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Sep 9, 2009 12:48 PM

Fresh Unique Seafood in Central Florida?

I'll be honest, I'm about to give up on Florida as a source for interesting and un-commercialized seafood. That is pretty sad considering Florida's proximity to the sea. Yet all I find are deep fried grouper sandwiches and hushpuppies!

Before I totally throw in the towel, I'd like to see if Chowhound foodies can come to the rescue!

Here is what I am looking for. I'll take something close!

1. Central Florida area, either coast or in the swamp is fine.
2. A dive, hole-in-the-wall, ramshackle place that would send chills down the spine of the non-adventure eater. If I have to hit dirt road before I get there, all the better.
3. A place that actually serves seafood that can be found in and around the waters of Florida. Oysters, Blue Crab, Clams, Frogs Legs, Grouper, Cat Fish, Mullet, Mahi Mahi, Conch, Snapper, Shark, Snails, Turtle, Gator (not bites), etc. (I know.. not all seafood)
4. What about a seafood joint that doesn’t have sandwiches. Why must all seafood in Florida be mashed between hamburger buns?
5. No damn hushpuppies!
6. No burgers!
7. No Alaskan crab legs.... if I want Alaskan crab I'll go there and eat it.
8. No website...

OK.. I think I've ranted enough. Anyone got any ideas? Does a place like this exist in Florida?

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  1. the whole of florida? or just central fl?
    i like tarks (dania beach) in south florida
    and in central florida, the lone cabbage fish camp (somewhere on the st john's river, i get there by jetski, lol). cocoa or cocoa beach i think. tons of cold beer and good fried and grilled seafood. old biker-types and rednecks with airboats and hunting rifles in swamp camo. frogs legs, gator, etc. all from the river right next to you.
    not totally on point, but jimbo's in south-south florida has great smoked fish. and it's in the middle of a swamp! dirt road! half-naked, burnt, cheap-beer-soaked true old floridians.

    all these are REAL, old wood picnic tables, rough-and-tumble divey places.

    2 Replies
    1. re: madkittybadkitty

      I think there is something to be said for beer soaked, half naked, camo clad Floridians. They are great folks and if I am going to get half naked and drink beer, I can't think of anyone I'd rather do it with (well, maybe Germans). ANYWAY.. I'm thinking about checking out a fish camp, but the food seems a bit sandwichy and deep fried.

      1. The Blackwater Inn on the St. Johns in Astor has fingerling catfish, shrimp, oysters, frogs legs and gator tail.

        The Black Hammock in Oviedo has gator, frogs legs, conch fritters, whole and catfish filets, grouper, shrimp, oysters.

        The Jolly Gator Fish Camp between Sanford and Geneva has a real Florida delicacy -- swamp cabbage.

        Of course there's always JB's in New Smryna, which I think has gone downhill the last few years, but they are well known for local oysters, clams, shrimp, fish, gator, etc.

        For some real Cracker cuisine head over to Cross Creek to the Yearling Restaurant where they feature venison, quail, Cooter (that's a type of turtle), frogs legs, and the ubiquitous gator.

        If you want to drive a bit, head to the west coast to a place called Pecks Port Cove, near Homassassa, for crabs.

        I don't believe snails are native to FL (well, the edible kind, anyway) but someone may correct me there....

        There are PLENTY of places like you're looking for -- have fun exploring, Jason!

        1 Reply
        1. re: bcodom

          As an aside, I believe your regular garden snail is edible, or, put another way, that's the only kind of snail there is, at least in France. You half-fill a shoebox with cornmeal, move some snails in, let them eat until they're full of cornmeal, and voila: escargots.

        2. On the east coast, get to Dixie Crossroads in Titusville & order the broiled rock shrimp.

          1. not sure if you're willing to make the drive, but on the 520 on the way to cocoa is a hole in the wall seafood joint thats my personal favorite. "crab heaven" is in between 2 car dealerships and if you drive to fast you'll miss it. the only thing they sell is seafood, no meat. they've got clams, oysters, shrimp, blue and snow crabs, and a couple varieties of fish. the place has non matching chairs(everyone is different) with brown butcher paper as your placemat and dollar store beer mugs. it's a real local dive and i love it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hydro13

              Awsome suggestions here! I'm going to try some of these places soon and I'll try and report back. Swamp Cabbage! Yes! Crab Heaven sound good too.. I might need to start a blog on Florida Seafood (and river food). Thanks Guys!

            2. I can vouch for Dixie Crossroads. They are a little gimicky but their rock shrimp is great (broiled for sure). You can also order their broiled mullet or local pompano. These are the only items I love there, everything else is ok. The market (Wild Ocean Seafood Market) that supplies them with rock shrimp also has great smoked mullet and smoked mullet dip, gator tail, frog legs, clams, etc. Ask for the Royal Reds, they are very unique to the Florida and can only be found certain times of the year.
              In Titusville, there is Lloyd have Mercy in the corner of South and Park Ave. He does a lot of soulfood and BBQ. I personally like him because he has Sheepshead on his menu (which many restaurants do not and it is a great fish).
              There is also Mrs. Apple's Crab Shack which is great. The Indian River feeds their tanks where their crabs are ready to be picked. You can pick out your own crabs and they clean them for free.
              On your way to East Coast via SR-50, you should stop at the Jungle Adventures's Big Alligator where a couple cooks from a school bus. They built their own bistro (Old School Coffee Stop) next to the ginormous alligator and serve gourmet food at crazy prices. Ask for the Reptile Ryan (BBQ gator sauteed) and do not leave without trying their bread pudding and choffee. (this is my favorite ever and they do not serve sandwiches)

              *** the state closed down Turtle season for good, so you cannot find Turtle legally in Florida***********

              2 Replies
              1. re: honduranterror

                I'm glad you mentioned Ms. Apples! We are familar with her place and love it. Not only are the crabs fantastic, but Ms. Apples is an awsome lady. I've had her Rock Shrimp too and they were great.

                School bus resturant sounds good, but when you say "crazy prices".. do you mean crazy cheap? I normally say crazy prices when they are too expensive. Just checking! I think my son will love the Gator, so we will certainly go check it out.

                I have a good list to keep me busy now.. awsome.

                1. re: jason32835

                  Crazy Cheap...... a small bread pudding is only $1.50 and a small order of their Tequila Sunrise chicken grill (which easily puts my hungry at ease) is only $3.75. They also have a special brew of sweet tea which is amazing: the citrus one. I love them