Chances are that if you have traveled to Clearwater Beach, Florida, you are familiar with Shephard’s Beach Resort – the stark-white oceanfront complex of hotel, restaurant, bar, and beachfront entertainment, all with a fun vibe and a tropical flare. To some, Shephard’s may be on the smallish side when it comes to a ‘resort’ setting, but its presence is big in the area as it continues to draw large crowds season after season.
Conversely, if you have yet to visit Clearwater, chances are high that you will be drawn to this property for its gorgeous waterfront accommodations or it’s newly renovated buffet restaurant – Ocean Flame, a waterfront dining facility that offers indoor and outdoor seating with fantastic views of the Gulf of Mexico and plenty of oceanfront activity.
The recent facelift also came with a new restaurant title and is now dubbed as an ‘interactive’ restaurant, which is just a modern (and somewhat unnecessary) way of saying that patrons can watch the chefs as they prepare the dishes on the buffet line as well as serve select cuts of meat to your liking at the Carving Station. Let’s face it, if this is what constitutes ‘interactive’, then surely most buffets fall into the very same category.
Unfortunate wording aside, Ocean Flame’s recent renovation is stunning. Having eaten at the original and now having seen the update, we can attest to the fact that the restaurant now truly meshes with the Florida beach atmosphere, with a blue and turquoise color palette and a wave design that blends well with the ocean. The dining room is now much larger, cleaner, and with more seating.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the superb dinner buffet that features a vast selection of seafood, including peeled shrimp, oysters, and fresh and tasty crab legs – though, during the off-season, the taste and quality can suffer.
The buffet also includes a Wok station, which is unique, an International station, and a Carving station for roast beef and other featured meats. To top it off, the dessert section is decadent and delicious with a wide variety of tasty treats.
Given that Clearwater Beach is a seasonal town, Ocean Flame’s hours tend to vary throughout the winter months so it’s wise to consult the resort website before you go. www.shephards.com But once tourist season starts up again, usually early March, you can expect large crowds and sometimes considerable wait times, particularly if you wish to be seated on the patio.
For our experience, we were treated to plenty of boats on the water and a school of dolphins that delighted diners as they jumped and frolicked and made their way down the beach.
Such atmosphere comes with a price so you can expect to pay $34.95 for adults and $12.95 for children aged 3 – 10, which (depending on your budget) may be a tad on the high side if you consider how little a young child would eat when it comes to sushi and seafood.
Despite the beach setting and airy feel of Ocean Flame, no bathing suits, beach cover-ups, bare feet, or tank-top style undershirts are allowed. A casual dress code is in effect.