Jeff and Celeste Harrell had their reservations when it came to expanding their popular downtown Safety Harbor taproom, Bar Fly.
The place had become popular with locals and visitors for its laid back Florida vibe, its intimate setting and cool atmosphere since opening last spring.
But one thing was missing from the Main Street hotspot — food. So the Harrells decided to do something about it; they recently opened the Bar Fly offshoot, the Saltwater Grill.
“The difference between having food and just having beer is like night and day,” said Jeff Harrell, a graphic artist and avid fly fisherman who opened the bar in March.
“Now the people who are already here stay longer, plus we have people who are just coming in because of the food. It’s incredible.”
Realizing the late night dining options in town were limited and losing customers who drank up an appetite, Harrell jumped at the chance to move into the neighboring storefront at 107 Main St. when the place became vacant.
After months of remodeling and coming up with a menu, much of it created by Celeste, the grill opened a few weeks ago, and it’s been rocking ever since.
“People were worried that we were going to be too big or lose our personality if we expanded,” Jeff said. “But they see we have the same cool, laid back vibe, but with food. And the menu fits the theme of the bar — casual, Old Florida style seafood.”
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Speaking of the food, all the work that went into the place would be for naught if the food wasn’t up to par. But Harrell says that has not been a problem at all.
“The feedback on the food has been phenomenal, off the charts,” he said.
“Our two most popular items by far are our blackened fish tacos and our oysters on the half shell,” he added. “Both of those items are selling like crazy.”
The menu also includes soups, salads, sandwiches and appetizers like fish spread and crab cakes.
And Harrell says they’re not shy when it comes to putting food on the plates.
“We use fresh local grouper on our tacos and sandwiches, and we don’t skimp on it,” he said. “ I believe if you give people more of something they like, they’ll want it even more.”
The integration of the two establishments has been a smooth one, too.
A pass-through between the two allows people to move freely from the bar to the adjacent restaurant, and the décor, populated with colorful artwork and carvings by local artists, gives the whole place a casual Key West feel.
“People can sit at the bar and order food, or move from the bar to the restaurant when they want to eat,” Harrell said. “It’s like a natural extension. The flow is good.”
As long as the flow of the food from the kitchen continues, the Harrells will be happy.
“We have great seafood,” Jeff Harrell said. “We just want people to realize that.”
Address: 100 Main St., Suite 107
Hours: Tue - Thu, 5pm - 10pm; Fri, 5pm - 11pm; Sat, 1pm - 11pm; Sun, 4pm - 10pm; Mon, closed