A remodeled old favorite in Tarpon Springs is offering patrons a fresh take on culinary favorites in surroundings that resonate with an old Florida vibe – down to the alligators in the pond out back.
The Madden family bought Snooker's, a longtime Tarpon Springs restaurant, and reopened it in the fall of 2011 as Lagerheadz Bar & Grill. The place is ideal for those wanting to give out-of-towners the experience of Florida, or for locals tired of strip malls and chain restaurants.
Lagerheadz offers a little something for everyone. Kids will love the 2,000-gallon aquarium with resident snook, red fish and tarpon. Then there's the alligator pond, where $3.50 will get you a bag of food and a cane pole to feed the gators. On our visit, dog owners were enjoying the patio, where they can bring their canine companions. There's live music most weekend evenings at the tiki bar, and plenty of flat-screen televisions showing sports.
And what Floridian wouldn't appreciate that part of a boat has been used to create some of the bar in the main dining area, and that exceedingly comfortable boat chairs serve as the bar stools?
We went late on a Saturday afternoon and found the place lively (the place is large enough to warrant several parking lots, so if the lot out front is full, try the lot across the street). We chose to sit indoors, but were able to people watch through the windows. The place had a nice mix of families, couples and groups of all ages. Two older women spent our entire dinner shooting darts. Hip '80s music played in the background.
The wait staff was friendly and knowledgeable, patiently answering numerous questions about the menu and food. The menu is several pages, offering a little of everything – from seafood and pizzas to burgers and wings.
We started with one of the specials: six steamed oysters, fresh from Apalachicola and served on the half shell with drawn butter, lemon wedges and horseradish on request. Salty, firm textured, still attached to the shell – they tasted like authentic Florida. We also tried the she-crab soup, a creamy bisque dotted with orange roe and rich in crab flavor.
From the appetizer menu, we ordered the Signature Sampler Platter, where you choose three items from a list. We chose gator bites, grouper bites and onion rings. All were deep-fried, but not overly greasy. The gator was filleted to perfect tenderness and battered in a spiced panko mixture. The grouper was fresh and ample-portioned and the onion rings colossal. Another good choice was the calamari, which is dipped in buttermilk, seasoned flour and deep-fried along with long strips of zucchini, yellow squash and carrots and served with a chunky marinara for dipping.
For entrees, we stuck to seafood. We weren't hungry enough for the Lagerheadz Steamer Bucket. For $22, you get a bucket loaded with snow crab, blue crab, steamed clams and shrimp served with drawn butter and corn on the cob. Instead, we opted for the crabcakes, a rich dish that included two homemade lump blue crab cakes topped with a chili aioli and served with a memorable pineapple salsa. Unlike at many seafood places, the cakes were more crab than filler and a bargain at $10.
The same lump crab is found atop the Caribbean Stuffed Shrimp entrée. The hefty portion didn't leave much room for dessert. But we couldn't resist the chef's homemade brownie, rich with chocolate chunks and walnuts and served with ice cream and a drizzle of cherry and chocolate sauces.
Chef Kenny Kopesik fashions his unique creations in house with fresh ingredients. Some of the touches were particularly tasty, including the brownie (a family recipe), the pineapple salsa and calamari that pleased a picky young eater.
With its central location in Tarpon Springs, attention to culinary detail by a talented chef, an attentive and friendly staff and a large venue that provides a variety of dining and nightlife experiences, Lagerheadz deserves to be a success.
Lagerheadz Bar & Grill
Price:$10 to $22
Bottom Line: Fresh food, made to order in Florida-themed surroundings
Where: 606 N. Pinellas, Tarpon Springs
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: For groups of 12 or more
Children's Menu: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Contact: (727) 937-6665