Best Restaurants in Crystal River and the Food They Serve
Crystal River Florida is known for its nature, beautiful natural springs, manatee tours and encounters, quaint historic downtown area and many water activities like boating, kayaking and paddleboarding. It is also known for its world-class fishing with several rivers and a marshy coastline along Citrus, Pasco and Hernando Counties.
Crystal River is one of the few places where you can swim with manatees. The springs flow at a constant 72 degrees, making the waters attractive to all sorts of activities in the winter months.
We know the list of best restaurants in Crystal River is important to the active visitors to the area. Florida Travel Blog covers these many activities in Crystal River often. Our last visit was in December 2023. Crystal River Restaurants are some of the best on the coast so we come back often.
Despite its relatively small size, 3500 people in 2023, Crystal River is a top tourist destination for its reputation as a top water sports activity center. Tourists from all over the southeastern United States travel here to interact with manatees, visit the many springs and fish in one of Florida’s top fishing locations.
With this many activities in Crystal River, travelers are also looking for the best restaurants in Crystal River, Florida.
Best Restaurants in Crystal River with The Best Food They Each Serve
It is easy to give a list of all the Crystal River restaurants, but as everyone knows, all restaurants aren’t equal in the type and quality of food they prepare. We have always prophesied that the person who goes to a Chinese restaurant and then complains about their steak is asking for what they got!
Our 2024 list of the best restaurants in Crystal River includes the best food in Crystal River that they serve.
We start our list of Crystal River restaurants with everyone’s favorite food, the hamburger.
- St. Johns Tavern – This is a favorite watering hole of the locals. An old historic building skirting downtown Crystal River at 572 N. Citrus Ave. houses this authentic tavern with a wide selection of craft beers and a tavern-style menu.
The Best Food in Crystal River served at St. John’s Tavern is the Smash Burger. This twin patty burger with cheese is the best we have found. It is on a soft bun with the works or customized to your liking. Yes, it is smashed on the grill, greasy and good! One of the downtown restaurants Crystal River.
- Vintage on 5th – Our latestaddition to the downtown Crystal River restaurants was added when we discovered our mistake of not including them on our original list of Best Restaurants in Crystal River. This quaint spot on 5th Street in downtown has a history of upscale dining. They serve seafood and steak but go even further by pairing the right wines with dinner. We consider Vintage on 5th one of the best places for wine and food together.
- Seafood Seller & Cafe – We must admit the name fooled us for a few years before our visit. But make no mistake they know how to prepare some of the most creative seafood on the planet. Located at 300 S.E. US Hwy 19 they are easy to find on the main north/south thoroughfare in Crystal River.
Best Food in Crystal River served is Seller’s Shrimp and Grits, but don’t stop with that. Their take on classic New Orleans dishes is amazing. They have some of the freshest seafood in Crystal River for sale in their retail shop.
- Coney Island – This iconic restaurant in Crystal River is located at 674 NE 5th St. Legend has it that Elvis visited in 1961. We know they do a heck of a lot of business out of this location with or without Elvis.
Best Food in Crystal River is their Hotdog. Not just any old hotdog, but just about every type you can imagine and a few you can’t imagine.
- Dan’s Clam Stand – Located at 2315 N Sunshine Path, one of the main east/west arteries in Crystal River. Dan’s is in an unassuming “shack”. Don’t be fooled, they know what they are doing. This hsack is a great place to eat in Crystal River.
Best Food in Crystal River served at Dan’s Clam Stand is their fried clam strips and fried colossal shrimp. If you like fried seafood, this is the place to go – bar none! This is the king of fried seafood of all the Crystal River restaurants.
- Kane’s Cattle Company – This restaurant in Crystal River is just down the street from St. John’s Tavern at 508 N. Citrus Ave.
Best Food in Crystal River served at Kane’s is steak. Just about any type of steak. They have many diverse items including pork on the menu, but they are known for quality steaks. If you are searching Crystal River restaurants for steak, this is the one to go to. This is one of several downtown Crystal River restaurants.
- The Biscuit Barn – This is one of the best restaurants in Crystal River even if they only sold biscuits! The Biscuit Barn is hard to miss at 1960 NW US Hwy 19. They serve from 7 AM to 2 PM daily.
The best food in Crystal River they serve is the Best Breakfast. Just about everything is good, but The Biscuit Barn is known for their biscuits and sausage gravy as a specialty.
- La Casa Di Norma – If you like Italian food this restaurant in Crystal River will meet all your expectations at 1609 SE Highway 19.
The best food in Crystal River served here is authentic Italian. This is not some cheap spaghetti joint, so enjoy the best Italian restaurant in Crystal River.
