avenue sea in apalachicola fl
- mike walker
My wife and I dined recently in and about Apalachicola. We stumbled upon a treasure in an ocean of fried mediocrity, a restaurant by the name of Avenue Sea. The chef hails from the training camps of places such as Trio and The French Laundry. He is waging a campaign of clean, fresh, flavorful food in a town that literally fries everything. We dined (a loose term here)... everywhere in town, there are some restaurants that serve seafood from Alaska!? For those of you who are not aware, Apalachicola is considered to be the last great bay in America, the most prolific bay in the world. More oysters grow here than anywhere else. By the way, the oysters at Avenue Sea...tops. The best I've ever had. They were served with an apple and ginger mignonette. The apple, just the right amount of sweet and tart, the ginger just the right amount of heat, the vinegar brings it all together.
Other dishes that blew me away, Pompano wrapped in bacon served with poached dates, lemon and parsley (Everything worked so well together), braised pork belly with mint, shallots, and tupelo honey. I could've eaten that all night long, except my wife wrestled half of it away from my plate. The desserts were awesome. Nothing was too sweet, the crepes were my favorite. Frozen white chocolate cream wrapped with a crepe and served with warm, sweetened oranges and syrup...it was like a present. We had a fantastic time, everything was great from the food, service, to the wine list....lots of great wine, by the glass too. Seek it out if you haven't already discovered this gem.
Great news!! The area has lost a few small treasures in the past year or two, giving way to development.
Is this in the Gibson Hotel? Did you try Tamara's while you were there - it's a Cuban/Carribean Place where nothing on the menu is fried!
Thanks Mike for reviewing Avenue Sea. I'm writing on behalf of my sister who will never get around to posting a review. I read her your review of the restaurant inside the Gibson House and they booked a 3 night stay. They were on a driving tour of the US and spent almost a wk in New Orleans, also went to Key West, Charleston etc. They said Avenue Sea was the best food of their entire trip and possibly the best place they've ever dined at -period.
Apparently the owners are young and energetic because they also get up every morning and cook breakfast. Sister reports breakfast was also incredible and she can't stop thinking about it. Sorry I can't provide more details.
Gibson House accommodations pretty good- read trip advisor. They are thinking of returning for a month next time, renting a condo and eating alot of meals at Avenue Sea! They loved the small town ambiance of Apalachicola as well.
We're thinking of going ourselves- it sounds so wonderful. Thank you chowhounds.
Hubbie and I (and doggie) are on vacation in a great rental house on St. George Island. Ah, relaxation....
We drove into Apalach this afternoon and poked around in some shops. It's such a cute little town. We went to Avenue Sea for dinner and had an exceptional meal. The menu changes seasonally and you can either order a chef's choice, six-course tasting menu for a fixed price or each course individually off the menu, with many delicious choices. Some of our favorites:
The roasted Cobia on a bed of pureed celery root - perfectly carmelized sweet fish and great combination of flavors
Mashed sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallow - sublime!
Oysters - best ever
Pickled shrimp with preserved lemons and ginger. So good!
Amazing gem of a restaurant and we will definitely go back.
They also have a bar menu at the Gibson Inn. We were contemplating a more casual dinner at the bar (Stella Artois on tap, yummy) but I'm glad we went all out at Avenue Sea. We might have to go back to sample the fish n' chips, burger, pulled pork sandwich or garlic gruyere fries with brews at the bar. I'm sure it's just as good as everything else we had.
Phew, I'm stuffed.
OK...I'll answer my own question...
Avenue Sea was definitely superb, on my absolutely-must-return list. That a restaurant of this caliber is in Apalach complete begoggles me!
Be sure and visit the bar first and give Shellie the bartender some business; things have been slow in Apalachicola lately. She introduced us to her friend Ann, who has a screw loose in her head...literally. You can feel it wiggle.
As for other places...
