I just got back to San Diego from a visit to Florida and had to share a great experience I had there. I was visiting my parents who recently relocated to Central Florida from the Miami area. A Saturday drive turned into a "let's drive to the beach" pilgrimage. We got to New Smyrna Beach a little cramped and very hungry around 2:30 in the afternoon.
Driving to the Canal Street antique shops Mom loves, we were hit by a bolt of traveler's serendipity when we spied Mahony's Oyster Bar. The bright, impeccable interior consisted of a long bar and a half a dozen booths. The chalkboards listed a number of sandwich choices on one side and, the Mother Lode, a selection of piscine specials including smoked fish spread, shrimp and oyster, clam or "combo" stew, on the other.
Mr. Mahony, a mustachioed chap in a jaunty driving cap, manned a row of steam heated, stainless steel cauldrons mounhted directly along the bar. They allow him to prepare each bowl, to order. While we smeared the tasty fish spread on crackers with a dash of hot sauce, he crafted the three stews we chose.
The heavens opened and the angels sang! Perfection in a bowl. A brief saute of celery and onion goosed with Worchestershire and hot sauce was followed by the holy trinity or great chowders: half and half, shellfish "liquor" and the chopped bivalves themselves. No thickeners, no trickery. Pure, simple and blissfully good. The still tender clams and oysters were the oceanic stars of the show with a supporting cast offering just enough rich harmony to make the ensemble sing.
The stews are served with moist chewy bread from the Mahony's next door neighbor, Ward's Bakery. (We were sad to find the bakery already closed when we finished our late lunch.)
Mrs. Mahony also knows her way around the kitchen and her house made pecan toffee cheesecake rounded out a great lunch.
Mahony's, at 147 Canal Street, serves lunch from 11:30 to 3:30 and Dinner Friday and Saturday only, from 5:00 to 8:30. It is closed Wednesday and Sunday.