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Food, Wine & Brews

1/17/2008
Shut Up and Shuck!

Yummy for the Tummy

 

The fried oyster basket at Boss Oyster features more than a dozen oysters, curly fries and slaw.*

Apalachicola's Oysters Simply Rock

By Susan J. Young

If you're in the mood for oysters -- fresh ones that is, they can't get much fresher than in the restaurants of Apalachicola. Driving west along a narrow ribbon of road that's Route 90, we arrived in Apalachicola, eager to settle down for a late lunch in one of the town's oyster restaurants.

Founded in 1831, Apalachicola's early claim to fame was a big cotton shipping port in the 1800s. Today, it's the oysters caught fresh daily from ships based in the harbor's marina.

                                             

Ship figurehead along the docks at Apalachicola.*

Motoring along the downtown commercial center, we viewed gift shops, antique stores, a coffee shop and the usual types of stores found in any typical town. The sleepy town is charming and doesn't seem to have changed much over the years. We didn't immediately encounter any restaurant that caught our eye on the main drag so we logically turned right and drove down to the waterfront.

That's when we saw a steady stream of people, all heading for one place -- Boss Oyster, located adjacent to the Apalachicola River. Seems Boss is an institution here. We met people driving from Georgia, Tennessee and from throughout Florida.

The entry at Boss Oyster (at left) is nothing to look at but has good water views in the rear.*

The restaurant is nothing to look at from the outside, for sure. Just look for the big sign and garish coloring and you're in the right place. To the left is the restaurant's entrance. Walk back along the wall to the podium.

Seating is in the rear along the waterfront. Inform your hostess whether you prefer to sit inside, outside on a covered deck with plastic windows (to keep out the sun, rain and birds) or outside.

Water view from the back deck of Boss Oyster.*

Hearty Menu

Sit where you want but take your appetite whenever you go. On this day, I started with the bowl of seafood gumbo for $7.95. It was tasty, but not exceptional. It was also lukewarm. 

I like hot soup so I sent it back. The next delivery was piping hot, but again the soup was just okay. I'd advise saving your bucks for what they do best, the oysters. 

My mother and I were salivating just reading the menu. We opted to sample some of Boss Oyster's concoctions of flame-broiled oysters. Don't know what you want? Try the Oyster Combo for $15.95; it includes a dozen oysters, three of each of four types.

Picking them was half the fun. We chose the Monterrey with blue crab meat, sherry and Monterrey cheese; the Bienville, a bit more New Orleans in flair with shrimp, mushrooms, garlic and cheddar cheese, the Rockafella I with spinach, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese, and my personal favorite, the Boss Gooda Gooda, exceptionally tasty with caramelized onions, a spicy Creole soy sauce and smoked Gouda cheese.

The plate would serve three people in trying one each of the four oysters, but my mother and I downed it between the two of us. The toppings were melted and crusted, providing a savory essence to the plumpest and most perfectly poached oysters I've ever had.

In hindsight, forget the entree next time, just order a couple of plates of these for a group. They were superb.

On this day, we didn't opt for the raw oysters, but many fellow patrons did. Chilled, fresh shucked on the half shell -- the plain, raw oysters (use your own judgment on the health implications of eating any raw shellfish) -- were $4.95 per half dozen, $7.95 per dozen. Steamed with melted butter, the prices were $5.25 per half dozen, $8.25 per dozen. 

Boss Oyster also offers "We Are Tops" chilled oysters such as Ceviche, served with hot and spicy tomatoes, garlic, onions and peppers, or "Japanoise," chilled with chives, ponzu, Wasabi and flying fish roe. Prices range from $7.95 per half dozen to $14.95 per dozen.

One popular option is the Oyster Roast. Three dozen bay oysters are steamed in the shell until they open, then you shuck and eat them. They're served with creole dipping sauce and melted butter for $16.95.

For our main course, we opted to forget healthy eating. We each ordered an old-fashioned fried oyster basket for $10.95. Boss baskets come with coleslaw and a choice of fries, cheese grits or red beans with rice. You can substitute a baked potato or onion rings for a buck.

Our oysters were well-coated but not overwhelmed with batter. The serving was large with at least a dozen oysters included. 

Oyster lovers will find much to delight at Boss Oyster.*

Lighter Selections

For those wanting lighter fare, the restaurant has sampling sizes of fish, oysters, shrimp and so on. It also has such Boss Sandwiches as oyster po-boys, soft shell crab sandwiches, or the Boss Burger for non-seafood fans.

Among the salad choices were the Seafood Pasta Salad, with tri-colored pasta, shrimp, scallops, crab meat and creamy vinaigrette over spring greens for $9.95.

Boss Oyster says all its fish is fresh off the boats docked in the adjacent marina. Once caught, the fish is packed on ice and never frozen. The restaurant prepares its fish fried, broiled, blackened, char-grilled and lemon-pepper char-grilled.

Shrimp boats along the docks just up the street from Boss Oyster.*

After sampling the restaurant's signature dessert -- the Apalachicola Mud Pie (decadent pretty much describes this $4.95 dessert) -- we hit the road, continuing on our journey toward the western Florida Panhandle. Before leaving we took a drive around town again, this time viewing some of the lovely, historic residential areas, many with Victorian homes.

Apalachicola is an off-the-beaten path place. While it's not on the radar for most Florida travelers., it's worth the trip when you get there. 

For More Information

Boss Oyster: 850-653-9364 or www.apalachicolariverinn.com/boss.html, 123 Water St., Apalachicola 

Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center (850-653-9419 or www.apalachicolabay.org), 122 Commerce St., Apalachicola


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