Tag Archives: Fish and Seafood

Cracker’s Bar & Grill: 502 NW 6th St. Crystal River, FL

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After an AMAZING experience of swimming with a wild manatee, Gabriel and I found ourselves starving and in a town we knew nothing about. Our boat captain told us that Crackers is the best place around to grab lunch, so we headed straight there.

We walked through the restaurant to be seated out back, and found a huge deck with round tables and umbrellas. It had a tiki bar/casual vibe and there was even the predictable dude-with-guitar playing decent, classic rock, cover tunes.

Our waiter took our order and made a few suggestions. We started with the clam strips appetizer- one of my favorite and very rarely indulged-in snacks. We decided to share the suggested salmon and grouper sandwiches with sides of fries and a salad.

The clam strips came out quickly and looked awesome- if not kind of skimpy. They were hot, crunchy and a little bit more breaded than I like, but we polished them off so quickly that we felt a little shorted. The price was more or less fair, but the portion really could have been a bit more generous.

The sandwiches and the bread they came on were delicious. The fish was simply prepared and fresh, and the ripe tomatoes and crunchy lettuce were refreshing. The rolls were great for the first few bites, but quickly got soggy beyond holding, and ended up on the plate while we used a fork to finish the fish. The fries were exactly as requested- extra crunchy and well-done. The salad, made mostly of iceberg and croutons, left a lot to be desired. I find it especially odd when the sandwiches come with a decent lettuce like romaine, and then they skimp with a salad made of iceberg.

Overall, the setting was what made this a memorable meal. The food was pretty good- but not really noteworthy. If you’re in the area, it’s a fair choice, but I’d be inclined to explore more if I’m ever back there with some time and hunger on my hands.

 

Drunken Poet Cafe: 1572 Main St. Sarasota, FL

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soup seaweed salad drunken poet shrimp entree

 

I was supposed to meet my father at Pho Cali, one of my favorite downtown Sarasota Restaurants, but it was closed- as it often is when I attempt to go. Their hours and days are sort of weird and never seem to coincide with my cravings. Grrrr. We decided to give Drunken Poet a try since it’s a couple of doors away, had a menu that sounded good, and neither of us had been there before.

We sat at an outside menu and looked at the menu. They had Japanese and Thai lunch specials to choose from and we both ended up picking Thai. I ordered the Shrimp Pad Pak: Shrimp with assorted vegetables in oyster sauce. We also shared a seaweed salad. My entree came with a chicken/rice soup that came out first in a chipped bowl. I was going to take a picture of my father’s soup instead, but his bowl was also chipped. The soup itself was not good. It was very salty and the flavor was just off. I left it aside after having 2 spoonfuls. The seaweed salad was standard and we both enjoyed it. Nothing special, but I always love seaweed salad and this time was no different. My entree was enjoyable. There wasn’t a ton of shrimp in it, but the shrimp that was there was cooked well, flavored lightly and fresh. The veggies were also light and fresh. This tasted like a healthy meal to me, without a ton of oil, or unnecessary chemicals or seasonings.

Overall, this was a lovely lunch- not the best Thai I’ve had, but not bad. I’m not sure if I’d go back, but If you’re in the area and want a reasonable priced Asian lunch I would recommend it.

 

Anna Maria Oyster Bar: 1525 51st Ave E Ellenton, FL

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If you look at the heading of my blog, you will see that one of my mottos is “I will try anything twice”. Anna Maria Oyster bar proves that point. Gabriel and I had a pretty poor experience the first time we went. As regular blood donors, we were given a $25 gift certificate to A.M.O.B and went to check it out for the first time about 2 months ago. We arrived to find a totally dated and tacky atmosphere, and a crowd of patrons whose average age was probably around 75. We sat in a booth with plastic-y, pastel cushions in the back, and noted the weird painted mural on the walls, the horrible lighting and the feeling that we were in 1967.

We ordered a small salad (mixed greens with tomatoes, toasted almonds, strawberries, blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette), a bowl of lobster bisque, and a cheeseburger with fries, a pickle and coleslaw. Our salad consisted of slimy strawberries, tomatoes that were wrinkled and shriveling on their way to rotten, lettuce that was browning and the most overly-sweet, jelly-like raspberry dressing I’ve ever had. Gross. We immediately alerted the waiter to our total disappointment about the salad, asked for a new one with different dressing, and moved on to the soup. The bisque is raved about on the website and described as award winning on their menu. It was not good. It was so salty, I really couldn’t eat it. It was mostly cream and salt and just enough lobster (or maybe lobster juice) to make it pink. Really not good. Definitely not about to win any awards in my book. The burger was fine. I know it’s weird to order a burger in seafood place, but having just donated blood we needed an iron fix. It was ok, not bad, not great. The fries were pretty darn good, as is just about anything when it’s deep-fried to a crispy golden color. The floppy pickle and over-mayo’d coleslaw wasn’t really worth finishing.

