I'm a picky eater. Maybe you are too. I've grown up here in "paradise," so I've eaten in more than my share of waterfront seafood restaurants. Growing up in my family, a trip to a beachside or bayside seafood restaurant was reserved for special occasions--birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Mother's Day, etc.
I like to eat healthy food, so a meal of fried fish, French fries, Uncle Ben's rice and a miserly helping of frozen veggies does not make me happy, especially when it is $26.95 per plate. I'm not a health-food fanatic, or a vegetarian, but I do insist on quality food. So I don't advocate eating cheap fast food just to save a buck. Nor am I suggesting that you can't make healthy picks from a pricey beachside seafood eatery. But there are plenty of family restaurants in most beach towns that serve healthy meals at reasonable prices. In some towns you can find a family diner, a vegetarian cafe or two, and maybe even a natural foods market if that is what you like.
Don't feel like you have to eat every meal at the end of a pier, or at the Big Seafood Restaurant that you saw advertised on 15 billboards as you drove into town. As I frequently mention, Denny's has pretty good food at a reasonable price, and there are always local sandwich shops, fresh pizza restaurants, barbeque joints, breakfast and lunch cafes, Mexican restaurants, Thai, etc that offer great food at great prices. If you are really on a low budget, there's nothing wrong with Subway now and then.
Here's how I view restaurant prices:
Cheap: Breakfast, Lunch, $8 per person or less. Dinner $12 per person or less.
Moderate: Breakfast, Lunch, $9 to $12 per person. Dinner $13 to $17 per person.
Expensive: Breakfast, Lunch, more than $12 per person. Dinner, more than $17 per person.
You've Got Too Much Money: Breakfast, Lunch, more than $20 per person. Dinner, more than $25 per person.
When we were in St. Augustine, we found that the restaurants were excellent (some of the best food in the state). But the ones in and around Old St. Augustine, where the concentration of tourists is high, tended to have high prices. So we ventured out around the city to find cheaper food. One of our favorite places is the Manatee Cafe. Another great place we enjoyed for dinner was Flavors Eatery, and out on the island, Cafe Eleven. You can read about those places on my St. Augustine Beach page.
When I'm out beachhunting, or just enjoying a weekend away, I tend to either take a cooler with food, or stop at a grocery store once I arrive, and stock up on things I like to eat. So for breakfast, I might enjoy microwave oatmeal and a cinnamon-raisin bagel in my room, and have sandwiches and fruit for lunch. The I eat out for dinner. Saves a ton of cash, and maximizes my time at the beach. I also take water and juice along, so I don't have to stop at convenience stores or buy all my refreshments at overpriced beach concessions. It all adds up fast.
The point is that you can save a lot of money if you make wise choices, rather than just following the crowd. A little planning can save a lot of money.
Happiness is a Cheap Florida Beach Vacation
Finding Inexpensive Beach Accommodations
Eating Well on the Cheap at the Beach
Go Mobile, Live Cheap, See More, Stay Longer