New ownership brings a revamped look, menu to Casual Clam

The St. Pete favorite has been around for more than 20 years.

click to enlarge In St. Pete, Casual Clam Seafood Bar & Grill's new look includes a renovated indoor dining room. - Aaron Drake
Aaron Drake
In St. Pete, Casual Clam Seafood Bar & Grill's new look includes a renovated indoor dining room.

Longtime patrons will be happy as, well, a clam to find out that one of their St. Petersburg favorites has received a facelift.

Casual Clam, the seafood staple at 3336 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. that's been around for more than 20 years, recently started turning heads with updated signage out front and a spruced-up interior — not to mention a revamped menu.

A change in ownership prompted the refresh of the restaurant, which continues to be a gathering place for St. Pete's Magnolia Heights neighborhood and beyond. Casual Clam's new proprietors, the Wille family, took over for former owner Larry Jackson back in December.

"We've come in here and cleaned the place up a little bit," said restaurant manager Scott Hall. "We brought some new equipment into the kitchen, put the mural up, new signage, made some changes to the menu. We're going to redo all the landscaping."

click to enlarge Fresh signage out front is also a recent update. - Aaron Drake
Aaron Drake
Fresh signage out front is also a recent update.

Guests can expect the same food lineup as before with a few improvements, including an emphasis on top-notch ingredients.

"Our goal is that we want to move everything into being as fresh as possible," Hall told CL. "We fly in the seafood twice a week. We get the whole belly clams, New England steamers, scallops, haddock — clients here love the fresh fish. They have been coming here for years. We don't want to disappoint them.

"We're trying to move into different things — shrimp without any chemicals in it, fresh produce coming in, using local vendors as much as possible. Those are the types of changes we're looking at."

There haven't been any major staff changes since the new owners arrived. Some fresh faces are on hand, alongside familiar ones, as the Willes brought back a chef from years before.

"The place here had good food. The staff is great. We're just trying to tweak it and move on from here," Hall said.

Open for lunch and dinner, Casual Clam is an all-around welcoming spot. Daily specials are offered to the lunchtime crowd, which can chow down in the renovated indoor dining room or lounge outside in the open-air bar area; lobster and New England shrimp rolls (available on Tuesdays) and blue crab meat on a New England-style roll (a newcomer served on Wednesdays) are among the popular options.

Other beloved orders include appetizers like the smoked fish spread and the house-made Cape Cod chips with feta, balsamic vinegar glaze and green onions. New England chowder, gumbo and clambo — half chowder, half gumbo — are also classic dishes that guests still love. But the clams, of course, are the main crowdpleasers.

"Our clams go over very well. That's just us putting them out and not doing a whole lot to them," said Hall. "Everyone comments on how fresh everything is. We're doing enough volume that nothing stays on the shelf very long, which is a great thing because it moves the product really quickly so you get really fresh food."

Casual Clam operates 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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