Last updated on July 26th, 2019 at 08:34 am
No frills. Funky. Fun. Local seafood.
Florida fish shacks represent everything we love about Florida – salt in the air, funky and fun.
You’d be well-dressed at our fish shacks wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. They must serve fresh fish. The closer to the source, the better.
We’re still discovering new Florida fish shacks, and we hope we always will. Here are a few of our favorites.
Also check out our Seafood Festival Calendar
Star Fish Company, Cortez
The Star Fish restaurant is an outgrowth of and is adjacent to the large seafood wholesale company that was founded in the 1920s. Its current owner opened the small waterfront restaurant in 1996 and its fame has grown. Star Fish has perhaps 15 tables overlooking a beautiful expanse of water and mangrove islands in the northern end of Sarasota Bay. The view includes an iconic fish shack on stilts that appears on all the Cortez marketing materials. At Star Fish you stand in line to order your meal at the counter and it gets delivered to you in a to-go box with plastic utensils at your table. At peak times during the winter season, the line can take an hour. We waited about 30 minutes to order, with one member of our group holding down a table, sipping a beer and enjoying the scene.
Star Fish Company Restaurant, 12306 46th Ave West, Cortez. Cash only.
Read more about visiting Cortez and its seafood restaurants.
Triad Seafood, Everglades City
With a location right on the Barron River, Triad is located on the docks through which Florida’s best and freshest stone crabs pass, including those destined for Joe’s Stone Crab on Miami Beach. Triad, however, has a few advantages over Joe’s. First, you won’t have to hunt for a parking space! Beyond that, you’ll find even fresher stone crabs at lower prices (though you should expect stone crabs to be among your priciest seafood choice.)
Being a Florida fish shack, Triad puts on no airs. You dine in a screened patio overlooking the water on picnic tables. “Doesn’t look like much from the outside” is an over-statement. We like the conch fritters and sweet potato fries and the key lime pie gets excellent marks.
Triad Seafood, 401 School Drive West, Everglades City. Closed for summer.
Read more about stone crabs in Everglades City.
Peace River Seafood, Punta Gorda
You may think the best blue crabs come from Chesapeake Bay, but Jimmy Beall, co-owner of Peace River Seafood and a long-time area crabber, knows better. And he proves it five days a week with a crab shack that looks like it could be the prototype of a Florida crab shack. Located in a 1927 Cracker cabin, Peace River Seafood is shaded by a big old live oak tree. Even in the summer, it’s all open air, with newspapers on the tables, a parrot squawking on the porch and customers using mallets to crack open their delicious crabs.
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. The fresh seafood here is sourced from local Punta Gorda fishermen, and it is also a wholesale market.
Peace River Seafood, 5337 Duncan Road, Punta Gorda. 941-505-8440.
JB’s Fish Camp, New Smyrna Beach
At JB’s Fish Camp, you know the crabs are fresh because tomorrow’s dinner is crawling around behind the restaurant. Live crabs are kept alive in double-decker “runs,” where they are nurtured until they meet JB’s chefs. These crabs are local, when available, and the restaurant has its own leased oyster beds, although the oysters served here may also come from Apalachicola Bay or Louisiana. The clams are equally fresh and often harvested from the lagoon.
JB’s has a pure Florida fish shack ambiance – tablecloths are brown paper rolled out in strips; many visitors arrive by boat or kayak from Mosquito Lagoon. The outdoor deck overlooks the bays and islands of the Halifax River.
While the main attraction is crab, other favorites include rock shrimp and the to-die-for crab balls.
JB’s Fish Camp, 859 Pompano Ave., New Smyrna Beach
Hogfish Grill, Key West
Hogfish is as close to the Key West shrimp docks as you can get, and those fresh Key West “pinks” – the local shrimp, which are plump and pinkish-coral color – are one of the two must-haves at the Hogfish. The other, of course, is the hogfish, best experienced in the World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich ($14.95.) This signature dish is made with fresh hogfish (a sweet, mild local delicacy caught only via spear-fishing) plus mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread.
The Hogfish Grill is located in a hard-to-find working marina on Stock Island, which is located east of Key West and an island through which all Key West traffic must flow. For years, Hogfish was a locals-only spot, with reasonable prices and Conch Republic attitude. In recent years, however, Hogfish has been discovered, and was recently ranked as one of the 30 best seafood restaurants in America by Travel & Leisure.
