Seafood in Orlando

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    It's a great temptation to spend too-much time describing the fun of J.B.'s Fish Camp or the pleasure of eating fresh seafood along the Indian River with boats docking and pelicans flying overhead. This is not exactly the type of place to reel in hordes of yuppies. This is a real fish camp, where you can buy bait and tackle. Look elsewhere for architectural monuments or fancy atmosphere.

    The restaurant itself is simply a medium-sized wood shack with a tin roof. You park your car on a dirt road that may have a few hungry dogs hanging around. When you get inside J.B.'s, it gets a little spiffier; Tiffany-ish lamps hang from the ceiling -- but they're actually beer ads.

    The restaurant itself is simply a medium-sized wood shack with a tin roof. You park your car on a dirt road that may have a few hungry dogs hanging around. When you get inside J.B.'s, it gets a little spiffier; Tiffany-ish lamps hang from the ceiling -- but they're actually beer ads.

    Apparently the place is not too friendly to kids. A sign warns that "unattended children will be used as crab bait." Not likely, because you don't generally see a lot of children around J.B.'s. What you do see is a lot of locals and bikers and others who are fishing for fresh seafood, well-prepared and well-served.

    Apparently the place is not too friendly to kids. A sign warns that "unattended children will be used as crab bait." Not likely, because you don't generally see a lot of children around J.B.'s. What you do see is a lot of locals and bikers and others who are fishing for fresh seafood, well-prepared and well-served.

    On several visits, the lightly breaded crabcake sandwich ($5.25) has never disappointed me. The apparently home-made tartar sauce in large bottles is subtle enough not to overwhelm the tender crabmeat.

    On several visits, the lightly breaded crabcake sandwich ($5.25) has never disappointed me. The apparently home-made tartar sauce in large bottles is subtle enough not to overwhelm the tender crabmeat.

    One evening for dinner, I tried the pompano fillet ($14.95) which was a fine piece of perfectly grilled fish. Corn on the cob was not available, but sweet corn served as a side dish was fine, if not very unusual. The rice came with red peppers that gave it just the right sort of peppery taste. And the crunchy, slightly sweet hush puppies were among the best I've ever had.

    One evening for dinner, I tried the pompano fillet ($14.95) which was a fine piece of perfectly grilled fish. Corn on the cob was not available, but sweet corn served as a side dish was fine, if not very unusual. The rice came with red peppers that gave it just the right sort of peppery taste. And the crunchy, slightly sweet hush puppies were among the best I've ever had.

    One time, to test the waters you might say, I decided to try one of J.B.'s two steak offerings. The 8-ounce sirloin ($8.95) was a perfectly good piece of lean, juicy meat, well-cooked as ordered.

    One time, to test the waters you might say, I decided to try one of J.B.'s two steak offerings. The 8-ounce sirloin ($8.95) was a perfectly good piece of lean, juicy meat, well-cooked as ordered.

    The only criticism I had that night was that the "Cajun onion strings" ($2.50 as a side-order) were limp, flabby and unappetizing.

    The only criticism I had that night was that the "Cajun onion strings" ($2.50 as a side-order) were limp, flabby and unappetizing.

    The only dessert offered is Key lime pie ($3). This home-made pie was a pale yellow, had a great crust and wasn't sickeningly sweet.

    The only dessert offered is Key lime pie ($3). This home-made pie was a pale yellow, had a great crust and wasn't sickeningly sweet.

    Service here has always been brisk and efficient. Good Canadian Molson beer is on draft ($1.60 a glass or $6.50 a pitcher).

    Service here has always been brisk and efficient. Good Canadian Molson beer is on draft ($1.60 a glass or $6.50 a pitcher).

    Cold beer and simply prepared fish, briskly served in a fun atmosphere -- some may prefer something fancier and it's admittedly not to everyone's taste, but it's enough for me to take the bait anytime.

    One of my favorite manhattan restaurants is Sardi's where celebrity caricatures on the walls are fun to study, and the food is good, too. On a recent visit to Jack's Place in the Clarion Plaza Hotel on International Drive, I discovered an establishment with a remarkably similar ambience.

    Soft light from wrought-iron chandeliers enhance dark woods, marble room dividers and shadowy archways. Tables are draped with linen and feature brass oil lamps.

    Soft light from wrought-iron chandeliers enhance dark woods, marble room dividers and shadowy archways. Tables are draped with linen and feature brass oil lamps.

