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avenue sea in apalachicola fl

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  • mike walker Jun 22, 2006 11:31 PM
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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.

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  1. Great news!! The area has lost a few small treasures in the past year or two, giving way to development.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: afairwahine

            thanks for the review! anywhere else to suggest? We rented a beach house on Cape San Blas for a week in December.

          2. OK...Avenue Sea is definitely on the list for our first trip to Apalach in 25 years....

            Where else? Tnx.

            10 Replies
            1. re: johnhicks

              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.

              1. re: johnhicks

                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.

                1. re: carinole

                  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.

                  1. re: myplateoryours

                    can you recommend a good fish market?

                    1. re: rhnault

                      Island View Seafood in East Point

                      1. re: onrushpam

                        anything closer to Cape San Blas? I guess we could always stop on our way in to town.

                        1. re: rhnault

                          I would say stop on the way into town. There are some in Port St. Joe going the other way off the Cape. I don't recall any on Cape San Blas that are there year round. Sometimes there are seafood stands in the summer.

                          1. re: rhnault

                            Seafood 2 Go on 98 in Apalachicola, it is about 20 minutes from the Cape. You can get a 65 lb bag of oysters for 20 bucks.

                            1. re: vinoepasta

                              Hopefully they have some now. They were scarce around Christmas. I did manage to get fresh shrimp and clams though.

                  2. re: johnhicks

                    We're eating at Avenue sea Christmas Eve. I am really looking forward to it!

                2. It's not in Apalachicola, but it's certainly the best food within 150 miles of the area...

                  Liams, in Thomasville, GA.

                  Avenue Sea doesn't touch the place. I think most people who've been there would agree, it's worth the trip.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: wafflepunk

                    so drive 2 1/2 hours away from my vacation house when I live 6 hours away in Tampa to eat at a restaurant in Georgia? That must be SOME restaurant.

                    1. re: rhnault

                      We went to Avenue Sea with friends on Christmas Eve and it was lovely. Crowded, but our waitress was a doll and the food was super.

                      1. re: myplateoryours

                        We were there too! What did you have? I had the oysters, salad with shrimp, duck and cranberry tart. Everything was fabulous!

                        1. re: rhnault

                          Two of us had the oysters and said they were the best they had ever had. Pretty impressive praise since one is an Apalachicola oyster fiend. I had the chestnut soup since I never miss one of Carrier's soups. This one may not have been quite as good as my favorite -- the celestial jerusalem artichoke, but it was still terrific.

                          I also had the salad with that fabulous cabernet vinaigrette. I tasted the shrimp salad which was delicious. Then I had the grouper on mashed potatoes with wild mushrooms which was just outstanding. Three of us had that, one had the duck. And for dessert I had the cream puff with citrus -- a perfect finish.It was really all wonderful.

                          It turns out that due to a booking snafu our table wasn't available when we got there, but we ate in the bar and it was much cozier and quieter (most of the time) than it would have been in the dining room. And the service was excellent -- something that has not always been true for us there.

                    2. re: wafflepunk

                      You are a fool! I laugh at you! You know not of what you speak! I've eaten at both places and you are wrong, wrong, wrong!

                      1. re: wafflepunk

                        I disagree completely. I have eaten at both places and Avenue Sea outranks Liam's by miles.

                        1. re: vinoepasta

                          I am embarrassed to admit this but I have not been to Ave Sea yet - and I own a home in Franklin County! There is no excuse except my jobs keep me busy. I am going down soon and am wondering if they offer good wine (or byob?) and what a dinner for two, with wine would fetch?

                          1. re: sunsuze

                            Christmas Eve was 4 course price fixe for $45.00 a head. They have a large wine list ranging from about $35.00 and up. We had a 2001 Chassagne Montrachet that I think was 70.

                            1. re: sunsuze

                              The normal (nonholiday) menu has smallish courses and the chef recommends you have three or four. They range from around 6-ish for the starters to more for the entrees. I can't remember exactly, to tell you the truth, but we normally spend about $125-150 or so for two, with one wine drinker, depending on how hungry we are.

                        2. Anybody try The Wheelhouse in Apalachicola? We thought it was great, a very cozy, small, homey place. Food was really good! The owners are really nice people too. Our other "find" that we truly enjoyed is Backwoods Pizza, in Sopchoppy. It's changed owners since we were there last but oh, everything was outstanding! Very tasty entrees, awesome desserts and salads! Anybody been there lately ?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: inalather

                            I had it on my list to try but we never made it because of holiday hours. Maybe next trip!

