Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Peace River Seafood & Joshua Citrus

Serendipity often plays a huge part in providing wonderful new travel experiences as well as in finding good food. As soon as we get even a little bit away from the chain stores and boring sameness of the large food chains, we know we're taking a risk that can be rewarding or punishing. On Tuesday we had two marvelous rewards as we returned to Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring from our trip to Camping World in Ft. Myers. Because either the clerk gave me the wrong directions or I mis-understood them, we hopped on I-75 headed north and quickly found ourselves with no convenient exit to get off until we hit U.S. 17 headed for Arcadia.  At the exit, a sign said that a place called Peace River Seafood was up the road a piece, so we headed there, almost missing it on the other side of the road because of its rundown look and the tropical trees and shrubs surrounding it. We noticed, though, the parking lot was full.


Sarah, the store manager, took our names and then quickly seated us at the end of a picnic table next to two women with huge bowls of crab in front of them. After spending a few minutes looking at the varied menu of crab, shrimp, and fish dishes, Irene ordered Bull Bay Stew, a crab, shrimp, clam, and scallop stew in a fragrant red sauce,  while I choseMyakka Slew Shrimp Creole, a shrimp and andouille sausage creole stew with rice. Both arrived after a bit of a wait in large bowls, looking wonderful, smelling delicious, and tasting even better.  We chatted with the two ladies sitting next to us, finding lots in common beyond the wonderful food. The menu contains lots of seafood choices, as well as enough hamburger, steak, and chicken to satisfy non-seafood eaters who might be in a party.  The Tuesday garlic crab special at $15.95 was a real bargain, while prices ranged from sandwiches in the $9.00 range to elaborate (or at least as elaborate as this informal restaurant provides) concoctions in the nearly thirty dollar range.  We were happy to be seated outdoors, but there's indoor seating, too.

By happenstance, our friend Steve, a transplanted Marylander who engages in an endless search for "real" Maryland style steamed crabs, had been looking online at Peace River Seafood. When he heard we'd been there, he wanted to return, so we went back on Friday. We were happy to see that the same high quality of food and service continued while each of us enjoyed different meals. The seafood chowder was excellent, filled with succulent pieces of crab, fish, and shellfish. My stone crabs were tasty, while Steve and his wife Diann split half a dozen steamed blue crabs with finger-licking enthusiasm. We were treated with a couple of pieces of the best Key Lime pie I'd ever had, tart and sweet at the same time with plenty of flavor. Worth the trip on its own.

Located at 5337 Duncan Road along U.S. 17 headed east from Punta Gorda, Peace River Seafood is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 AM until 8:00 PM. It also has a fish market. Don't miss this excellent fish house with its charming, informal atmosphere.

How to Get to Peace River Seafood

Joshua Citrus

Joshua Citrus has been designated a Century Pioneer Family Farm by the Florida Department of Agriculture. On our way back to Sebring, we made sure to stop by this out-of-the-way grove store just east of Arcadia off highway 70.  I foolishly neglected to grab my camera as we got out of the truck, but I want to highlight this store for lovers of fresh citrus fruit at its best.  Varieties of oranges, grapefruit, tangelos, tangerines, and lemons buyers only dream about in super markets are available here at bargain prices under the live oak trees in the midst of this working citrus grove. The staff is helpful, and slices of fruit as well as cups of juice are available to sample.  Far removed from the highway, there's little of the bustling traffic or crass commercialism one often finds in such places. We probably came away with more than we can finish before it spoils, but the fruit is to sweet, juicy, and delicious to pass up. Remember that the tastiest varieties of Florida citrus have a relatively brief season and always taste best straight from the grove.

Joshua Citrus is located at 4135 County Road 760 east of Arcadia, FL and maintains regular business hours.

How to Get to Joshua Citrus

For those who think Florida is all old people making left turns from the right lane along the coasts, places like Joshua Citrus and Peace River Seafood provide a welcome change of pace and picture of what "old" Florida still has to offer. Such places are scattered all over the state, and we'll be visiting several over the next few weeks. Join us for this change of pace from bluegrass and books.