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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
From passing by, this looked like our kind of seafood joint. A shanty looking type place like this often offers surprisingly good seafood. So we popped in for lunch one Saturday around noon.
We checked out the menu and something immediately caught my attention -- deviled crab rolls with real blue crab meat! We've been visiting the Tampa Bay Area for decades. I worked there twice, in the late 70s and late 80s, and deviled crab rolls are a specialty, especially in Cuban and Spanish restaurants. So I immediately ordered one deviled crab roll to start and my wife was excited to see smoked mullet fish spread on the menu.
The crab roll was humongus, almost intimidating! It was deep fried to the point that the shell was very hard. Inside was a small amount of crab stuffing. Not bad but certainly not what I grew to love all those years gone by in Ybor City at Cuban restaurants. My wife's smoked mullet fish spread was okay but she complained that it wasn't very smoky and she had to hit it with hot sauce and a little salt to bring it to life. Personally, I thought the dip was pretty good but I agree that it could have used a little more smoke flavoring.
For our main meals, I ordered fresh grouper cheeks, a special that day. My wife ordered a "super shack" fish sandwich. When she asked what kind of fish went into it, our waitress told her it was cod. Now don't get me wrong, cod is a damned good fish -- especially when you get it fresh and when it comes from the Atlantic. When we lived in Boston it was a staple in our diet. On the other hand, cod from Alaska, in my opinion, is boring and flavorless. Because cod has been fished so heavily in the North Atlantic, the cod we see over most of the country nearly always comes from Alaska. That was the case here. Not horrible, by any means, but you'd hope that in Florida the Crab Shack would at least offer a fresh grouper sandwich even if they had to charge more.
My grouper cheeks were good! They tasted fresh and they were perfectly fried. Grouper cheeks, if you don't know, are little chunks of meat that come out of the head of a grouper down around the bottom of the fish's mouth. Each head has two and many swear that they are the best part of the fish. I'd be hard put to argue with them, too! When we had our boat in the Gulf of Mexico, we'd always fight over who got the fried cheeks!
My wife's sandwich came with a huge pickle and fries. My grouper cheeks came with a choice of two sides and I went with potato salad (okay, nothing better) and cole slaw (pretty good).
While this wasn't a bad dining experience, we were expecting a little more. We won't make another stop here because there are many better places in the Bay Area for rustic seafood. Lunch for two with sodas came to about $32.
For details on their location, menu, etc., go here.