The Gulf of Mexico is swimming with shrimp, which are perfect when steamed and dipped in garlicky butter, or dressed with fresh coconut and tossed in the fryer until golden brown. Living in Boston, I found some of the best fried shrimp and clam platters in the world, but moving to Sarasota opened up a whole new world of jumbo options. Here are some of my favorites:
300 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 388-2888, tommybahama.com
I think these are the best in town. The restaurant uses fresh shrimp loaded with shredded coconut and serves them with a sweet papaya and mango chutney. The best part is you still taste the succulent shrimp sealed inside the crispy golden vessel.
4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-4605, waltsfishmarketrestaurant.com
If you don't get up early enough on a Saturday morning to buy shrimp from Maggie’s Seafood at the Sarasota Farmers Market, head over to Walt’s. The shop has both head-on (my favorite) and headless options. For something like shrimp scampi or bouillabaisse, these are the jumbos you want.
1435 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 312-4001, duvalsfreshlocalseafood.com
There is no better place to get an authentic po' boy this side of New Orleans. The shrimp po' boy gives you that little bit of heat from the remoulade, but the shrimp do all the talking. Lightly battered and fried and stuffed into the center of a crusty baguette with shredded cabbage, this one is a worthy lunchtime fix.
3971 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 924-9090; 8101 Cooper Creek Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 360-3171; 1681 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass S., Venice, (941) 493-4180; 7456 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 795-8020; bonefishgrill.com
These spicy, crispy, medium-sized nuggets are as addictive as anything and thousands of people agree. Copied but never perfected, this hot, creamy, crunchy item is a perfect appetizer.