To say that this author is prejudiced in her loyalty to the Heilman family and their Clearwater Beach restaurants would be an understatement. I have enjoyed dining in both locations, sometimes two and three times a week for over 40 years and can't remember a bad evening. A third generation of Heilman's children are now working in the restaurants, preparing both the food and atmosphere that customers have long admired and come to expect.
"The stone crabs have been great this season," commented Jack Herr, Vice President and General Business Manager, and Beachcomber devotees are enjoying other fresh seafood as well. The Heilman's buy their seafood fresh and whole so they can judge the true quality of the product. Other fresh fish entrees, which change with availability, include snapper, grouper, salmon and scallops served in a myriad of ways including broiled, fried and "bronzed."
The Beachcomber Prime Rib is thick and succulent as are their steaks and hamburgers. The Frog Legs, which come directly from the Everglades, and the Fried Chicken Dinner as a "comfort food", are favorites of several generations of Beachcomber customers. In the mood for a smaller entrée? Try the Beachcomber Hot Brown on a cold night. Heilman's "Gourmet-To-Go" policy allows any of the items on the menu to be ordered ahead and readied for pick-up.
A recent Beachcomber customer commented that he hadn't been in Clearwater since 1948, but was glad to see that the Beachcomber was still here and the items on the relish tray were the same items he had enjoyed 60 years ago. Herr explains that this is the secret to their success. "We have to be what we are," commented Herr. Other restaurant fads come and go, but Heilman's is consistently good from the relish tray to dessert.
Bobby's Bistro, named after Bob Heilman's grandson, started approximately twelve years ago, as an alternative eating venue for loyal Heilman's customers. It's a casual atmosphere offering indoor and outdoor dining, and a lighter menu offering pizzas, salads as well as standard entrée selections. Some of the best drinks in Clearwater are made by Chuck, as well as the other Bobby's bartenders and all are knowledgeable in the extensive wine selections offered at the Bistro.
Bob Heilman Jr. and his wife Sheri have a passion for fine wine. Both the Beachcomber and Bobby's Bistro have large wine collections. When Bob found it hard to get a good Pinot Noir in the restaurant, they bought land in Oregon and began bottling their Foxy Rocks. They have just finished harvesting the 2006 grapes. The 2004 Foxy Rock selection is coming out in the next two weeks.
The breads, muffins and desserts are all made on the premises. The Beachcomber Gingerbread Muffins are often fought over before and during dinner. The Heilman's have graciously shared this recipe:
Gingerbread Muffin Mix
4 lbs. butter
4 lbs. sugar
16 jumbo sized eggs
6 lbs. all-purpose flour
2.5 ounces baking soda
1.5 ounces salt
1 ounce ginger
.75 ounce cinnamon
7 cups boiling water
7 cups molasses (use only Grandma's Molasses)
Blend the butter and sugar. Add the eggs to blended butter mixture. Combine all the dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixture, but don't over-mix. Boil water and add to molasses (while boiling). Then mix the molasses thoroughly, but don't over mix, with the rest of the recipe. Bake at 345 degrees for 10 minutes in a convection oven. Then turn pans around and bake for 8 more minutes.
These wonderful muffins along with other freshly-baked bread and desserts can be found at the Beachcomber restaurant nightly. Fresh bread and olive oil, for dipping, is a staple of the Bistro.
This year Heilman's Beachcomber was one of three recipients to earn a place in the Golden Spoon Hall of Fame, of the Florida Trend Restaurant Guide, recognizing repeat recipients of the industry's highest regional award. A tradition of excellence in both product and service has kept the Heilman's restaurants as true favorites of visitors and residents of Clearwater Be sure to call 727-442-4144 for reservations, or to book a private party in either establishment. The address is 447 Mandalay Avenue on Clearwater Beach.
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