The meal was really just a total let-down and we let the waiter know. Maybe the tables packed with elderly folk have tastebuds that don’t really discriminate food like this, but we don’t pretend it’s good when it’s not. The manager came over shortly after and said the whole meal was on him. He told us to please keep our $25 gift certificate and come back another time. Well, ok. It definitely wasn’t something I would have done otherwise, but a free meal and deep apology warrants chance #2.

So, a couple of months later, the opportunity to go back presented itself when we were in that neighborhood again. We took a deep breath, parked in the lot with as open a mind as possible, and asked for a table outside. We were led to the side of the building and a choice table facing the lake. It was a gorgeous day, with a lovely view and already this experience was way better than the first. A very friendly waitress named Delilah told us the specials, and her description of the grilled shrimp with cheesy grits sounded too good to pass up. We ordered that to start with, plus a Caesar salad, and salmon with dill sauce, french fries and green beans. The app came out fast and looked amazing. The grits were ok but the shrimp were incredibly salted. Gabriel agreed, but ate them anyway, but I really couldn’t manage them. I worried that this meal was going to be worse than the first. The salad and the salmon, thankfully, were actually very good. The dressing was homemade and just fishy enough, the salmon was fresh, cooked well and it’s dill sauce was creamy and delicious. The green beans were fresh and not overcooked- there is nothing worse than mushy green beans, and the fries- like last time, were great. The view definitely made everything taste a little better, and the avoidance of the inside of the restaurant helped to change the feel of our experience to a more positive one.

Overall, I am glad we gave it a second try. It was still not outstanding, but had our first experience been like the second one, we might have gone back by choice and not because we got our meal comped and had a gift certificate to use. I’m still not sure I’ll ever return…but in all fairness, I probably should go back one more time to have the oysters. After all, it’s what they do and what they are named for…and I DO love oysters. Maybe the third time will be the charm. What do you think?

Lazy Lobster of Longboat Key: 5350 Gulf of Mexico Dr Longboat Key, FL

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After a photo shoot with my dad for engagement pictures, Gabriel and I planned to take him out for dinner to thank him. Our plans changed when my mom and step-dad called and said they’d like to join us for dinner- and ended up taking US out instead. We definitely still owe my dad a dinner, and felt lucky to have a great meal with a family who all get along really well.

Lazy Lobster is close to where they all live, and Gabriel and I had recently sampled and enjoyed some of their food at a food festival, so it was a great choice for all of us.

We were seated quickly when we arrived, and a waiter took our drink orders and told us the specials. A quick review of the menu revealed a ton of choices that sounded appealing. As a seafood lover, I’m not hard to please when it comes to fish as long as it’s not all breaded and fried.

I started with a small garden salad with excellent blue cheese dressing. The vegetables were all fresh and vibrant, and with the fresh bread and butter it made a lovely first course. For my entree, I had the potato crusted grouper. It had a crispy coating and was served with a grainy mustard sauce. It came with carrots in an amaretto sauce that were probably my favorite part of the meal. I also had haricot verts in place of the rice that normally comes with it- and they were also bright and flavorful, fresh and cooked the right amount. I hate mushy vegetables and it’s always nice to find a restaurant who really doesn’t overcook them.

For dessert we all shared (but in actually I probably ate more than my fair share) the trio of sweets that included a chocolate mousse, a strawberry shortcake, and a key lime pie (If I am remembering correctly). They were all very good- but not as exciting as I had hoped. It was nice to be able to sample 3 desserts instead of just one, but each one wasn’t really all that spectacular.

Overall, this restaurant was quite good- and has a really pretty outdoor eating area with heating lamps for when it’s chilly. The menu is fairly basic for seafood, but had lots of good options. The service was very attentive, quick, knowledgeable and polite. I would definitely go back!

The Lobster Pot: 5157 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota, FL

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After spending a gorgeous afternoon kayaking at Siesta Key, Gabriel and I were hungry and thirsty and decided to use a coupon we had for The Lobster Pot. When we arrived, we were seated right away near the window and a waitress came over with menus. We asked for big glasses of cold water with lemon and some bread and sat back to look over the menus.

A waiter immediately brought over a basket of yummy looking cornbread and we continued to wait for our water. And waited. And waited. Finally, about 10 minutes later our waitress brought our waters over and we slurped them down like we’d been in the desert for a month. Phew. Hopefully this would not be indicative of the wait time for our meals.

We noticed that many of the items on the menu were listed as ‘market price’ and I did not hesitate to ask the waitress to run down the numbers for us. I’m glad I did, as some of the items were well into the $34 and up range and definitely curbed what I’d planned to order. We decided to start with the steamers appetizer. (market priced at $13.99) We also decided to share 2 entrees. I ordered the parmesan ranch salad topped with lobster and Gabriel ordered the Shore dinner (fried clam strips, broiled scallops/shrimp and fish- which are usually prepared with seasoned bread crumbs but we asked to go without them) and sides of garden veggies and mashed potatoes. Our food arrived quickly and we decided that the water delay was just a fluke. The cornbread was fresh, warm and tasty and we asked the basket to be cleared since we’d already emptied it.

