By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

Mystic Fish is commemorating 20 years in 2021, and what an earned celebration it is. After surviving the impact of over a year-long pandemic on his independent business, owner and Executive Chef Doug Bebell is grateful for the loyal customers and employees that stood by him during this unprecedented time in shared global history.

“Our 20th anniversary is in July, but we decided that we are celebrating for the entire year,” said Chef Doug.

Without missing a beat, he went from hundreds of guests enjoying meals inside the restaurant to providing convenient curbside Take Away, which is still available from 4–8 pm. Guests call in their orders, pay over the phone, and the meal is placed in the back seat or back of the car, with no contact required. 

While Mystic Fish is seeing an uptick in customers returning to indoor service as they resume regular business hours, the restaurant and Doug are prepared for this new normal, accommodating all customers at different levels of their comfort zones. The restaurant follows all CDC social distancing recommendations, provides plastic dividers between private booths, continues deep sanitization between guests, and requiring masks for guests and servers. Not only is your dining experience extraordinary, but with all precautions consistently employed, an extremely safe one. 

With seating at a limited capacity, reservations are recommended. Guests can make their reservations and place take-out orders by phone as early as 2:00 pm.

When Chef Bebell and his partners opened Mystic Fish in 2001, they connected with Fishbone, a Gulfport artist with the end goal to design a cozy restaurant for the gathering of family and friends, a romantic date night, or a soothing night-cap. 

The décor features a dropped ceiling, 1,200 hand-laid, iridescent Mexican abalone shells border, three saltwater aquariums, horned lit sculptures made from reel-to-reel motion picture film, and hand-blown wall scones from Chicago, and three-dimensional swimming cuddle fish carving. Stained glass windows and unique light fixtures allow for softer light around the whole dining area, bar, Italian fossil-lined booths, and teak wood tables draped in white linen tablecloths.

Doug stressed that Mystic Fish was never intended to be a posh restaurant, simply a casual place where high-quality food was served in beautiful surroundings at a reasonable price. In 2001, nothing like his vision for serving an affordable high-end product existed in North Pinellas, and today, twenty years later, he still is the leader in delicious, innovative meals.

Don’t let those linen tablecloths fool you. You shouldn’t chalk Mystic Fish up as a hoity-toity establishment that’s going to break the bank. It may look fancy and have a menu that makes you drool, but it’s also a down-home friendly, relaxed, fun place to hang out and enjoy a cocktail or beer. You only need to Google the restaurant to see the hundreds of 5-star reviews from guests of all ages. 

In the next month, the beautiful accommodations expand to a newly minted front patio for further safe outdoor seating. Doug has ordered the new awning, umbrellas, furniture, and fans and is excited to provide another level of fun to his restaurant.

Seniors in the community love the value of the delicious and wallet-friendly early dining. Millennials and Generation X know at night Mystic Fish is a great place to go. Hang out, let your hair down after a busy workday, meet up with a few friends, and enjoy some of the best-rated bar service in Palm Harbor without having to travel into downtown Tampa or Ybor City.

“Why drive to Tampa when you get the same thing here for a hundred dollars less?” asked Doug.

To celebrate its 20th birthday, Mystic Fish is asking restaurant diners and bar guests to post a photo of themselves with their meal or beverage on Instagram with the hashtag #20mysticyrs.  A winner will be randomly selected to enjoy a Dinner for Two valued at $100.

The full menu is back to pre-pandemic and is available to review on their website, and Mystic Fish offers delicious specials online that change every two weeks.

Though everything on the menu offers a new and exciting take by Chef Doug, he favors the Bronzed Chilean Sea Bass, a lightly blackened fish served with hijiki soy ginger sauce.

“You can’t wrong with that. The fish is always moist, and the hijiki sauce and the texture of the fish are always awesome.”

Chef Doug recommends pairing the meal with their decadent Crème Brule or Key Lime Pana Cotta. 

When you decide to go out after this long stretch of social solitude, take a drive to an unexpected hidden gem in a strip shopping center on Tampa Road. Be prepared for not just a delicious meal and a diverse menu that caters to every taste preference and age – from millennial to senior citizen – but an experience you won’t soon forget.

“We want to thank our loyal customers and employee base for supporting us over Covid, through Covid, and on into the future.”

For a menu, directions, and more information on Mystic Fish, go to www.mystic-fish.com. Mystic Fish is located at 3253 Tampa Road, Palm Harbor.  Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday -4-8 pm and 4-9 pm Friday and Saturday. Take-out and Curbside Take Away are available from 4-8 pm. Seating is at a limited capacity, and reservations are recommended. Share your meal and beverage on Instagram with #20mysticyrs for a chance to win a dinner for two. Make your reservations and place your take-out orders by phone as early as 2:00 pm by calling 727-771-1800.