Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, a favorite destination for hanging out with the BFFs, won a 2024 Besties Award for best restaurant in St. Petersburg-Clearwater. Doc Ford’s, with locations on the St. Petersburg Pier and Jungle Terrace, was recognized as the best moderately priced restaruant.

Presented annually by the Tampa Bay Times, the 2024 Besties received over 74,000 votes and 256 nominees across 35 categories, from dining and entertainment to outdoor activities.

“It means so much when the public, our patrons, vote us the best,” said Joe Harrity, a partner with HM Restaurant Group, the parent company of Doc Ford’s. “We are honored to receive the award, which recognizes the dedication of the teams at our St. Pete restaurants for creating a best-of experience.”

Brian Lowack, president and CEO of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, praised local businesses for their contributions in making 2023 a record-breaking year for tourism. “Honoring the best of the best is a special way of celebrating our hardworking partners who truly make this the best destination in the world,” he told Bloom Tampa Bay.

HM Restaurant Group owns and operates Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, founded on Sanibel Island in 2003 with a fourth location on Fort Myers Beach. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the restaurants are beloved by locals and visitors alike for delivering a legendary guest experience and spectacular seafood.

Serving up its signature Yucatan shrimp daily in a fun family-friendly environment, the award-winning restaurants offer food with a unique balance of flavors inspired by the Caribbean Rim. Known for its sauces, spices and passion, Doc Ford’s is a perennial Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice winner. The St. Petersburg Pier restaurant was named the No. 1 Best of the Best Restaurants for Everyday Eats in 2023 – a distinction awarded to fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor’s 8 million listings.

HM Restaurant Group also owns and operates Dixie Fish Company on Fort Myers Beach.

Philanthropy and community outreach are engrained in HM’s company philosophy. Proceeds from specialty cocktails at Doc Ford’s and Dixie Fish Company raise money for children’s hospitals and water quality issues. HM Restaurant Group also supports local nonprofits dedicated to conservation, community and the environment. The “Ding” Darling Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament has raised nearly $1.3 million for Sanibel’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge since 2012. The 13th annual tournament is May 9, 2025.