Had a nice trip to Cedar Key over the weekend. The island is rather cramped with a tiny beach and sludgy water/soil. It was a good time with great weather, however, even if we had to escape by canoe just to get away from all the amateur fisherman. In any case, i'm writing to tell y'all about the chow.
After a long drive and a bottle of champagne, we hit Annie's Cafe (the island has no restaurtants to my knowledge everything is a cafe), which offers a fried menu with lots of sandwiches. I chose the shrimp sandwich, my mate had the grouper sandwich. Both were excellent--- i mean really good-- but the shrimp stole the show, hands down.
Neither of us ever had shrimp so sweet, in a light coating of tempura-like batter. The grouper's batter was crunchier, thicker, darker, and delicious. Tired from the drive, we were saved. Best of all: when i ordered 'the biggest iced tea you have' i musty have looked thirsty, cause she brough me a full pitcher. I couldn't have been more thankful, and drank the whole thing in 5 minutes.
For dinner, we did the Blue Desert Cafe, a cozy, eclectic place run by a female couple with a mixed up menu (thai noodles, tex-mex, sandwiches, italian, etc). The shredded chicken burrito with chiles and cilantro was bland, more like a creamed chicken on a tortilla--- it was good, but uninspiring (and i was un-perspiring). The side of yellow rice was good, but the black beans were dull, without kick (try vinegar or chorizo!) The shrimp fajitas were much better, but low on the shrimp and heavy on toppings. By volume, toppings (good quality) outnumbered the shrimp 4 or 5 to 1. The shrimp was cooked nicely, tho, on a hot skillet with onions and peppers. A double order of the shrimp would have left me wanting more, but overall, we had a good meal.
Our last dinner was at Pat's Red Luck Cafe, a neat place on the water tucked in between a million tourist traps. A nice look to the place. Started with a hefty bowl of fresh clam chowder, which was excellent. Generous black pepper made it even better. Not too creamy, with plenty of clam and onions.
We decided to try the shrimp in hopes that it would taste like the great stuff we got at Annie's. The bourbon shrimp was pretty good, in a very sweet sauce with enough pecans for a whole pie. After the first few bites, however, the dish becomes cloying--- too sweet with too little spice to alleviate it. Could have used some BBQ-style seasoning, cayenne, chiles or vinegar--- just enough to break up the syrupy sweetness. The shrimp were large anbd of good quality, but didn't touch Annie's. All dishes were served with a nice mix of sauteed veggies (squash, zucchini, etc).
The shrimp casino seemed like some sort of abomination to me. The menu mentioned some shrimp in a light egg batter, sauteed with bacon, onions, garlic and peppers. Instead, it was more like scrambled eggs with lots of shrimp, served on a bed of garlicky bacon and veggies, like a warped breakfast dish. The
'batter' was plain eggs, no seasoning detectable. The bacon, onions and peppers were spiked with lots of garlic, but no other seasoning. In other words, this place didn't have a chef worthy of the name. When the waitress spilled a full glass of iced tea all over the (mostly-eaten) plate of shrimp casino, i felt relieved. In other words, the shrimp was good, but the dishes were shoddy and blunt. I could easily forgive the waitress, but not the 'chef.' In any case, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't any good.
thanks for the tips, folks. Cedar Key was nice, but i won't be back. Certainly not for the food.