JB’s has a pure fish shack ambience — tablecloths are brown paper rolled out in strips; many visitors arrive by boat or kayak from Mosquito Lagoon. The outdoor deck overlooks the bays and islands of the Halifax River.
While the main attraction is crab, other favorites include rock shrimp and the to-die-for crab balls.
JB’s Fish Camp, 859 Pompano Ave., New Smyrna Beach; 386-427-5747; http://jbsfishcamp.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=jbs-fish-camp-restaurant. Entrees: $6.50 - $23.
• Hogfish Grill, Key West: Hogfish is as close to the Key West shrimp docks as you can get, and those fresh Key West “pinks” — the local shrimp, which are plump and pinkish-coral color — are one of the two must-haves at the Hogfish. The other, of course, is the hogfish, best experienced in the World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich ($14.95). This signature dish is made with fresh hogfish (a sweet, mild local delicacy caught only via spear-fishing) plus mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread.
The Hogfish Grill is located in a hard-to-find working marina on Stock Island, which is located east of Key West and an island through which all Key West traffic must flow. For years, Hogfish was a locals-only spot, with reasonable prices and Conch Republic attitude. In recent years, however, Hogfish has been discovered, and was recently ranked as one of the 30 best seafood restaurants in America by Travel & Leisure magazine.
Visitors will find Hogfish unchanged so far. It’s a big chickee hut with long tables and benches and sometimes loud live music on weekend nights.
Hogfish Bar and Grill, 6810 Front St., Stock Island; 305-293-4041, www.hogfishbar.com. Entrees: $9-$24.
• Lazy Flamingo, Bokeelia: This cozy little fish shack is on the north end of Pine Island, accessible by boat from Sanibel or Captiva via Pine Island Sound and from Boca Grande, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda by way of Charlotte Harbor. By car, take US 78 through Cape Coral and Matlacha, then drive north to the Four Winds Marina.
At the Lazy Flamingo, you can either dine outside on the deck overlooking the marina or at the bar and dining room inside. Your first order should be “The Pot,” a bucket of two-dozen clams and oysters steamed in beer with special spices, celery and onions. The menu also includes a delightful conch chowder and a hearty grouper sandwich, among other seafood specialties.
There are three other Lazy Flamingoes in the area — two on Sanibel and one in Fort Myers. We can only vouch for the ambiance in Bokeelia.
Lazy Flamingo, 16501-B Stringfellow Rd., Bokeelia; 239-283-5959. Entrees: $7 to $18.
• DJ’s Deck, Port Orange: A favorite dining destination in the Daytona Beach area, DJ’s Deck is your classic seafood and raw bar, and it’s a favorite of locals. You order from the menu at the window and pick it up when it’s ready. Waitresses move through the picnic tables spread across the dock under clusters of tiki huts to refresh your beverages.
The menu is your standard fish shack: fried, grilled or blackened specialties, such as the fish-of-the-day dinner ($12.99), grilled mahi ($13.99) or the fried scallops ($14.99). We never go there without pounding down a bucket of oysters or clams ($19.99) and a bowl of chowder ($4.99).
At times, you have to dodge the line of fisherman who sell their catch at the ice house next door, but that adds to the flavor of DJ’s. If you want a slightly less casual indoor dining experience, visit the “Down Under” on the other side of the parking lot.
DJ’s Deck, 79 Dunlawton Ave., Port Orange; 386-760-2277; www.djsdeck.com. Entrees: $9 to $17.
• Alabama Jack’s, Homestead: You know Alabama Jack’s is an authentic Old Florida fish shack because nobody would open a restaurant on Card Sound Road today. Card Sound Road is a toll-road through the mangrove swamps where Miami-Dade County meets Monroe County. It used to be a fishing community, but the only thing left is the ramshackle collection of shacks, docks and barges that constitute Alabama Jack’s.
Don’t be put off by the row of Harleys you’ll probably see out front. While it’s a popular place for motorcyclists out for a weekend destination, the place is full of all sorts of people, including many families whose kids delight in feeding the fish over the railing. On weekend afternoons, crowds build at Alabama Jack’s and country music is performed live on a small stage.
In addition to the ambiance, what keeps folks coming to Alabama Jack’s are the conch fritters, crab cakes and sweet potato fries. Alabama Jack’s is best known for its fried fare, but its conch salad is also popular.
Alabama Jack’s, 58000 Card Sound Rd., Homestead; 305-248-8741. Entrees: $9 to $21.