Before we get into this review little background on the location. Saltwater Seafood Company is located in a 6,675 square foot building originally constructed as a Mexican restaurant. The original concept would exist for a relatively short period of time before the facility was converted into a Famous Dave's BBQ restaurant. After the closure of Famous Dave's at this location in 2012, the restaurant was then converted for use as a Cody's Roadhouse, complete with nostalgic decor hanging on interior and exterior walls as well as the iconic old orange pickup truck near the road. Cody's closed in 2015 clearing the path for the building's newest resident: The Saltwater Seafood Company.
Now, I'll be the first to say, when I heard it was seafood coming to this location I was excited. This is Florida after all, and as state capital, Tallahassee expected to offer some great seafood options. Prior to the arrival of Saltwater, if someone were to ask, "where's a good place around here to get Seafood?" my mind might wonder a bit before I suggest the likes of the Wharf, Shell's, Crystal River, Harry's or Barnacle Bill's. There are other, smaller and lesser known establishments in town for sure, but around here this is a very under represented genre of food.
That said, when Saltwater Seafood Company arrived I was among the first to take a seat to try them out. As is my custom, I experience the restaurant as a normal patron would, the staff is unaware that they are being reviewed. I do this because I want the experience to be authentic and not extra special for me because the restaurant knows its going to be reviewed.
Right away I'll tell you, parking was a breeze as there is ample parking on site. And the wait time for a table was quick as our party was among the first to arrive the evening of the review. Inside the decor has that refreshing "key west" feel, light blue and white tones set the colors of the interior. The bar area configuration of Cody's remains for this restaurant, just refreshed in the style of the rest of the dining room.
Seated at a booth across from the bar, the staff was quick to greet us and ask what we would like to drink. True to my custom, I ordered the sweet tea, as it must be compared to the sweet teas elsewhere in town. Plus, don't we already know what the tap drinks will taste like? The drinks are served quickly, I take a sip and find the sweet tea acceptable to my pallet, although I might suggest a tad more sugar. (SN:: Yes, I'm Black, and sure we like our tea a tad sweeter, but over the years I've calibrated my pallet to the norm and I still think they could use a tad more sugar! lol!)
Our waiter asked if we would like to start with an appetizer and I took the opportunity to order the crab cakes which is another item I order at all Seafood restaurants I visit. I can tell you, I look for jumbo lump meat, I don't like them overly mushy, I don't like any sort of panko breading, and it needs to taste good with the zest of lemon juice. It also helps if there's some sort of house sauce to compliment the dish. The crab cake at Saltwater Seafood checks all the boxes for sure! I would highly recommend this item.
My guest ordered the Gumbo which I did not get a chance to personally sample, but I can tell you it looked great, filled with an entire ocean of ingredients -- large shrimp, oysters, crab meat and more. My guest reported high satisfaction with the Gumbo soup which is served daily, unlike some places you go to that only serve certain soups on certain days.
Finally my meal was served, fried shrimp, cheese grits and because you can never have enough carbs, house cut french fries. Starting with the fries I can tell you, these are the real deal, just like those served at Ted's, 5 Guys, Wing Stop... this potato was cut in the restaurant, fried to perfection and perfectly seasoned for serving. The fries were stellar. The cheese grits as you can see come served with shredded cheese atop a bowl of plain grits. The bowl was not overly cheesy which was probably a good thing. Even more, the grits were a perfect consistency, not runny but not a dry block either. If I'm being honest, I do not often double up on carbs at restaurants, but I had to try both of those items for comparison purposes. So while the grits were well prepared, I'd probably opt for the fries on my next visit and add in a side of a green veggie.
The shrimp, which were without a doubt large and adequately portioned for the order are worth a new paragraph for discussion. I'll say this, I recall the menu saying these were lightly breaded and flash fried so my mind thinks, Okay great, something like Shell's, who's shrimp I love. Well, as you can see, the breading on these shrimp was a tad more than "light". Yes, they were golden brown, yes, they were well seasoned in terms of spices, but would I have preferred a tad less breading... yes. This is not a knock on the taste at all, which was without a doubt, about as fresh tasting as I've ever had. It just the menu describing them as lightly fried got my mouth fixed for something with less breading.
Time to pay the ticket came to the table and I must say, I was shocked at how much I spent! This was not a cheap lunch so be prepared to spend a little money if you visit Saltwater. While it is a nice restaurant in terms of atmosphere and menu, it is not for those on a budget. I would suggest it to those looking to celebrate a special occasion, such as Father's day, which happens to be today!
So thumbs up to Saltwater Seafood Company. Here's to wishing you great success and many years at your new location. I'm glad to add this place to Tallahassee's list of quality seafood establishments.