                            1. re: rhnault

                              I have lived at Alligator Point for 15 years and find Avenue Sea to be an absolute marvel. I had Christmas dinner there and every course was perfection. As a
                              "Florida Cracker" who grew up on oysters, tears came to my eyes when I tasted the ones prepared at Avenue Sea. The BEST preparation EVER. I think everyone here has covered the bases really well, but please don't overlook Angelo's at the base of the Ochlockonee Bay Bridge just to the east of Alligator Point. They reopened in August after two years of being closed thanks to Hurricane Dennis. This place is a third-generation family-owned restaurant that serves hand-caught, hand-cooked local seafood. They understand the product, so to speak, and offer it up honestly, with good, clean culinary instincts--traditional old Florida with a progressive flair. And, yes, you can get your grouper fried but you can also get it broiled to perfection with some surprising sauces. And don't pass up "Angelo's Oysters." As for a seafood market--the best, hands down--is My Way Seafood in Panacea (just up the road from Ochlockonee Bay).

                              As for any snide remarks on this board about locals, I am a proud local who, from time to time, gets fed up with comments that suggest we're lazy . . . just as I'm sure some of you get fed up with the ugly, rude yankee stereotype. One of the reasons that Avenue Sea is so sterling--besides their talent and training--is that they use local products grown and harvested by folks with local knowledge; even their leafy greens are from an organic farm in Sopchoppy. We're proud of our stretch of coast, our dense forests, and who we are even when we are engaged in "butt-sitting."

                          2. I ate at Avenue Sea last week, in large part on the basis of this thread. My own experience was a bit more mixed than the others reported here. A few of the dishes were outstanding (cobia sushi, artichoke veloute, agnolotti with beat sauce), but others were merely very good, and some were downright bad (a flavorless shrimp second course, an inedible side of brussel sprouts). Also, our server was just terrible. We complained about the service, and the chef was good enough to call us later to apologize, for which he definitely gets props.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tristana

                              Service can be very iffy there, but I am sorry your food experience wasn't better. I ate there twice two weeks ago -- both times excellent. The second meal was a tasting menu that was just superb. I too had the cobi carpaccio and the agnolotti with roasted beet sauce (what an amazing thing!), also a carrot soup with curried creme fraiche and shrimp in smoked paprika oil that was messy, but delish, and some other very good stuff too! And fab desserts! Hope you go again and it's better next time.

                            2. We're visiting in june. What in you all's opinion is the best hole in the wall fried seafood and/or raw oyster place?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: charlottecooks

                                on the island, go to Eddy Teach's raw bar. great oysters and beer selection. Sometimes Its Hotter was wine tastings and nibbles on Thursday afternoons. the Blue Parrot has okay food, but a smashing tiki deck. for fresh seafood (if you're cooking), go see Doug (not Dale). Doug has fresh, not frozen, grouper and beautiful shrimp and lobster. he should have his new bright yellow trailer by the time you get there.

                                El Jalisco moved (from the island) to Apalach. Tamara's has a new location on Market Street, next to El Jalisco. Tamara's does their tapas menu on Wednesdays. also in Apalach, try Papa Joe's (the locals go here), Boss Oyster (great view and waterfront dining), Verandah's, The Owl Cafe, Avenue Sea, and Apalach Seafood Grill for a fried grouper sandwich (not the world's largest fish sandwich).

                                1. re: charlottecooks

                                  My favorite place for oysters is Indian Pass Raw Bar . I wish it was November now and time for my vacation.... Have fun!

                                2. just ate there a few weeks ago. did the tasting menu w/wine pairing at $75pp
                                  started w/
                                  sunchoke veloute' w/marjoram and curry scented creme fraiche
                                  on to:
                                  sashimi of cobia w/savory cabbage and thai peppercorns
                                  hand cut tagliatelle w/heirloom beets and sweet grass dairy asher blue cheese
                                  roasted alligator point harbor clams w/roasted garlic and rye toast points
                                  olive oil poached oysters w/garlic, fennel, nicoise olives and sourdough crisp
                                  benton bacon wrapped grouper w/early corn and green bean succotash
                                  roasted rib eye w/young onion, pomme de terre puree, and sauce bordelaise
                                  and ended with:
                                  milk chocolate souffle tart w/salted caramel, milk chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream
                                  apalach river tupelo honey pecan baklava w/english styled ice tea w/ pecan foam

                                  it is highly recommended by the staff that all members of the table do the tasting, as the timing of this meal and its service is best done all together. everything mentioned and then some are menu items a la carte if the table does nott want to do the tasting.

                                  by far one of the best tasting/wine pairing menus...ever!