We had dinner and breakfast at the Wakulla Springs Lodge. I'd best describe it as competent and workmanlike, not spectacular but better than the run-of-the-mill fish house and since Wakulla Springs is out in the boonies it's a worthy choice if you're staying at the Lodge. On that subject, the Lodge is _very_ nice, "Old Florida," no in-room TV even, and the Disney version of Florida is a bazillion miles away.
On down to St. Marks; we stopped at a fish house directly at the end of the main road, can't remember the name for the life of me but if you pass Bo Lynn's and go straight you'd drive straight into it. Good smoked mullet. Go back out on 98 and head east to the turnoff south to the lighthouse and enjoy the drive through the salt marshes down to St. Marks Light. Listen very carefully; you'll hear nothing more than the waves sloshing and lots of birds.
On to Apalachicola. We took a side trip to Alligator Point just to have a look; many houses are gone into the sea. Painted on broken concrete was "You can't fix stupid."
Heading westward, past Lanark and Carrabelle, _every_ house and lot has a "for sale" sign in front of it. Vacation homes, weekend rentals, full-timers, they all want to sell before the next hurricane comes in. A sucker's bet.
The first night in Apalach we went over to Boss Oyster; it was OK, a good _real_ grouper sandwich with a proper huge hunk of fish, fried lightly. Strikes me as a nice lunch place. The menu was chock full of various oyster concoctions, things that IMHO you probably shouldn't do to oysters, but whatever floats your boat.
The next day was off to Cape San Blas and St. Joseph Spit (the state park). Last time I was over thataway there wasn't one single structure past the Eglin AFB radar station; now there's beaucoup beach houses etc. We tried, back in the day, but now it'll take a good hurricane. Anyway, the only place open was Conehead's, where we had a decent cheeseburger and fried-fish basket. OK typical beach-joint fare.
We went over beachside to enjoy the first gale of the season; we used it call it Sand Blast for a good reason.
On the way back to Apalach, we stopped at Indian Pass Raw Bar, where us turistas disturbed the locals butt-sitting out front but we chatted and of course found common ground. Indoors, fresh oysters, saltines, Tabasco and Coronas; _perfect_.
The next day on the way home we stopped at That Place on 98, where I had crab cakes and my wife had oyster stew for the very first time. The crab cakes were more crabby than cakey with a little zip of cayenne and the oyster stew was the simple oyster, a litle juice, heavy cream and butter. Very good and absolutely correct for the location.
If you're thinking about Florida and the Redneck Riviera, the Big Bend is a worthwhile trip.
Sorry to post so late. It sounds like you had a good time. I am also happy to hear that the indian pass raw bar is back up to standards. After they reopened from the hurricanes it was an awful experience.
In Apalachicola Avenue Sea is very good. So is the Owl Cafe and Eddie's Magnolia Grill. I prefer Owl Cafe out of the three but all of them are wonderful. On Friday's they have a farmers market by the Gibson Inn that is very nice. There is also wonderful breakfast at Caroline's which is next to Boss oyster and part of the Apalachicola inn.
If you are staying on Cape San Blas it is a good drive to Apalachicola and to Port St. Joe. Port St. Joe Marina has a wonderful restaurant. Loggerheads is on Cape San Blas but I don't recommend it but do recommend the ice cream place coneheads if you don't want to drive to far.
Small notes are go to to the BP gas station if you need last minute supplies instead of the trading post. For big grocery stores the Hogly Wogly in Port St. Joe is nicer than the one in Apalachicola.
I think Avenue Sea is tops in Apalach. There's no competiton at that level -- it really does boggle the mind that the Carriers are there. I've had service issues there, but the food has always been spectacular. Go and go often so they don't leave!!
The Owl is very good and so is Tamara's Cafe Floridita -- both a good alternatives to the ubiquitous fried fish joints.
Boss Oyster is I think the best of the fried fish/oyster houses. Johnhicks is right -- despite all the choices, get the oysters raw and plain. The grouper sandwiches are good there too, as is the smoked fish dip. Fried shrimp is pretty good too,if you are stocking up on the fry.