and incredible fresh seafood. We met our friends from Food, Fun, and Faraway Places at Tide Tables and between the four of us, we ordered FIVE grouper dishes (three grouper sandwiches, grouper tacos, and grouper dip).

Ugly Grouper, Anna Maria Island

perhaps the best grouper sandwich in Florida
blackened grouper sandwich at Ugly Grouper

As the only place on the Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail with “grouper” in its name, Ugly Grouper on Anna Maria Island is a must visit for some of the best grouper in Florida. McCool Travel note: this is the only place I have been to with its own Grouper menu section. How exciting is that?

And their grouper selections are humongous. On my last visit, my wife and I ordered a blackened grouper sandwich (naturally) and a grouper platter. We each took enough home to make a second meal. McCool Travel tip: the mango habanero sauce for the grouper platter is amazing. Ask for extra!

Make sure you take a selfie or group pic with the ugly grouper statue. It is one of the most instagrammable spots in Anna Maria Island.

Ugly Grouper statue in AMI
Ugly Grouper statue in Anna Maria Island Florida

The Waterfront Restaurant, Anna Maria Island

phenomenal blackened grouper sandwich
blackened grouper sandwich at The Waterfront Restaurant AMI

This might be the best blackened grouper sandwich in Florida. I know I said that several times before but the blackened grouper sandwich at The Waterfront Restaurant on Anna Maria Island is astounding.

Their phenomenal blackened grouper sandwich is likely the thickest I have ever had and it was perfectly cooked throughout. Not sure how they do it but I would trust Chef Billy with any menu item. But I also cannot imagine ordering anything but the best grouper sandwich in Florida (or anywhere).

Plus they are located in one of the six original Anna Maria Island houses so explore the inside before you leave. But, also make sure you sit outside if it is not too cold (that one day of the year) or raining.

McCool Travel note: another restaurant in an original AMI house is The Porch Restaurant and they serve a really good blackened grouper sandwich. Stop there and let me know if I should add their grouper sandwich to this list. A big bonus is that The Porch offers Brussels sprouts and asparagus as sides. Because real vegetables are so welcome after all those fries and chips.

See also favorite Things to Do in Anna Maria Island.

More Best Grouper Sandwich Options in Florida and Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail Additions

Was your favorite grouper sandwich in Florida or restaurant included here? Let me know which places would you add to the Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail? Check back as I intend to add more and update this list often.

One of my most recent grouper sandwich discoveries was Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Grill in Panama City. Florida Panhandle restaurants are otherwise not present on this list because grouper is fresher and more common down south. But try Uncle Ernie’s blackened grouper. I love the waterfront setting!

How much does grouper cost?

Market price is a common listing on menus because grouper prices vary according to season, demand, and other factors. Typically, grouper dishes cost more than comparable sized dishes of mahi mahi and other fish. BUT, grouper is so much tastier and is always my first preference along the Florida Gulf Coast. Interestingly, hogfish is a little more expensive than grouper but I do not prefer it as much. How about you?

Should I order Grouper Sandwich, Grouper Tacos, or Grouper Platter?

Although this article focuses on the best grouper sandwiches, there is much more to life (#SaltLife) than grouper sandwiches. I love grouper in almost every form and preparation style.

Ask your server about the size of the grouper filet. Sometimes it is the same in a grouper sandwich and grouper platter. Sometimes the grouper platter portion is larger. Some places will have a junior portion, regular portion, senior portion, or other names for different sizes of grouper servings.

A grouper platter (or grouper dinner plate) usually comes with a side or two. Some grouper sandwiches and grouper tacos have only cole slaw or even no side. Sides are usually chips or fries and some times cole slaw. I love places with heartier sides, especially plantains.

Some Florida restaurants even serve a grouper reuben sandwich and I love the Nashville hot grouper sandwich at one of my favorite IRB restaurants.

Is any Gulf Coast fish fresher than grouper?

Ask your server if the grouper is fresh. Some servers will even know if the fresh grouper is red grouper or black grouper or other. If snapper or hogfish or another local catch is fresh that day, order it instead of grouper. My philosophy is to order whatever the server or chef recommends as fresh, rather than sticking to my preconceived notion.

Learn more about grouper here.

Blackened Grouper versus Grilled Grouper versus Fried Grouper

Most of these Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Trail restaurants serve blackened grouper, grilled grouper, or fried grouper. Fried grouper is my least favorite but it might be your preference. No problems, mon, go for it. Blackened grouper is my preference and I love the variety of prep styles. Even if blackened grouper is not listed as a menu choice, I will ask.

For tips and recommendations about US Gulf Coast road trips see Ultimate US Coastal Scenic Drives Resource Guide and for the absolute top US Gulf Coast restaurants Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs.

See also my other food trails: US Gulf Coast Seafood Trail and US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail. And even more Gulf Coast Sandwiches.

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Best Grouper Sandwiches in Florida

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