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Feb 17, 2008 11:54 AM

What does South Florida have against eating whole fish?

There is almost nowhere you can get a whole fish on the grill, which I find very odd and frustrating since Florida is so big on seafood. In NY there are many restaurants that serve this, especially mediterranean restaurants and some even base their menus around a large variety of fresh whole fish. The fact that so many transplanted NYers live here and that we have access to fresh seafood year round would make you think that there would be a demand for it but it's almost the opposite.

The one place by me that has it on their menu stopped serving it because of "complaints." (Why anyone would order a whole fish and then complain about the fact that's it's whole, is incomprehensible to me.)

I just don't understand.

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  1. I love the whole deep fried snapper at the "Fish House" in Key Largo.....And if want to do it myself.Riggins Crab House" has their own seafood market, I buy the small, whole, catfish, and deep fry them myself........It is so good

    1 Reply
    1. re: HotMelly

      Benx.I think it's the eyeballs that turns people off.......... LOL

    2. Too many retirees from elsewhere who don't know how to eat fish?

      10 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        It's funny you say that because in NY there's an abundance of senior citizens in the places that serve whole fish.

        1. re: Benx

          No, no, no. Those are senior citizens from New York--a place where many people do know how to eat fish. I would guess that many people retiring to Florida and coming from inland states don't know how to eat "real" fish.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            the new yorkers and east coasters go down 95 to miami and north. midwesterners go down 75 to the west/gulf coast.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I think it is partly retirees- they often are eating smaller meals & many people seem to feel that left over fish is not good. It also is partly tourist - many of them are from landlocked areas & not real comfortable with fish - hence the popularity of fried seafood in Fl. Older style places that are geared to locals still have whole fish, but they are hard to find. Smoked mullet traditionally is served whole but split.

              1. re: meatn3

                isn't smoked mullet without the head, too? at least in my experience. gosh, smoked mullet dip/spread is great! and smoked cobia! fix like crab salad.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Now that I think about it, you are right - I guess the head has been removed. I think I'm so into the flavor the rare times I get to eat it that I hadn't really been as aware of the visuals!

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Looks good! I'm within an hour of Ted Peters this week, so planing on a smoked mullet feast if I can get rid of the cold I caught on the drive down...I'll eat a few extra bites for you!

                      1. re: meatn3

                        meatn3, how were "my" extra bites?

                        btw, here is the smoked mullet dip recipe i thought i had linked earlier:

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Very, very good! Mullet was perfect, the German style potato salad & slaw quite nice as usual and the good tomatoes in winter made it that much sweeter! Now I'm craving it again...Once a year is not enough.

        2. Hrm. I always find whole snappers in Cuban restaurants. "Pargo entero." I also have eaten the fried whole tilapia at La Moon in Brickell. Maybe you've just been going to the wrong places?

          1. I have had exactly the same experience which you have had. Many of my friends, especially women, are extremely "grossed out" by the head of the fish ("especially the eyeballs," as HotMelly said in her post). But they do not like seeing the fins or tail, either. Quite a few Chinese restaurants will serve a whole deep fried or steamed fish, which is where I learned of other people's bizarre aversion to seeing a whole cooked fish.

            When you say "South Florida," I assume you mean Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, since, for reasons which are not clear to me, "South Florida" does not usually connote Ft. Myers or Naples to posters here. I can't help you with Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, but on the West Coast, try the Charthouse (or whatever they are calling it nowadays) in Naples or the Prawnbroker in Ft. Myers. Either they will have it on the menu or, if not, they will accomodate your "unusual" request. Moving up the coast, I know they serve whole fish at T.C. Choy's on Howard St. in the Hyde Park section of downtown Tampa, and, although I have never ordered it there, I feel certain that Yummy House and China Yuan, both near the corner of Armenia and Waters in Tampa, would serve it to you. Good luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: gfr1111

              Actually, I mean the West Palm Beach area, specifically northern PBC.

              I know I can get a whole fried snapper at an Asian restaurant but I'd rather have it on the grill. I can imagine that a lot of women are squeamish about the head of the fish but I'm female and I grew up eating this way so it's no big deal to me. The only way I can have it is if I make it myself and it doesn't work out as well in an electric oven.

              1. re: Benx

                In Asia and parts of Latin America, women seem to be better fish head suckers (getting all the goodness out of the head) than men.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Always enjoy an Anthropologists observations! :)

            2. It's partly the eyeball looking back thing that northerners are not accustomed to, and it's partly that aside from snapper and pompano, many Florida fish are too large to be a single serving.
              I fing it equally curious that Florida diners expect Maine lobster (and most rerstaurants do specify when it is) and the spiny lobster which is the only type native to the area, can be hard to find (except in the Keys).