For those who didn’t have any luck on the water but still want to dine on some fresh-from-the-sea grub, a fresh fish market is a must-stop. Two have caught our eye, both offering some of the freshest seafood available while not costing an arm and a leg.
Mr. Lobster Fish Market and Marina | milemarker 74.5
Mr. Lobster is a roadside marina and fresh market that has some of the freshest seafood in all of Florida. Specializing in spiny lobster and stone crab (during season) and a handful of fish species (grouper, hogfish and yellowtail are consistent), the market is stocked with daily catches—meaning that lobster you’re planning on dining on is very much alive when purchased, or those stone crab claws were just plucked from the sea. Prices are competitive—$11.99 per pound for whole lobster; market for stone crab and fish fillets—while the place itself is quaint in the way a working dock can be.
Islamorada Fish Co. | milemarker 81.5
Commercialized to the hilt, the Islamorada Fish Co. has become a chain restaurant with locations as far away as Denver and Mesa, Arizona, with some deep pockets behind it—Bass Pro Shop. But, as they say, all stories have a beginning. The Islamorada location, sitting at milemarker 81.5, alongside the World Wide Sportsman, is the one that started them all. Opening in 1948 as a wholesale seafood company, the fresh market became an affiliate with Bass Pro Shop in 1998. The retail giant took over ownership in 2003 and went on to open an additional 16 restaurants throughout the country.
Today, much of what made the original Islamorada Fish Co. such a quaint and cool place remains, and that is seafood served fresh from a working dock. Season dictates much of the offerings—lobster season runs from August 6 to March 31 (mini season picks up on July 24-25, 2013—the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July), while stone crab season runs October 15 through May 15. Fresh fish are always plentiful, from staples like mahi, yellowtail snapper, grouper and yellowfin tuna to specials like wahoo and hogfish. Fresh shrimp, both Key West pink and large Florida Gulf, are always available, and specialties like conch, blue crab, scallops, chowders and smoked fish are great for those looking for some alternative seafood or a tasty side.
There are also a wide variety of dry goods to go along with the fresh catch, from local seasonings to produce and sides—it’s a one-stop shop for all your Keys-centric meals.