- Crab Plant – if you are not familiar with the area, this restaurant in Crystal River may be hard to find at 201 NW 5th Street. It is literally at the edge of Kings Bay on the river.
The Best Food in Crystal River the Crab Plant serves is fresh off-the-boat seafood. They are wholesale buyers from fishermen and they resell and cook their purchases. Stone crabs, grouper and other seafood is served in a rustic setting. This is a rustic Crystal River restaurant on the water.
Cody’s Original Roadhouse – This is one of the bigger places to eat in Crystal River. One of the best-known restaurants in Crystal River. Located at 305 SE Highway 19, Cody’s has a vast menu.
Cody’s is our Best Happy Hour food restaurant in Crystal River. Not only do they have 2-for-1 drinks, but daily food specials are a bargain. Don’t miss their BOGO fajitas on Wednesdays.
- Tiki Bar – The Plantation Inn – The Plantation Inn is one of the most well-known hotels in Crystal River located at 9301 West Fort Island Trail. The waterfront Tiki Bar is part of the hotel. We think the Tiki bar is one of the best restaurants in Crystal River for reasons other than food!
The best food in Crystal River served at the Tiki Bar is anything on the waterfront with a natural breeze and the occasional manatee wandering by. The allure of the boats, the water, the pool next door, cool breezes even in summer, add environment to the flavor.
- KC Wine and Koffee Bar – This restaurant in Crystal River has all the atmosphere of a romantic wine bar. Located at 564 N. Citrus Ave., next to St. John’s Tavern, KC has a great wine list, entertainment and outdoor seating.
KC Wine Bar is our selection for the best wine bar in Crystal River. They have excellent bistro-style food also.
- Lollygaggers Sports Pub – Lollygaggers is easily found at 744 SE US Highway 19. This restaurant is loaded with TVs that carry every major sporting event year-round.
The Best Sports Bar Food in Crystal River is what Lollygaggers is known for. They do serve better than average sports bar food and they have daily specials that rival many other restaurants in Crystal River.
Honorable Mention for Best Restaurants in Crystal River
- Norton’s Riverside Sports Bar & Grill – This popular neighborhood sports bar gets a lot of attention from the locals. They are well known for their wings and nightly entertainment. Norton’s is located at 16 NE 5th St., just a block off US Highway 19.
- Grannie’s Country Cooking– Look, how can you not include an eatery with the name Grannie’s. This is old country cooking. Where else can you find fried catfish, brown beans, and sliced peaches for breakfast?
Then there is the homemade biscuits and grits with a slice of bone in ham!
We also know Grannie’s has been on the Crystal River restaurant scene for more than 20 years serving breakfast starting at 5 AM! Fishermen get up early. They deserve recognition for being one of the best restaurants in Crystal River if for nothing else, longevity serving their guests cracker country food.
- Amy’s Bistro & Boutique – kind of a combination of shopping and eating. We haven’t been there yet but were told it is a great place for lunch.
Waterfront Restaurants in Crystal River
Crystal River is a famous destination for watersports. So, it makes sense that one of many visitors’ first questions is, what are the best waterfront restaurants in Crystal River Florida. While we cover 12 restaurants in Crystal River, the best waterfront restaurants in Crystal River Florida are;
- Crackers for Casual Bar Food – located at 512 Northwest 6th Street.
- Charlies Fish House – located at 224 US-19
- The Crab Plant – Kings Bay, see below for full description.
- Waterfront Social – located at 1610 SE Paradise Circle
- Plantation Inn Tiki Bar – see below for location and description
- Pecks Port Old Cove Restaurant – this is a bit of a drive through the marshes of Crystal River. It is located in Ozello at 139 Ozello Trail.
While these are the Crystal River restaurants on the water, they are not necessarily our recommended places for anything other than being the best waterfront restaurants in Crystal River. The exceptions are noted.
We should note they are the ONLY Crystal River restaurants on the water! We do say that Pecks Port Old Cove may be an interesting drive through the swamp lands of Crystal River. They specialize in blue crabs and have a great view.
For locations of the restaurants in Crystal River check the Crystal River Map below.
Recommended Activities in Crystal River
As noted earlier, Crystal River is a small town being the 244th largest city in Florida. Their size does not match their superb hospitality for visitors.
As a regular visitor, Florida Travel Blog has a few other recommendations for travelers heading to Crystal River Florida.
If you are a golfer, The Plantation Inn has a championship golf course on property. If you want more challenge, a couple of the best golf courses in Florida are just 30 minutes away at World Woods (now known as Cabot Citrus Farms). We recommend the Pine Barrens course.
Crystal River has renewed life for travelers after the completion of the Veterans Highway (see map of Crystal River) that ends at Rt. 44 known as Gulf to Lake Highway in Crystal River. By taking the Veterans Highway, Tampa residents can be in Crystal River in 90 minutes.
