I Got Crabs in Everglades City

Wow, I am so ashamed of myself. I've lived in South Florida for 15 years, and until last weekend I'd never been to Everglades City, stone crab capital of the universe. This little one-horse town is a seafood-lover's wet dream, and it's barely two hours drive from the door of my Lake Worth shack to the parking lot of the Ivy House Bed and Breakfast, 
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the cutest little hotel you'll ever want to see and an excellent place to hole up for a couple of nights. In fact, we could practically hop directly out of our hotel window and cross a small expanse of grass to get to City Seafood, which not only sold stone crab claws by the bucketload (five large claws went for about $15) but also the best smoked fish dip I have ever tasted. We sat at picnic tables overlooking the water and consumed great quantities of gator bites, fried oysters, and grouper fingers, and I can tell you it was all beyond delicious.
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Everglades City has another specialty: In addition to the blue crabs, fresh pompano, and frogs' legs you can get everywhere, they make a mean deep-fried corn on the cob, the best of which is served at the Camellia Street Grill. At Camellia Street the corn isn't at all greasy, just lusciously melting, spiced with thyme and what tasted like cajun seasoning, although the proprietor was unwilling to reveal exactly what went into their secret recipe. Camellia Street also makes a delectable fry bread, which comes with a sort of tomato-pickle relish that's sweet, sour and out of this world. They regaled us with rich and fatty soft-shell blue crab and grilled pompano as tender and soft as butter. Another really fun thing to do is to go to the beautiful Rod and Gun Club on the Barron River in the evening, order gin and tonics, and shoot a couple of rounds on the antique pool table in their cocktail lounge, or bang out some tunes on the old upright piano.

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I highly recommend Everglades City either as a day trip or overnight (the kayaking through the mangroves on the Turner River is pretty magnificent too). As it happens, the famous annual Everglades Seafood Festival is set to run there very soon: February 6, 7, and 8: it sounds like a great opportunity to eat seafood until you drop.

-- Gail Shepherd

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