The Blue Dolphin restaurant in isn’t bordered by tropical waterfront. There are no sandy beaches to stroll through or lavish waterfalls to embrace diners before they walk through the hand-carved, dark wooded front doors.
But the atmosphere captures the unique allure of Florida charm the moment patrons step inside, from a trickling pond and rustic bridge at the entrance to a cozy yet modest dining room.
The quaint restaurant has been charming customers for more than 25 years, but continues to stay current with a recently revamped menu and updated facilities.
“We updated the menu, added some of the newer choices and kept some of the trends since we also cater to an older crowd,” said Chef Greg Bush. “Everything is scratch-made in-house.”
Many have made Blue Dolphin a weekly stop to enjoy fresh choices in an environment that hasn’t changed much in 2 1⁄2 decades. Its original founder Gus Tsilionis brought his restaurant experience from Athens, Greece, and built a staple in the community.
His son, Tommy Tsilionis, took over the restaurant when his parents retired and carries on in similar fashion, updating some aspects while preserving its original appeal.
Customers can expect a quality restaurant on a modest strip of State Road 52.
The menu has traditional favorites alongside seafood specialties and creations from Bush.
The owners are Greek yet their dishes span a variety of American favorites alongside their own spins on creative fare.
Seafood staples include Gulf grouper, mahimahi, Atlantic salmon and a catch of the day. Other favorites include broiled jumbo lump crab cakes, seafood fra diavolo (shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and calamari sautéed with fresh basil, wine and a spicy marinara sauce), and scallops bruchetta.
One of the chef’s favorites, with tender, moist cuts of Atlantic Salmon, includes salmon Mediterranean, broiled and topped with tomato and dill cream sauce.
Blue Dolphin also has a wide selection of steaks, chicken and pork chops.
Though Tommy Tsilionis runs the restaurant his parents, Gus and Mary Tsilionis, are still very involved. In fact, most guests are greeted by Mary, who spends time getting to know regulars and new customers.
“I can’t stay away,” she said.
Tommy Tsilionis grew up in the restaurant business, helping his parents from the time he was a teen. And he is raising his own children in that capacity. His son, Dino, 19, juggles the family business while pursuing pre-med classes at the University of South Florida. Tommy’s step son, 14-year-old Cusumao, and two daughters, 17-year old Demetria and 16-year old Sotiria, also support the family business.
Tommy’s wife, Vicky, bounces between hosting and waitressing.
Bush has more than 30 years of experience in kitchens and is originally from Maryland, so crab cakes are a specialty.
“I was raised in the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.
Most entrees at the Blue Dolphin include a trip to the salad bar. The restaurant has a full liquor bar, live entertainment and karaoke and a banquet room for planned parties and events.
They are open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. with regular lunch and dinner specials and drink specials throughout the week.
Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at firstname.lastname@example.org.