INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Michael Alfaro believes there is a bit of irony involved with opening his new restaurant, Groupers on the Gulf.
Until now, the former executive with a restaurant equipment company has never worked in a restaurant.
Not that he didn’t try.
“I was 14, 15 years old, and I applied for a job at Burger King,” he said. “My brother was the manager. But I didn’t get the job.”
That was as close as he got to the restaurant business until he and his wife, Betty, opened Groupers on the Gulf, at 1401 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. But over the course of his life, Alfaro learned how to cook food.
Really good food.
And despite a lack of restaurant experience, the Alfaros have teamed up to create good food with a friendly atmosphere.
“We have a good vibe,” Michael said. “People come in here dressed up or in swimming suits. We try to keep it low-key.”
Betty, meanwhile, helps establish those good vibes by working out front. Although she also has no restaurant experience, she quickly learned to wait tables while chatting up customers.
“I just love meeting people,” she said. “It’s so much fun getting to know them.”
Meanwhile, Michael is in back using the cooking skills he has learned over the years.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” said Alfaro, who will be the head of the kitchen. “Coming from the corporate world, I’m process-driven. Everything has to have a process, and you stick to the process. That’s how you consistently have good food. You have to maintain a standard of quality and you do that through process.”
Although Groupers on the Gulf had a “soft opening” on Labor Day last year, the Alfaro family — Michael, Betty and sons Michael, Marcus and Matthew — celebrated the restaurant’s official grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 10. Groupers on the Gulf is now open 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It is closed on Wednesdays.
Customers can eat in the nautical-themed dining room or get curb-side takeout.
Cuisine at Groupers on the Gulf includes appetizers like fish spread (smoked Mahi) with crackers, wings and potato skins. Main courses include Cajun shrimp, snow crab, and, of course, grouper sandwiches, grouper Reubens, salmon, shrimp and mussels.
Salads featuring grouper, salmon and shrimp are also available, along with soups like clam chowder, lobster bisque or shrimp and corn chowder. Finish it off with a slice of home-made key lime pie, Island Girl Rum Cake or Tres Leches.
Both Michael and Betty credited local folks in the area for keeping the restaurant afloat during the pandemic.
“We have best people around,” Betty said. “They’ve really supported us and we’re so grateful to them.”
But now that Groupers on the Gulf is officially open, the Alfaro family hopes everyone in Pinellas County and beyond, not just locals, will check out the menu.
“Come on in,” Michael Alfaro said. “I’ll make you something really nice.”