Old Florida seafood restaurants and markets are sometimes hard to find, but are still alive amidst the seemingly endless supply of flashy tourist destinations. The trick is knowing where to find them. So, we’re going to get “reel” and take a trip around the state. Together, we’ll surf through the essence of old Florida where some of the best local seafood is jumping from hook to fork!
Stinky’s Fish Camp
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
We begin our trip at the northwest corner of Florida, along a 26-mile stretch of white-sand beach, known as the Emerald Coast, to a place called Stinky’s Fish Camp. Located in Fort Walton Beach. That’s right, it’s called Stinky’s. But the food and atmosphere are far from stinky. Stinky’s is a casual lakefront restaurant that features Gulf-to-Table seafood with a New Orleans flair. They offer a daily selection of fresh local seafood among other fintastic items, which include their famous Oyster Log – a raw bar with oysters served 18 different ways, Fowl Gumbo prepared New Orleans style, shrimp, mussels, ceviche, and an incredible wine list that is off the chart.
While you’re there you must check out Stinky’s Bait Shack located right next door. The Shack is a place where locals go to grab a cold beer and watch great music by some of the area’s finest artists. The Shack can also hook you up with a fishing experience like none other where you can cruise Choctawhatchee Bay in search of trout, redfish, and many other species of fish.
5960 W County Highway 30A
Santa Rosa Beach FL, 32459
Seafood Shack AKA “The Kitchen”
Cortez Historic Fishing Village, FL
Head south to Cortez Commercial Fishing Village where the state’s oldest surviving fishing village is located, and you will find a historic treasure called the Seafood Shack. Originally nicknamed “The Kitchen” by residents for its wealth of fish, scallops, and other delicious seafood, this hideaway is still a local favorite tucked along the Intercoastal Waterway in west-central Florida.
Today, the tradition lives on as the Shack continues to feature daily fresh fish specials along with a good selection of newer seafood items such as coconut shrimp with pineapple sweet chili sauce, oysters on the half shell, fish tacos, and local smoked fish dip. They also offer a special called “Catch-and-Cook” for guests of the Shack’s preferred fishing charters. Bring your fresh catch back to land and have it prepared either grilled, blackened, or fried with your choice of fries or slaw and served with either lemon beurre blanc, house-made tartar, pineapple sweet chili, or Jamaican jerk chutney.
Come by land or by sea, the Shack Marina is fully accommodating with 68 deep water and sailboat safe slips and is located right on the Intracoastal Waterway at Marker 49A. Visitors to the marina can also enjoy the waters in a variety of ways. Sunset cruises, dolphin-watching, fishing excursions, parasailing, boat, jet ski, and paddle board rentals are also available within the marina.
4110 127th St. W.
Cortez, Fl 34215
Star Fish Company
Cortez Historic Fishing Village, FL
Another historic fish house located within the village of Cortez is the Star Fish Company. This shack dates back to the 20s and was started with Judge Millis. In the 60’s, following a few ownership changes, Starfish added a retail market in addition to its commercial offerings. In 1996, Karen Bell purchased the shack and added a kitchen so she could serve up the freshest seafood dishes in town. She still owns it today.
Star Fish Company sits on a dock adjacent to a large wholesale seafood market. It is nestled at the northern tip of Sarasota Bay amidst a beautiful landscape of mangrove islands that overlooks iconic fish shacks on stilts.
Starfish was my “FINspiration” for the Maximo Seafood Shack in St Petersburg, Florida. It’s a traditional fish market and waterside seafood hangout with buckets of beers and outdoor picnic-table seating overlooking incredible views. It’s that simple.
Star Fish serves traditional Florida seafood items that are simply prepared as well. Local fish is served either fried, grilled, blackened or sautéed. Light dinners come with hush puppies and a choice of either French fries, cheese grits or cole slaw. Hearty dinners come with hush puppies and cole slaw and either French fries or cheese grits.
While you are there, stop by the retail market and pick up fresh seafood at great prices. Items include grouper, snapper, mullet and stone crab, all caught in local waters by local fishermen.
