A week ago yesterday, the Spousal Unit (SU) & I had lunch at The Wharf on St. Pete Beach. It's next door to Sea Critters.
We shared three appetizers - cracked conch, mushrooms stuffed with escargot, and house-made potato chips.
The cracked conch was cut into strips that resembled gigantic clam strips. The generous portion was lightly breaded and flash-fried to golden perfection. It was the tenderest conch that I have ever eaten. Its served with a nice, mild sauce that is lightly laced with horseradish. I think its supposed to be a horseradish sauce, but it didnt have the typically breathtaking flash of inferno in the sinuses that I associate with horseradish. At any rate, it was a nice sauce to go with the conch enough heat not to be insipid.
The escargot had spent more than enough time under the salamander. They were molten hot, shriveled and tough. SU said that he could have ordered it just for the garlicky soppings, though. The sopping isnt enough to redeem a dish for me, though. Id pass on that in the future.
The standout of the trio of appetizers proved to be the chips. I overheard the party behind us complaining on the lag time for the chips shortly after we received ours (which also arrived well after the conch and escargot were served). The server explained that the chips are only cooked as ordered.
Our basket of chips arrived piping hot and lightly salted. Although they were thicker than most commercially available chips, they fulfilled the UK moniker that they bear: crisps. When the basket was empty, its paper liner bore not one single grease smudge!
All that I know about the science of frying was learned from watching Alton (is a god) Brown on Good Eats. These chips had to be pulled from the fat at exactly the right moment, because they were absolutely not greasy at all. Im actually a little embarrassed to be raving on and on about potato chips. Im not even a chip fan.
Our lunch entrées consisted of seared snapper Caesar salad (mine), and a fried grouper sandwich (his).
The salad under my snapper was unremarkable. It did boast at least three slices of bread worth of croutons. I would have preferred more lettuce. The seared snapper on my salad was terrific. At least six ounces of fresh, succulent, perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned snapper graced my bowl. The leftover snapper made a second meal for me (it was really good as cold leftovers, too).
The grouper sandwich looked like fried grouper perfection. The fish made the full-sized bun appear to be a miniature. It had the same non-greasy, perfectly fried quality. When I asked him how it was, he couldnt answer his mouth was full. He just got that funny, far-away look in his eyes that he gets when something is really good. I just asked him about it again, so I could write about the meal without invention. He confirmed my observations, saying, it WAS really good.
Spousal Unit is not quite as picky as I am, but hes getting there.
I think that the bill came to about $30; it was pretty reasonable. I drank a Harp or Bass or a Guinness (I cant remember which) draft that cost $2.75 for 12 or 14 ounces.
Our lunch was eaten under the eaves looking out on the boat slips. If it hadnt been raining, it would have been too hot to sit out there. As it was, it was pleasant. After having to leave the dog beach at Fort Desoto because of the rain, it was nice to get some enjoyment because of the rain.
PS to Lynn & Charlie please email us wed love to get together with you. Its nice to have Chowhounds for neighbors! MsHnyB at yahoo dot com.
PPS to Joan Jeff and I didnt get to talk to you as much as we would have liked at the May Pinellas Hound-up. Wed like to get together again and maybe meet your other half.
3xPS to all of the gang from the May Pinellas Hound-up, wed like to do it again. The next time, I think we should do it like one of those speed dating things where you change tables every so many minutes. There were so many of us in May that those on one end couldnt really talk to those at the other end.
4xPS - shoot me if I add another. There is a really Chowish grocery market directly across the street from The Wharf and Sea Critters. I'll write that up under separate cover.