Visitors will find Hogfish unchanged so far. It’s a big chickee hut with long tables and benches and sometimes loud live music on weekend nights.
Hogfish Bar and Grill, 6810 Front Street, Stock Island, FL 33040. 305-293-4041
Rustic Inn, Fort Lauderdale
The main dining room erupts with the sound of wooden mallets pounding tables in unison (sort of) as diners celebrate a birthday or anniversary. For the most part, these folks have no idea whose birthday they are celebrating, but this cacophony is such a tradition at the Rustic Inn, you gleefully go along with the mayhem.
The mallets, of course, are actually for cracking crabs, another tradition at the Rustic Inn that dates back to the 1950s, when this was a little crab shack on a canal at the outskirts of fledgling Fort Lauderdale.
A bowl of the restaurant’s “World Famous Garlic Crabs” — a whopping $52 — is still the most popular item on the menu. The portions are generous and the garlic is not spared, roasted whole and tenderly emerging, peel-by-peel from the secret recipe that sets these crabs apart, bringing patrons back week after week, year after year.
Like most classic fish houses in Florida, there is a selection of fried entrees, including fried clam strips ($16), fried fish of the day ($19), fried scallops ($21), fried oysters ($23), Maryland crab cakes ($21) and fried soft-shell crabs ($27).
If you are looking for a traditional crab house with traditional fixin’s and the traditional fun of getting messy with crabs, you’d be hard-pressed to be disappointed at the Rustic Inn.
Rustic Inn, 4331 Anglers Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. (954) 584-1637
Salty Crab Bar and Grill, Fort Myers Beach
This open-air restaurant has picnic tables under umbrellas right on the sand with a view of the pier and the Gulf. This makes it a terrific place for sunset viewing, but frankly, since it opens at 8 a.m., it’s a great place for breakfast (people like the crabby benedict and the bacon bloody) right through night caps. There is also open-air seating under roof and on a deck.
Fort Myers Beach is a center for shrimp boats (while we visited, we saw them heading out into the Gulf, extending their nets to either side like wings) so I had to try the shrimp here. I’m happy to report, the shrimp was excellent and so was the mahi mai that came with my Key West special ($19.99). Other things we liked: the mahi tacos, the accompanying conch fritters and I’m partial to anyplace that has Cigar City Jai Alai beer on tap.
Lazy Flamingo, Bokeelia
This cozy little Florida fish shack is on the north end of Pine Island, accessible by boat from Sanibel or Captiva via Pine Island Sound and from Boca Grande, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda by way of Charlotte Harbor. By car, take US 78 through Cape Coral and Matlacha, then drive north to the Four Winds Marina.
I love this place and visit often when RV camping nearby. You can dine outside on the deck overlooking the marina or at the bar and dining room inside. And your first order should be “The Pot,” a bucket of two-dozen clams and oysters steamed in beer with special spices, celery and onions. The menu also includes a delightful conch chowder and a hearty grouper sandwich, among other seafood specialties.
There are three other Lazy Flamingoes in the area – two on Sanibel and one in Fort Myers – but I’ve never been and cannot attest to their ambience. If you are staying in the area, you can rent a boat slip at the marina for a straight shot to pristine Cayo Costa Island.
Lazy Flamingo, 16501 Stringfellow Road, Bokeelia
DJ’s Deck, Port Orange
One of my favorite dining destinations when in the Daytona Beach area, DJ’s Deck is your classic Florida fish shack and raw bar, and it’s a favorite of locals. (I know locals that eat there religiously.) You order from the menu at the window and pick it up when it’s ready. Waitresses move through the picnic tables spread across the dock under clusters of tiki huts to refresh your beverages.
The menu is your standard fish shack: fried, grilled or blackened specialties, such as the fish-of-the-day dinner ($12.99), grilled mahi ($13.99) or my mom’s favorite, the fried scallops ($14.99). We never go there without pounding down a bucket of oysters or clams ($19.99) and a bowl of chowder ($4.99).
At times, you have to dodge the line of fisherman who sell their catch at the ice house next door, but that adds to the flavor of DJ’s. If you want a slightly less casual indoor dining experience, visit the “Down Under” on the other side of the parking lot.
