Family Dining - and Trying Oysters for the First Time - in Apalachicola
By Carrie McLaren
Traveling with children involves discovering new places, experiencing new foods and making memories together as a family.
That was exactly the plan during my family’s recent visit to the quaint town of Apalachicola – home to some of the freshest seafood on the Gulf Coast.
I wanted to introduce my children to a town with a strong maritime history and also allow them to see that many of foods we eat are found within the waters nearby. I wanted specifically to introduce them to oysters – the main delicacy of Apalachicola Bay.
As we checked in at the Water Street Hotel & Marina, the folks at the front desk couldn’t help but laugh when I mentioned that I hoped to talk my daughters, ages 4 and 6, into eating oysters. But, armed with a few dining recommendations, we were set to eat our way around Apalachicola restaurants.
Up the Creek Raw Bar
Up the Creek Raw Bar came highly recommended for its casual atmosphere, riverfront views and local oysters.
Our first night in town proved to be the biggest food test for each of us. With entrees such as alligator empanadas, spicy tuna tartare and plenty of oysters, we each discovered something new to eat. I surprised myself when I ordered the alligator empanadas, complete with cheese and hot sauce. While I couldn’t talk my kids into eating alligator, our youngest daughter was willing to taste the crab cakes.
Our first, official Apalachicola oyster was the Southern Fella. Lightly cooked and topped with collard greens, butter, parmesan cheese and plenty of bacon, they were fantastic. For the adults. But the kids weren’t so sure yet.
After chatting with a few more local residents during dinner, we geared up for the next day, with more great food – and more challenges for the kids.
The Owl Café
After a morning of biking our way through town and checking out the local shops, The Owl Café, located in the historic district, was a welcome sight.
Our afternoon lunch included a breakthrough. When offered the chance to try either my shrimp and grits or Dad’s fried oyster po’boy sandwich, Molly, without hesitation, chose the oysters.
There was a long silence around the table as she chewed. Would she like it? Something worse?
“That was pretty good,” she finally pronounced. But when asked if she’d like another, the reply was quick: “No. Thank you.”
And before we knew it, she was right back to coloring on the paper tablecloth with her sister. Still, we had accomplished our goal – she was open to the idea of trying new foods.
After lunch, we made our way down to the riverfront to see the fishing boats coming back to port after a day’s work. It made for great family conversation, connecting the boats to the food we’d eaten and pointing out there’s more involved that simply running to the grocery store.
Boss Oyster, located on the Apalachicola River, prides itself on no ‘road time’ for its oysters. The mollusks are chilled on the boat and, once back to shore, are carried straight to the Apalachicola restaurant kitchen. You can’t beat family dining on Florida seafood that was caught the same day.
The menu was creative, with many oyster options, but we couldn’t pass up trying the chargrilled bivalves, topped with caramelized onions and melted Gouda cheese. And, thanks to a recommendation from our server, we also tried a half-dozen chargrilled with parmesan cheese.
While neither of the girls would take the oyster challenge this time, they helped themselves to plenty of the fried bay scallops, proclaiming they liked the “chicken” we’d ordered for them. (A secret if slightly tricky victory for this mom.)
We talked quite a bit during our meal about how the fisherman we had met earlier had harvested this food, too, and we all agreed we were thankful for their hard work and our tasty dinner.
Our visit to Apalachicola allowed each of us to stretch outside our comfort zones. I’m proud of my kids for trying new things and I think we wrapped up our time there with a greater appreciation for the foods we eat.
Who knows, the next time we go out for dinner, we may order oysters again!