The steamers arrived in a large pot- actually way too large for the relatively small number of clams inside. They were served with the traditional water bath and melted butter. We dug in right away and I was kind of disappointed. These were only ‘okay’. For the amount of money they cost, I would have expected them to taste much fresher than they did- and at least to be given a quantity that justified it. That said, since I didn’t really love them, I guess I didn’t really want more than were served anyway. Uh oh, so far this meal was not going very well.

Luckily, once the entrees arrived things turned around. My salad was large and beautiful, topped with a generous amount of shelled lobster and parmesan cheese. The parmesan ranch dressing on the side was excellent and turned out to be a great dip for the shrimp that came with Gabriel’s meal. The clam strips on Gabriel’s plate were crunchy, not greasy and turned out to be some of the best clam strips I’ve ever had. The broiled seafood was only so-so, as they lacked flavor. They were served in a very buttery sauce- that we’d asked them to go very light on and without seasoned bread crumbs by our request. I guess the flavor usually lives in those bread crumbs so maybe it was our fault for foregoing them- but even so, if it were really cooked right, I think the flavor should have remained. I think it was the fact that they were drowning in butter that took away from the freshness. The sides were also only so-so. As someone who usually finds mashed potatoes pretty hard to resist, these didn’t even really tempt me after the first bite. They were creamy and smooth- and I prefer chunks. The flavor was somewhat off-putting and I couldn’t identify the reason. The vegetables were fine, but nothing to write home about.

Judging from the plates on the next table over, the amount of crab legs for the price also seemed really small. I think overall, this restaurant is fine- but not great. It’s overpriced for what it is, and it’s in total tourist-trap land. I highly doubt we’ll be back…Although if I have a craving for clam strips I suppose there is a possibility.

My suggestion in general is don’t eat on Ocean Blvd. All of the restaurants are only decent, they are all over-priced and over-crowded. Yes, they are convenient if you are spending the day at the beach, but there are SO many better options if you are willing to drive 10 minutes away. Check out the great options on Gulf Gate or head downtown or to Hillview.

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine: 5445 Fruitville Rd Sarasota, FL

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I met my dad and my honey here for dinner a few nights ago at my father’s suggestion and was pleasantly surprised. When I first walked in, I found a totally unexciting atmosphere in a strip mall. It looked like a run-of-the-mill coffee shop inside, but did have a very friendly hostess/waitress to show me to my seat.

We sat in a booth and were immediately served ice water and a bowl of VERY crunchy noodles with duck sauce. I find these very hard to resist and must admit that I ate more than I should have. We looked over the menu and decided to share a seafood with mixed vegetables dish and a shrimp with lobster sauce dish. I also tasted a bit of my dad’s wonton soup– and must say that it was better than average. Not too salty, fresh and definitely homemade. The entrees were also very fresh and full of large pieces of lobster, shrimp, scallops and a great assortment of vegetables.

The service was super friendly and fast and had the feel of eating in someone’s home- where they really put attention and love into what they cook. This, along with a few other experiences I have had so far in the area, has already changed my preconceived thoughts about eating ethnic foods in Sarasota. It DOES exist, it does NOT make me miss living in NYC, and it IS a great value and worth a visit.

 

Lee Roy Selmon’s: 8253 Cooper Creek Blvd Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I enjoyed a fun dinner with another couple here last night. Although I’m not really a sports bar kind of person, this restaurant feels much classier and less sporty than I expected based on the reviews I’d read ahead of time. Yes, there are tons of TVs playing various games, but the feel is more upscale and less rowdy that I would have guessed.

Luckily, our friends had a couple of great tips for us. The first was that if you check-in on four square, you get a free fried-green tomatoes appetizer. Cool! We jumped on that. The other VERY important tip is that the amazing bbq-butter-topped rolls, which do NOT come automatically, ARE free and available and absolutely worth asking for. YUM.

I ordered a frozen strawberry margarita to sip and it was delicious; refreshing, sweet- but not overly so, and the perfect amount of alcohol that didn’t totally overpower the drink. The fried green tomatos were a bit slow to come out, but when they finally did we gobbled them right up. They came with a tangy ranch dressing to dip in, and the slices were thick cut and super crunchy.

For my entree, I ordered the shrimp and grits- something I would not normally choose but it sounded interesting. I also ordered a side of green beans and thought it was odd that it did not automatically come with a vegetable when just about all of the other entrees did. The grits were unreal. Super cheesy and with generous bits of bacon, it was NOT at all a light dish. I still can’t believe I ate the whole thing- it was so rich and filling, but tasted so amazing that I couldn’t stop myself. The shrimp were a bit too sauce-covered, and I think they could have used half the amount instead of drowning them in sugary flavoring that they really didn’t need. I thought my meal was excellent, but really felt that the menu was lacking. I would have ordered a healthier shrimp option if there had been one- but the choices were basically salads or super indulgent entrees and sandwiches.

The meal ended with the waiter bringing over hot washcloths to wash our hands with…Nice touch! I thought the prices were totally reasonable and I would definitely consider going back…next time, I will plan to be more mentally prepared to indulge than I was this time.