If you are a fisherman (or woman), there are a multitude of charter fishing opportunities in and around Crystal River. Scallop season starts in July each year. In 2023 the season starts on July 1, 2023. Everything you need to know about Crystal River scalloping is here.
Crystal River is a fun location in Florida. This is not a fancy resort destination with matching costs. Inexpensive vacations and activities make Crystal River Florida top on your bucket list.
Florida Travel Blog hopes our list of the best restaurants in Crystal River and the best food in Crystal River list makes your trip a little easier to plan.
Crystal River Map
12 Most Asked Questions About Crystal River Florida
Crystal River, Florida is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique attractions, particularly its springs and opportunities for manatee encounters. Here are twelve of the most commonly asked questions about Crystal River, along with their answers:
What are the top attractions in Crystal River, Florida?
Crystal River is famous for several attractions, including Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Three Sisters Springs, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Fort Island Gulf Beach, and the opportunity to swim with manatees.
Where is Crystal River Florida on the Map?
Crystal River is on Florida’s west-central coast. It sits along the Gulf of Mexico North of Clearwater Beach, Florida and south of Cedar Key, Florida.
When is the best time to swim with manatees in Crystal River?
The best time to swim with manatees in Crystal River is during the winter months, from November to March. During this time, manatees seek the warm waters of the springs to escape the colder Gulf of Mexico temperatures. It’s essential to book a tour with a licensed operator for the best experience.
What is the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge?
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area dedicated to conserving the Florida manatee and its habitat. It encompasses several springs, including Three Sisters Springs, which provide a crucial winter refuge for manatees. Visitors can observe manatees from designated areas during the colder months.
Can you kayak or paddleboard in Crystal River?
Yes, you can kayak and paddleboard in Crystal River. Many local rental companies offer equipment and guided tours, allowing you to explore the scenic waterways, springs, and the Crystal River itself. Paddling the river provides a peaceful and immersive experience in the natural surroundings.
Are there any nearby state parks in Crystal River?
Yes, Crystal River is close to several state parks, including Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Fort Island Gulf Beach. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is known for its wildlife encounters, including manatees, while Fort Island Gulf Beach offers a lovely sandy beach, fishing, and picnicking areas.
How far is Crystal River from Tampa and Orlando?
Crystal River is approximately 80 miles (128 kilometers) northwest of Tampa and about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Orlando. It’s easily accessible for day trips from both cities. Crystal River restaurants offer many fresh seafood options other restaurants in Florida can’t offer.
What other outdoor activities are available in Crystal River besides manatee encounters?
In addition to manatee tours, Crystal River offers activities like fishing, boating, hiking, bird watching, and biking. Crystal River is well known for its inshore saltwater fishing. The Crystal River Preserve State Park and Withlacoochee State Trail are great places for outdoor enthusiasts.
9. Can you camp in Crystal River?
Yes, there are several campgrounds and RV parks in and around Crystal River. Some popular options include Crystal Isles RV Resort, Nature Coast Landings RV Resort, and Chassahowitzka River Campground. Some of the nearby state parks also have camping opportunities. These facilities offer a range of camping options, from tent sites to full hook-up RV sites.
10. What is the scalloping season in Crystal River, Florida?
Scalloping season in Crystal River typically runs from July 1st to September 24th, but these dates vary slightly each year. During this time, visitors can snorkel or dive to collect scallops in the shallow seagrass beds of the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of charter boats and guides to assist with the best scalloping.
You won’t find these delicate morsels in Crystal River restaurants because they are not a commercial fishing species.
11. Are there any historical sites in Crystal River?
Crystal River has some historical sites worth visiting, such as the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, where you can explore ancient Native American burial mounds and learn about the area’s history. Additionally, the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum in Inverness, a short drive away, offers insights into the region’s past.
12. Is Crystal River a good place for birdwatching?
Yes, Crystal River is a great destination for birdwatching. The diverse ecosystem of the area attracts a wide variety of bird species. You can spot birds like herons, ospreys, eagles, and many more while exploring the parks, rivers, and coastal areas. Renting a boat at the Plantation Inn is an option for bird watching in the Crystal River Preserve.
Sometimes specific details, seasons, and availability may change, so it’s advisable to check with local authorities and businesses for the most up-to-date information when planning your visit to Crystal River, Florida.
Final Thoughts on the Best Crystal River Restaurants
Crystal River is a fun place to visit. The waterfront culture and laid back atmosphere will keep you relaxed.
This small Gulf Coast town has plenty to do and see. By choosing one of our best restaurants in Crystal River to make your visit memorable.
We also recommend you tour King’s Bay on the river for more about Crystal River Restaurants on the the waterfront.