12306 46th Ave W
Cortez Fl, 34215
JB’s Fish Camp
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Head across the State to the East Coast and go as far south as you can to the tip of New Smyrna Beach where you will find one of my all- time-favorite fish houses called JB’s Fish Camp. JB’s is simply a piece of old Florida. It’s located on a dock in a place called Mosquito Lagoon, whose beginnings started humbly as a tiny fish house where fisherman came for bait in the morning and beer in the afternoon. JB’s grew organically over time to become what it is today – a popular old Florida seafood destination. And a place where you can relax to enjoy seafood and a beer while watching native Florida wildlife by day, and the sun slip below the horizon at dusk.
JB’s has a menu that can please the pickiest of pallets. From shrimp to alligator and clams to pompano, the choices dive deep. And if you are looking for a true Florida blue crab feast, you have come to the right place. Be sure to check out their local blue crabs served the traditional way – whole by the dozen steamed with spices, or have them broiled, fried, blackened, sautéed or stuffed.
JB’s is a great place to see manatees, dolphins and exotic shore birds, but it’s also a great place to catch local fish. Bring a fishing pole and drop a line, or rent a pole and kayak right there. You can even book a fishing guide that will pick you up at the Fish Camp in the morning and return whenever your day is done. They can also hook you up with a pontoon boat cruise to take you through a tour of the native Florida mangroves right in their back yard.
859 Pompano Avenue
7 miles south of the Islander on A1A
New Smyrna Beach, Fl 32169
Key Largo Fisheries
Key Largo, FL
Travel farther south, approximately 60 miles out of Miami to Key Largo, and make a pit stop at Key Largo Fisheries and Market. Starting as a small fish house in 1972 for local fishermen, today, this destination is still an authentic working fishery from where most of the local restaurants get their seafood.
The restaurant or Cafe begins at a walk-up counter called the “Back Yard”. This is where you can purchase freshly prepared Florida seafood items such as stone crab, Florida lobster, Key West shrimp, grouper, mahi-mahi, and fish spread to name a few. Then walk over to a covered dock overlooking the marina to enjoy your meal while watching fishing boats pull up to the docks to unload their catch.
Then there’s the market. The market is an impressive fish house that offers a vast array of fresh Florida seafood items at reasonable prices. You will find locally caught-whole or filleted yellowtail snapper and grouper, along with stone crab and Florida lobster to take home or to your vacation rental. The market also carries Key lime pie and coconut cake, as well as many different types of seasonings, spices, sauces, and other specialty items.
In addition, the marina has a decent bait house where you can purchase live and frozen bait as well as fishing tackle and rigs. By boat, the marina has easy water access for all size vessels and is located near mile marker 100 just south of John Pennekamp State Park.
1313 Ocean Bay Drive
Key Largo, Florida 33037
The Half Shell Raw Bar
Key West, FL
At the very Southernmost tip of the state at the island of Key West you will find a landmark fishing hole called The Half Shell Raw Bar. The Half Shell is a taste of old Key West that you won’t find anywhere else on the island. This place is a true Florida icon with a laid back, casual atmosphere. The establishment has became a favorite of captains and locals due to its central location and proximity to the Key West commercial fishing fleets. From here you can also watch fishermen unload their catch of the day for the market while enjoying the world famous Key West sunset.
At The Half Shell Raw Bar you’ll find an extensive draft beer selection, a large sailfish sculpture, and license plates from all over the world covering the walls. Here you can enjoy freshly shucked “Eat em’ Raw” oysters, or order them broiled in their signature Rockefeller style sauce. Menu items also include steamed middle neck clams, chilled Key West peel and eat shrimp, and conch ceviche.
And right next door is the seafood market that supplies fresh seafood for the Half Shell Raw Bar. It’s also a local seafood market open to the public offering fresh Florida fish such as local Key West snapper, stone crab, conch fritters, Key West pink shrimp, lobster, and hogfish, as well as their own home-made conch chowder, smoked fish dip, and Key Lime Pie.
231 Margaret St
Key West, FL 33040
Have a favorite Florida seafood shack that we missed? Email us and tell us why this shack should be featured on this “Best in Class” list. If you’re a shack owner and would like to feature your restaurant, please click here to learn more about becoming a Fishmonger Approved restaurant.
Swim back around soon so see what you’ve missed!