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Road Trip Florida Trip Report

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POY Feb 14, 2013 05:07 PM

Three thousand miles and several pounds heavier, we have returned from our road trip around Florida. It was great! Staying off the interstates and using secondary roads we had a veritable feast. What follows is a summary of our experiences:
Pensacola/Pensacola Beach: Grand Marlin served up our first taste of Apalachicola oysters and they were excellent. I order grouper with garlic mashed potatoes that were perfectly cooked. It was the first time I had eaten grouper and loved it. Unfortunately, we learned on Key Largo, the fish has been over fished and it was recommended we order something else. Damn, that was a disappointment so from that point on, we did not order grouper.
On a side trip to Alabama we had fried chicken at Champy’s that was excellent. Freshly fried, moist with crispy skin.
Breakfast at the Native Café in Pensacola Beach was a bit disappointing. We ordered the crab cake Benedict but should have gotten an egg dish as they looked excellent. The crab cake had more filling than crab and the Hollandaise was just okay. That being said, I would try the place again as the service and ambience was good.

Apalachicola: We arrived on a Monday when several restaurants were closed but we had great oysters at the Boss Oyster House. The dinner, however, was expensive and disappointing. We ordered the mixed grill that included grouper, oysters, bay scallops and shrimp. For the price, the helping was minimal and, although the grouper was nicely cooked, everything else was ordinary. The breakfast at the hotel attached to the Boss Oyster House was very good and recommended by us.
Perry: Deal’s Oyster House was recommended by a few Hounds and it too served great oysters for a ridiculous price.

Crystal River: Charlie’s Fish Shack served nicely cooked grouper with a good side of coleslaw.

Old Homosassa: Loved the Freezer Tiki Bar! Great atmosphere and service. We ordered the smoked mullet spread, our first, but should have gotten the bucket of shrimp or stone crabs. Place was packed at lunch and everyone was having a good time.

Marcos Island: Here was one of the best meals of the trip. Cocomo’s in a small strip mall is not to be missed. My fish taco was excellent but my husband’s Asian sampler was outstanding. Tuna tartar fixed two ways and a crab roll were fresh and bursting with flavor. Bonnie’s Key Lime pie probably the best we have ever had, anywhere.

Cortez Village: It was cold and windy but we braved the elements and sat at a picnic table at Star Fish Company and had smoked mullet and gator bites. Would definitely go back.

Homestead: At the Chef on the Run we had our first Mofongo. The meat and vegs were really good but we were not sure about the rest of the dish. It seemed starchy to me and, perhaps, a required taste. That being said, the service was friendly and the place was packed.
Mario’s Family Restaurant was our favorite. First of all, we had our first ever coffee con leche and thought we had died and gone to heaven. As long time travelers in Italy we did not think we would ever find the rich, flavorful espressos of that land here in America. But Mario’s con leche was superb as was a chicken/garbanzo stew and their skirt steak. We went back for breakfast and were equally impressed with their Spanish omelet. From that point on, we sought out Cuban coffee joints.
Outside of Homestead is Robert Is Here grocery stand were they make excellent milkshakes. We had a key lime milkshake that was thick and creamy with a good jolt of lime.

Marathon: Frank’s Grill serves an excellent red snapper picante as well as homemade tiramisu. We would have gladly gone back if we had time.

Key West: We sat on the deck of Alonzo’s for happy hour and drank mojitos and ate conch fritters; very nice. That was followed by dinner at the Santiago Bodega. The dates wrapped in bacon, lamb patties and shrimp with chorizo were excellent. The tuna ceviche, however, was tasteless with under ripe mango.

Islamorada: At the suggestion of one Hound, we stopped at the Green Turtle. Very good fish sandwiches. Mine was a fish caprese and my husband got the blue cheese and bacon fish sandwich. The key lime pie was also a hit.

Naples: One of the more fun places of the trip was the Capri Fish House. Packed with locals, we shared a clam strip basket with onion rings which were excellent.

Sarasota: Really enjoyed our first ever stone crabs at Waltz’s Fish House.

Siesta Keys: Miguel’s served luke warm hollandaise sauce over okay asparagus and veal. My husband’s fish platter, however, was perfectly cooked. Clayton’s became our breakfast place especially for the banana foster pancakes. Dinner there was also excellent. Their short rib and rack of lamb are worth mention. The SKOG had okay oysters but the margaritas at the Hub Baja were very good. Javier’s tapa sampler with bacon wrapped scallops comes highly recommended.

Cocoa Beach:The steaks at Backwood Steakhouse were surprisingly good and the margaritas the best of the whole trip. The Old Fish House Restaurant served perfectly cooked pollock as well as homemade key lime pie.

Valdosta, Ga: Technically not in Florida but this was the last meal of the trip and excellent. The Korean Garden serves authentic Korean food right off I75. We had the Korean BBQ box with pieces of sushi, tempura veggies, Korean salads and tender beef. Recommend this place highly.

Thanks for everyone's help!!!

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  1. Veggo RE: POY Feb 14, 2013 05:22 PM

    Nice report. It was cool and rainy today in Cortez, but I took a friend for oysters and shrimp at Star Fish. It was quite busy, to my surprise, considering the weather.

    1. scubadoo97 RE: POY Feb 14, 2013 05:29 PM

      Wow you hit a lot of towns. When last in the Keys Lion fish was seen in several places as the fish of the day. It wasn't cheap but there are many reasons to eat as much of it as you can.

      2 Replies
      1. re: scubadoo97
        Veggo RE: scubadoo97 Feb 14, 2013 05:37 PM

        Many. Lion fish are the scourge of coral reef systems, with hardly a predator.

        1. re: Veggo
          scubadoo97 RE: Veggo Feb 15, 2013 10:53 AM

          Exactly. Eat them up as we maybe their only predator

      2. meatn3 RE: POY Feb 15, 2013 06:23 AM

        Thanks for the terrific review! Your itinerary gave a glimpse at the Florida most visitors never see.

        1. Beach Chick RE: POY Feb 15, 2013 06:34 AM

          Great report...nothing like a road trip, eating fresh seafood in FL.

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            INDIANRIVERFL RE: POY Feb 17, 2013 11:29 AM

            Glad you enjoyed the Ciocoa Beach experience. Who put you on to the Old Fish House?? Great fried seafood does not normally achieve Chow worthiness. Plus the typical Florida location in a strip mall, unchanged decor since opening, and total lack of ambience.

            Which is where I usually get some of the best food in Florida. But atypical for a visitor to try.

            1 Reply
            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
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              POY RE: INDIANRIVERFL Feb 27, 2013 02:02 PM

              We found it on a food app site. We were initially skeptical given the location and decor but it came highly recommend on the food site so we gave it a try. The fish was perfectly cooked and the owner/chef came out and spoke to each table. Turns out he is Swiss and we had a good discussion about eating in America and Europe . His wife makes the deserts and her key lime pie was very good. Nice place

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              Florida Hound RE: POY Feb 17, 2013 02:02 PM

              Nothing to add, except that I was looking forward to your report and you did not disappoint. Congratulations, and it sounds like you achieved your goal of a fun and memorable trip. I really enjoyed that you took in so many Chowhound recommendations and ran with them. Let us in on your next food adventure, soon.
              Florida Hound

              1 Reply
              1. re: Florida Hound
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                POY RE: Florida Hound Feb 27, 2013 02:23 PM

                We find Chowhound is the most reliable source of good food anywhere we travel; good group of people who care about the quality of food they eat. Next major food trip will be Pensacola, NOLA, up the Natchez Trace and through upper Alabama before heading back to the Atlanta area.

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