DJ’s Deck, 9 Dunlawton Ave., Port Orange
B.O.s Fish Wagon, Key West
B.O.’s is literally a shack — an open-air assemblage of drift wood, recycled sheets of tin and a 1950s Chevy truck apparently held together by bumper stickers. B.O.’s is located within sight of Key West’s seaport and it so captures the Keys ambiance that folks like to get their picture in front of it.
Entering its bar, you pass under a sign that says “Fort and Museum Entrance,” and you pretty much know that nearby Fort Zachary Taylor is missing a sign. Besides its funky style, however, B.O.s’ is known for the quality of its fresh fish.
A favorite: The grouper sandwich is fried with a light cornmeal breading and is served on really fresh bread. The fries are hand cut. Another popular choice is the fried shrimp sandwich made with local Key West pink shrimp.
B.O.’s Fish Wagon, 801 Caroline St., Key West
Alabama Jack’s, Homestead
You know Alabama Jack’s is an authentic Old Florida fish shack because nobody would open a restaurant on out-of-the-way Card Sound Road today. Card Sound Road is a toll-road through the mangrove swamps where Miami-Dade County meets Monroe County.
The signs that say Crocodile Crossing aren’t a joke – this is a wildlife refuge for the shy American Crocodile. It used to be a fishing community, but the only thing left is the ramshackle collection of shacks, docks and barges that constitute Alabama Jack’s.
Don’t be put off by the row of Harleys out front. While it’s a popular place for motorcyclists out for a weekend ride, the place is full of all sorts of people, including many families whose kids delight in feeding the fish over the railing. On weekend afternoons, crowds build at Alabama Jack’s and country music is performed live on a small stage.
Conch fritters, crab cakes and sweet potato fries are what keeps folks coming to Alabama Jack’s, The conch salad is also popular.
Alabama Jack’s 58000 Card Sound Road, Homestead. 305-248-8741. Closes at dusk.
Singleton’s Seafood Shack, Mayport
Singleton’s has been serving fresh fish for more than 40 years in a weathered building with plywood floors and a view of shrimp boats docked nearby on the St. Johns River. It’s a sprawling place, often crowded as Singleton’s fame has spread.
Singleton’s was founded by Captain Ray Singleton, a shrimp fisherman who started out serving breakfast to other shrimpers in 1969. But its combination of scenic locale, ambiance and delicious just-off-the-boat seafood has made it famous.
A few years ago it was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and fans of show host Guy Fieri have been making pilgrimages ever since.
The Minorcan chowder is a must-have, and the lightly fried shrimp (available as a “po boy” or on its own) is another crowd pleaser. Florida fish shacks shouldn’t be fancy, and Singleton delivers on that promise: Everything comes on Styrofoam plates and with plastic utensils.
Singleton’s Seafood Shack, 4728 Ocean St., Mayport. (904) 246-4442
Up the Creek Raw Bar, Apalachicola
Up the creek raw bar is not your typical waterfront fish shack. It is a tall building on stilts with an outdoor deck overlooking the Apalachicola River.
The view is mesmerizing, with shrimp boats coming and going, houseboats parked nearby, birds to watch and the big beautiful Florida sky.
This is Oyster City, and you can get your oysters eight different ways here, and the menu goes beyond with local blue crabs, flounder and shrimp. It’s all on the menu and it’s all good.
The restaurant’s format is a little hard to grasp at first. You must first be seated, and then you order from the counter. You don’t pay at that point. The food is brought to you and you can get additional beverages from a server at your table, who brings a final bill at the end.
Dinner prices range from sandwiches for $10 or $12 to various seafood dinners for $16-$25. Dress is casual and there are many families.
Up the Creek Raw Bar, 313 Water St., Apalachicola. (850) 653-2525
A few recommendations from our readers:
BeckyJack’s Food Shack in Weeki Wachee is not on the water but the food is great, the staff is terrific and the selection of draft beers is among the best you’ll ever find in such a small place. — Rudy
Crab E’s Eatery in Sebastian, FL on the Indian River Lagoon. Part of a Florida grant to promote commercial fishing in Florida and its history. Fresh, local and delicious. 772-388-2727. — Suzy
The Crab Stop, Vero Beach. We love the Crab Stop! Awesome, authentically prepared food and amazingly friendly people. NOT a tourist trap! — Renee
Recommend your favorite fish shacks in the comments below.