Punta Gorda crab shack serves fresh seafood from local fishermen
Peace River Seafood is two miles off I-75 between Naples and Tampa, yet from the moment you pull up next to the weathered wooden Cracker cabin, you feel like you’ve entered a different world.
This is a true Florida crab shack; they don’t come more authentic than this.
You hear the squawks of the parrot on the porch and the BAM! BAM! BAM! of wooden mallets cracking open blue crab claws. The doors and windows are open to the breeze, shaded by sprawling live oak trees.
The prettiest sight, though, is the array of buckets on the tables piled with bright orange crabs (they’re blue before they’re cooked) and yellow cobs of corn.
Mid-afternoon on a November Friday, half the tables are filled. A woman walks in alone and is immediately greeted: “Hi dear, you here for your crabs?” She proceeds to order the $20 all-you-can-eat bucket of blue crabs and sits alone, wielding her mallet in a cheerful attack. It is clear she is a regular.
Other tables hold noisy groups. They go through reams of paper towels as they make their way messily through their crab buckets, with newspapers spread on the picnic table serving as their only plates.
Peace River Seafood serves fresh local shrimp, stone crabs, crab cakes, clams, grouper and mahi mahi as well as fresh fish from outside the area, such as salmon and lobster. But crabs are king here.
Co-owner Jimmy Beall was a long-time crabber and the Peace River is the source of fresh crabs exported around the country. (Folks in Punta Gorda like to brag that their blue crabs are actually shipped to restaurants around the Chesapeake Bay.)
The fresh seafood here is primarily sourced from local Punta Gorda fishermen, and it is also a wholesale market. (If you’re planning a big crab cookout, you can buy their crabs wholesale — minimum order is a 65-pound crate.)
The wooden house was built in 1927, according to manager Sarah Engman, and it’s decorated with fishing nets and floats.
There’s a small informal dining area inside and picnic-table seating on on a covered outside deck under the oak trees. Under the deck, a fish pond is home to koi.
Folks who love seafood make pilgrimages up and down Southwest Florida to dine here. Be warned, however: It is often crowded in season; it is closed Sundays and Mondays, and crabs aren’t served after 7 p.m.
Tip: If you’re not familiar with cracking open blue crabs, the servers are happy to instruct. Several previous reviews rave about a server named Chris, who “taught’ them to how to eat crabs.
Peace River Seafood
5337 Duncan Road, Punta Gorda