Aug 29, 2016

Dining close to the source at Boss Oyster, Apalachicola, Fla.

If you love seafood -- especially oysters -- as much as I do, then you probably feel that the fresher the better, and from what I’ve seen it would be hard to find any fresher entree choices than those at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola, Fla.

Nestled in the armpit of the gulf on the Florida panhandle, Apalachicola has long been one of my favorite small towns in the United States, but I never really had an opportunity to stop there prior to our honeymoon road trip last spring.  Somehow, I convinced Punky that this quaint, quiet harbor town on Apalachicola Bay -- famous for its gulf oysters -- was worth taking the long way from Walt Disney World to Pensacola Beach.  We were rewarded with one of the most memorable dining experiences of our entire trip.

Boss Oyster is a waterfront restaurant located, appropriately enough, on Water Street not far from Apalachicola’s downtown strip along U.S. Highway 98.  It’s one of several dining options on Water Street, but you’re not likely to miss the sign or the building.  

I recommend you don’t even bother going inside.  Just head straight to the outdoor section of dockside dining.  Even with a cool breeze coming off the gulf and up the Apalachicola River, delivering a briny, salty scent to our table on a mid-March afternoon, Punky and I felt it was more than worth it …  

Oyster harvesters in action.
… especially when you get to see the next round of oysters arriving while you wait.  Not every seafood restaurant that makes its reputation on freshness has its own oyster harvesters.  Boss Oyster does.

Not a bad haul!
The proof is in the burlap sacks, filled with oysters and chilled on board to maintain maximum freshness.  

To come to Boss Oyster and not have oysters would be almost criminal, so we started our meal with a simple appetizer of grilled Apalachicola Bay beauties, floating in a delicious liquor of butter and their own juices and topped with Parmesan.  Simply prepared, but absolutely delightful.  I especially prepared the little side of horseradish for preparing my own cocktail sauce, but frankly you wouldn’t want to mask the flavor of these mollusks.  

There are plenty of oyster preparations to choose from if you prefer them as an entree -- Bienville and St. Jacob stood out to me -- but we felt we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample as many different items as possible while we were there.  

Punky is still earning her seafood legs, so she went with a safe option -- the fish taco lunch special, utilizing fresh fried grouper.  It got a solid thumbs up, along with the side of red beans and rice.

I preferred my grouper blackened, with sides of cheese grits, slaw and hush puppies.  All of the sides were very good, but clearly the fresh grouper was the star.  Again, it was prepared simply but perfectly -- meaty, flaky and clean with every bite.  

While we ate, we enjoyed the view upriver as well.  In particular, a pair of sea gulls decided to keep us company while they flirted with each other.

Although I think this one really wanted a hush puppy.  

All in all, we had an excellent experience at Boss Oyster.  We didn’t even mind the occasionally slow table service -- it just allowed us to enjoy the view longer.  (Admittedly, we did show up firmly in between lunch and dinner, possibly catching the kitchen off guard.  The only other patrons seemed much more interested in drinking the afternoon away, and I can appreciate that.)  The place definitely lives up to its name, and as far as I’m concerned it should be on any seafood lover’s short list of places to visit.

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...