Without my trusty cooler, I was forced to eat mounds of delicious festival food at Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Yeah I know…it’s a horrible life (joking). I ate more festival food than ever this year, all in the name of research for my appearance on The Taste of Tampa Bay radio show (The broadcast is now in the online archive at: https://soundcloud.com/taste-of-tampa-bay/tasteoftampabay-101516). About 4 days, 4 entrees, 3 snacks, 6 drinks, and 1 stomach ache later, I feel like an expert on Clearwater Jazz Holiday food. You have two different kinds of vendors showing up at Clearwater Jazz Holiday year after year: local restaurants and traditional festival vendors. Every year there is delicious roast pork and Cuban sandwiches at Pipo’s, Jamaican jerk and curry meals from the Jerk Hut, at least 1 seafood vendor, and funnel cakes. Together, they have taken comfort food to a whole new level.
I tried Holy Hog BBQ for the first time at this year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday. If you like BBQ, then you should check them out. Their Tampa restaurant locations made The Tampa Bay Times/Laura Riley’s Top 50 Restaurants of Tampa Bay 2016 list in the barbecue category. All their food was served in small white cardboard boxes, which was really thoughtful of them, because it’s hard to eat food off a plate that’s sitting on your lap. This was more like eating barbecue out of a slightly larger Chinese carry out box. I tried the riblet basket and the loaded tator tots, and both were amazing. They also have a pulled pork sandwich and BBQ popcorn on the menu. Their loaded tator tots, covered in BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, ranch, and bacon were really special. It’s like comfort food gourmet.
Pete & Shorty’s Tavern was serving up tons of American comfort food classics as well, including sliders, fried pork tenderloin sandwiches (their specialty), and Fried Gouda Mac & Cheese Bites (pictured here). Pete & Shorty’s restaurants in Clearwater and Pinellas Park specialize in Midwestern food. Their Mac & Cheese bites are an excellent, shareable snack.
For $8 you can get a plastic mason jar filled with a nonalcoholic tropical frozen fruit beverage at Gourmet Crepes & Coffee. Save your mug, because refills are only $4.
Authentic Empanadas were making empanadas from scratch in their tent when I visited on Friday night. I literally saw them rolling out the dough, adding the filling, and then folding these by hand before frying them. They have a lot of flavors: Spicy beef & cheese, Cuban, Roast Pork, Veggie, Chicken, Black Bean & White Rice, Guava & Cream Cheese, and more. It’s a great late night snack.
Personally, I think all funnel cakes taste the same, but if you love funnel cakes, then you will love the funnel cakes made at Ms. Marsha’s Pennsylvania-Style Funnel Cake stand. They also make hot dogs, burgers, mozzarella sticks (I tried these one year and they were delicious), pulled pork sandwiches, and pulled pork nachos.
Crabby Bill’s, one of Florida’s popular chain seafood restaurants, showed up for Clearwater Jazz Holiday once again, serving grouper nuggets (pictured above), grouper sandwiches, shrimp & grits, shrimp sliders. and cheese fries. Their fries are really delicious.
Grahame’s Gourmet Café in downtown Clearwater (on Cleveland Street in the SunTrust Bldg.) set up a grilled cheese stand in Coachman Park special for Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Five different grilled cheeses, along with tomato soup, will be available here through the end of this year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday. The regular menu at Grahame’s Gourmet Café has a large selection of sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
Sausage and Peppers at the Island Grill.
Pulled Pork at Pipo’s. Pipo’s is a Cuban Cafe in Tampa that comes to Clearwater Jazz Holiday every year. They are my perennial favorite. I love their roast pork and Cuban sandwiches.
Shadrach’s Traveling Pizza was making made-to-order pizzas in their brick pizza oven at Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Toppings are more than just pepperoni or sausage here. You can also get fresh tomatoes, wood-roasted mushrooms, goat cheese crumbles, wood-roasted peppers, spinach, and black olives.
Taco Fresh making authentic Mexican tacos at Clearwater Jazz Holiday.
The tacos I had at Taco Fresh were one of my favorite festival bites.
Turkey Legs and The Greek Place.
Spring rolls and Pad Thai are available at the Thai food stand, a common presence at Clearwater Jazz Holiday each year.
Spring rolls from the Thai food stand.
For dessert, the Shave Shack was selling Hawaiian shaved ice to the crowd at Clearwater Jazz Holiday. They are in Largo’s Central park every weekend and they have a permanent spot at Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park.
From standard festival fare to popular local restaurant fare, Clearwater Jazz Holiday presents a wonderful smorgasbord of food choices to concertgoers. So much so that in recent years, I’ve actually started looking forward to the food at Clearwater Jazz Holiday in addition to the music.