    Upon our arrival for dinner, we were promptly seated in a cozy corner surrounded by sketches of world-class luminaries, many of whom autographed the works. The art was created by Jack Rosen during his 30-year tenure with the Waldorf Astoria and is believed to be the largest collection of its kind. (Jack's son, Harris, owns the Clarion.)

    Upon our arrival for dinner, we were promptly seated in a cozy corner surrounded by sketches of world-class luminaries, many of whom autographed the works. The art was created by Jack Rosen during his 30-year tenure with the Waldorf Astoria and is believed to be the largest collection of its kind. (Jack's son, Harris, owns the Clarion.)

    Entrees range from steak and seafood to pasta and chicken. All come with baked potato, vegetable and a basket of garlic French bread, with whipped butter and "Texas caviar" -- a novel accoutrement of cold (and undercooked) black-eyed peas, cilantro, onion and bell peppers in a mild vinaigrette. Although the mixture was refreshing, we found it impossible to keep the concoction on the bread.

    Entrees range from steak and seafood to pasta and chicken. All come with baked potato, vegetable and a basket of garlic French bread, with whipped butter and "Texas caviar" -- a novel accoutrement of cold (and undercooked) black-eyed peas, cilantro, onion and bell peppers in a mild vinaigrette. Although the mixture was refreshing, we found it impossible to keep the concoction on the bread.

    The escargot ($6.95) ordered by my guest was served with angel-hair pasta and a delicious roasted-red pepper sauce.

    The escargot ($6.95) ordered by my guest was served with angel-hair pasta and a delicious roasted-red pepper sauce.

    I found the house salad ($2.95) of mixed greens to be nice and fresh; the lovely presentation included diced tomatoes and cucumbers, plus a nest of bean sprouts. The creamy peppercorn house dressing, however, was pretty bland.

    I found the house salad ($2.95) of mixed greens to be nice and fresh; the lovely presentation included diced tomatoes and cucumbers, plus a nest of bean sprouts. The creamy peppercorn house dressing, however, was pretty bland.

    The 10-ounce filet mignon ($18.95) that my guest chose was an excellent cut, perfectly prepared. It was delicately topped with a pat of seasoned butter (we suspected rosemary).

    The 10-ounce filet mignon ($18.95) that my guest chose was an excellent cut, perfectly prepared. It was delicately topped with a pat of seasoned butter (we suspected rosemary).

    My grilled yellowfin tuna ($14.95) was fresh, though disappointingly overcooked. The generous portion was crowned with an adequate béarnaise sauce, which helped mask the fillet's dryness.

    My grilled yellowfin tuna ($14.95) was fresh, though disappointingly overcooked. The generous portion was crowned with an adequate béarnaise sauce, which helped mask the fillet's dryness.

    Large baked potatoes came wrapped in gold foil, along with a lazy Susan bearing scallions, fresh bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese. Sour cream and butter were included. Generous squares of corn soufflé were flavorful, light and airy.

    Large baked potatoes came wrapped in gold foil, along with a lazy Susan bearing scallions, fresh bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese. Sour cream and butter were included. Generous squares of corn soufflé were flavorful, light and airy.

    The server promoted Jack's fried ice cream ($4.25) for dessert. A fried pastry jacket hid a relatively small scoop of ice cream that was just enough to share. Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, the dish was complemented by sliced strawberries and plenty of whipped cream.

    The server promoted Jack's fried ice cream ($4.25) for dessert. A fried pastry jacket hid a relatively small scoop of ice cream that was just enough to share. Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, the dish was complemented by sliced strawberries and plenty of whipped cream.

    Be forewarned that an 18 percent gratuity is included in the bill rather than allowing diners the right to tip in direct correlation to the service rendered. But, all in all, it was a pleasant evening that was worth the expense.

    To use the word "tacky" to describe the looks of Joe's Crab Shack is underkill. My friend summed it up as soon as we walked through the door of this wildly popular restaurant. "It looks like they have a toy store hanging from the ceiling in here," she said.

    It was true. It looked like a decorating team with multiple-personality disorders had swept through. Every square inch was plastered with dangling skateboards, dolls, Frisbees, in-line skates, teddy bears, model airplanes, Barbies and toy trains. A life-size replica of Jaws was suspended over the middle of the restaurant. The theme carried through to loud top-40 music and an army of waiters who were trained to drop everything and do the Hustle every so often -- many of them wearing T-shirts bearing the mantra "Peace, Love and Crabs."

