Apalachicola — Seafood Served with a Smile By Conrad Cooper As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ~Ernest Hemingway
fter a couple of nights of living on the hook, we were all a bit tired of cruising and were looking to be pampered a bit. Apalachicola was our next destination, and with the promise of a nice-sized city with all the amenities—including fabulous restaurants—we hoisted the anchor with high expectations. As if it was a sign of good things to come, the city marina operated with a casualness we hadn’t experienced up to this point. The last lines were secured to the pier, and with a smile, the harbormaster said, “Stay as long as you like, and simply drop your slip payment in the box before you leave.” It’s really hard not to like Apalachicola. Being from the South, I am used to friendly people, but Apalachicola takes it to a new level. Everybody is friendly. Even the tyrannosaurus-sized German shepherd, who playfully meets all customers outside of Honey Hole Liquor, is about the nicest dog I have ever come across. Many of the local citizens like to believe that the Indian word apalachicola means, “Land of the friendly people.” I’m beginning to believe that myself. Not only are they friendly, but they seem to have a personal vendetta against rude behavior. Every business we walked into had some sort of sign 70 November 2013
Oysters and softshell crabs.
Fisherman with pelicans riding along.
proclaiming, “No Crabby People”, “No Pissy Attitudes,” “$5 Charge for Rude Behavior, $10 Charge for Obnoxious Behavior.” My wife Roxanne looked at me and said, “This town could get expensive for you. You better behave yourself.” But we didn’t stop here to visit with nice people. We came for the seafood—and more precisely, the oysters. Apalachicola takes real pride in its oysters, and the local restaurants
prepare these world-class mollusks in a multitude of different fashions that makes you want to try them all. From onthe-half-shell to the classic Rockefeller, to my favorite, oysters with jalapenos and red peppers, covered with pepper jack cheese. My taste buds were in heaven. If you begin to get tired of eating oysters (I’m not sure this is possible) there is no shortage of excellent seafood here. Fresh Gulf shrimp is served everywhere, and a stop at Papa Joe’s restaurant for the soft shell crab basket is a must. Apalachicola sits on 210 square miles of shallow Gulf of Mexico water that is fed nutrient-rich waters from the Apalachicola River. This perfect balance of fresh and saltwater makes this location ideal for oysters. If you take a walk out onto the city pier in the mornings, you can see the fishermen heading out into the bay to check their crab traps, do a little shrimping—and yes, to rake the bay floor for oysters. Pelicans often ride along and wait in a puppy dog fashion for scraps or extras that the fishermen aren’t going to keep. Rake the bay floor is not an exaggeration. These fishermen stand on the sides of their boats and use long wooden-handled rakes to scrape the ocean floor and then pile the oysters into the center of their boats. It looks like long, hard work, but I for one am glad they do it. In between meals, it is definitely worthwhile to walk around town. Apalachicola still has that old Southern feel with many buildings See APALACHICOLA continued on page 69