Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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Big water fish market

Where's the fish?

Seafood at its finest all at Big Water Fish Market
During the spring, when the beaches are crowded and the population is plentiful, us Siesta Key locals are asked for advice on a daily basis. What to do, which restaurants are good and especially where is the fish? All good questions but it is surprisingly hard in Sarasota to find a good local fish monger and/or restaurant unless you know what you’re doing.

Let’s face it, if you’re coming from the Midwest to thaw out for a week you want to walk the beach and take in its glorious aura, hang out by the pool and eat some seafood; NOT beef, NOT chicken but FISH. That is the Florida vacation dream. The problem is, despite the fact that you are in one of the largest fishing capitals in the world, you still need to know where to go or you will end up with a subpar fish product. I’m talking about previously frozen haddock, farm raised salmon or tilapia; the type you can find at any grocery chain store up north. What we should be talking about is fresh, local, wild, and sustainable, line caught fresh fish. Grouper, Snapper, Mahi, Pompano, Hogfish, shrimp, scallops and oysters all come to mind.

Locals know seafood is delicious and nutritious. Seafood’s nutritional payoffs are too high to ignore so take my advice and seek out a fish monger near you. If you’re looking for great Florida seafood near the beach, there are only a few places to go. Right here on Siesta Key where you will find one of the best fish markets in the state and over the South Bridge, Sarasota’s longest standing and most well-known fish broker. You guessed it, Big Water Fish Market and Walt’s Fish Market are the two biggest retail players in town. Florida fishermen are continually harvesting sustainable seafood from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and providing their fresh catch to Big Water Fish Market and Walt’s Fish market who, in turn, inspect, prepare, process and provide it to you in their chilled and clean fish counters.

Seafood at its finest all at Big Water Fish Market
Whether you are buying retail to take home and cook for yourself or having a night out in the Village, here are my recommendations for the best seafood on Siesta Key.

  1. Big Water Fish Market: Retail Market and Restaurant. Small yet high profile retail market and restaurant with beer and wine. 6641 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota, 34242

  2. The Cottage: Siesta Key Village restaurant and bar. Chef Evan Gasman is a Seafood Tapas genius and the Cottage provides a great and fun atmosphere with a full bar, music and outdoor seating. 1053 Avenida Messina., Siesta Key Village

  3. Cevichela: Peruvian Ceviche style and Craft beer restaurant operated by a local chef; Santa Maria Darwin. 5110 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key Village 

Seafood at its finest all at Big Water Fish Market
If you do venture off-island, these two seafood places are must stops:

  1. Walt’s Fish Market: Restaurant and retail market. Larger operation with dining and full bar. 4144 S. Tamiami Rd., Sarasota

  2. Lotsa Lobsta: Retail Market only. They specialize in New England style retail such as live Maine lobsters, swordfish and clams. 8780 S. Tamiami Trail., Sarasota

Here are a few must know tips while buying fish from a retail counter.

  1. Only buy seafood from a reputable source. Ask where the seafood came from?

  2. Always buy sustainable seafood.

  3. Fresh fish should have a mild, fresh sea breeze odor. A strong fish odor is not acceptable and happens when the fish is old and/or going bad.

  4. When buying whole fish, look at the eyes. They should be clear not cloudy.

  5. Shellfish should be alive. Tap the shell and it should close. If not, they are dead and you should not buy them.

  6. Purchase your seafood last and keep it cold.

  7. Benefits of Omega 3 outweigh Mercury concerns.

  8. A ½ pound filet is the average dinner serving per person.

  9. Cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness at 350°.

  10. A grilled piece of seafood with a side of steamed broccoli should be part of your weekly diet.

Live well, Eat Fish.
Big Water Fish Market / 6641 Midnight Pass Rd. / www/ / 941-554-8101

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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