    It was true. It looked like a decorating team with multiple-personality disorders had swept through. Every square inch was plastered with dangling skateboards, dolls, Frisbees, in-line skates, teddy bears, model airplanes, Barbies and toy trains. A life-size replica of Jaws was suspended over the middle of the restaurant. The theme carried through to loud top-40 music and an army of waiters who were trained to drop everything and do the Hustle every so often -- many of them wearing T-shirts bearing the mantra "Peace, Love and Crabs."

    "Come on, folks, have a good time!" seemed to be the message they were screaming. And the capacity crowd -- packed into booths and lined up out the door and into the parking lot -- was eating it up.

    "Come on, folks, have a good time!" seemed to be the message they were screaming. And the capacity crowd -- packed into booths and lined up out the door and into the parking lot -- was eating it up.

    Despite the decorative disarray, the kitchen is focused when it comes to delivering moderately priced chow fests on the double. There are more hits than misses on the menu -- presented in such a rambling fashion that it's like reading the classifieds -- and Joe's Crab Shack is probably the best choice for seafood if you're in the South Semoran Boulevard area, considering they stock many sea species.

    Despite the decorative disarray, the kitchen is focused when it comes to delivering moderately priced chow fests on the double. There are more hits than misses on the menu -- presented in such a rambling fashion that it's like reading the classifieds -- and Joe's Crab Shack is probably the best choice for seafood if you're in the South Semoran Boulevard area, considering they stock many sea species.

    There's shrimp (popcorn, rock, jumbo) and yellowfin tuna, lobster tail, north Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, calamari and clams. And, as the menu reads, theres "crabs, crabs and more crabs" in the form of "crab balls," crab fingers, crab cakes and soft-shell crabs. Then you got your crab legs: snow, Alaskan king, Dungeness. Despite the sheer volume, dining adventurers won't find much to explore. Everything is safely fried, steamed, grilled and broiled, with little in the way of funky sauces or presentations to mess things up.

    There's shrimp (popcorn, rock, jumbo) and yellowfin tuna, lobster tail, north Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, calamari and clams. And, as the menu reads, theres "crabs, crabs and more crabs" in the form of "crab balls," crab fingers, crab cakes and soft-shell crabs. Then you got your crab legs: snow, Alaskan king, Dungeness. Despite the sheer volume, dining adventurers won't find much to explore. Everything is safely fried, steamed, grilled and broiled, with little in the way of funky sauces or presentations to mess things up.

    "Crab balls" fritters ($4.99) have potential, but the ones we were served were too heavily breaded. A much better appetizer is the jumbo crab cake ($6.99), packed with lump meat and a hint of spices.

    "Crab balls" fritters ($4.99) have potential, but the ones we were served were too heavily breaded. A much better appetizer is the jumbo crab cake ($6.99), packed with lump meat and a hint of spices.

    Seafood mixed grill ($13.99) offers an adequate skewer of grilled shrimp, but you can get perfectly adequate shrimp at a hundred other restaurants. The garlic-steamed snow crab legs were more alluring, packed with tender white meat and plenty of clean flavor. But the main thing this plate has going for it is a moist, delicate salmon fillet -- ask for it to be prepared with the lemon-pepper seasoning.

    Seafood mixed grill ($13.99) offers an adequate skewer of grilled shrimp, but you can get perfectly adequate shrimp at a hundred other restaurants. The garlic-steamed snow crab legs were more alluring, packed with tender white meat and plenty of clean flavor. But the main thing this plate has going for it is a moist, delicate salmon fillet -- ask for it to be prepared with the lemon-pepper seasoning.

    The shrimp platter ($12.99) offers a big, messy tumble of the staple, the best of which are jumbo sized, fried in a shredded-coconut batter and served with barely sweet plum sauce. The medium-size fried Gulf shrimp and popcorn shrimp are fine, but they pale in comparison. Skip the snoozy shrimp cocktail in favor of the coconut-shrimp dinner ($9.99), which is cheaper.

    The shrimp platter ($12.99) offers a big, messy tumble of the staple, the best of which are jumbo sized, fried in a shredded-coconut batter and served with barely sweet plum sauce. The medium-size fried Gulf shrimp and popcorn shrimp are fine, but they pale in comparison. Skip the snoozy shrimp cocktail in favor of the coconut-shrimp dinner ($9.99), which is cheaper.

    Service was friendly, but it was so sporadic that we finally resorted to flagging down a staff member who wasn't our waiter in order to ask for the check.

    Service was friendly, but it was so sporadic that we finally resorted to flagging down a staff member who wasn't our waiter in order to ask for the check.

    As we exited into the night, we knew our table wouldn't stay empty for long. Joe's Crab Shack may come up short in a couple of areas, but a lack of customers is definitely not one of them.

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