I was starving when we parked so we made our decision quickly. Barnacle Bill's offered a huge range of fresh seafood prepared in a plethora of ways (all the usual Florida suspects were on the menu...and then some). The interior was casual and comfortable, with hardwood floors, paneled walls and minimalistic decor. Proof was provided that the seafood is really fresh here.
I also found it kind of cool that the establishment's source for Alaskan King Crab is the ultimate "scene of the crime"...Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where "Deadliest Catch" is filmed (a fact they seem proud of).
Let's start with the appetizers, which were probably the low point of the meal. Underdog and I had diametrically opposing views on these offerings and we are usually on the same page when it comes to food, reminding me again that taste is a very subjective matter. Anyway, here goes:
One item on the menu posted outside the restaurant really helped pull me in and I couldn't wait to try it. The Shrimp and Lobster Chimichanga (with celery, shallots, tomato, asiago cheese, select herbs and spices folded in a flour tortilla and deep fried) sounded like manna for the savage, hormonal soul that is mine. How could this possibly be bad??? It showed up looking like Halle Berry on the red carpet. And, yet...I hated it. Hated it bad...in a "wanted to throw it on the floor and stomp on it" kinda way (and not because it was "Pantene Girl" beautiful).
Watery, tasteless shrimp and lobster (water was actually dripping from the perfectly fried tortilla casing) were encased in this thing along with a few pieces of tomato and wilted lettuce (I'm not sure lettuce is ever good when heated unless it's grilled romaine). There was no cheese or spices that I could discern. I found it bland and icky, but the hub-unit practically snorted it...so different courses for different horses, I guess.
Barnacle Bill's seems to know a lot about oysters (there were a wide variety of boutique oysters on the menu) and I do lurve them, so I was excited about trying the Oysters Rockefeller. For $9.95, we got four small ones, which seemed a little stingy considering the price, size and venue. I thought they were fine overall, though...fresh-tasting, good hollandaise, but the spinach was a tiny bit scant for my taste. This was Jimbo's least favorite offering of the evening, so I guess we balanced each other out on the apps.
Oh...did I mention that we were there at 5:00 PM? Underdog and I are both Baby Boomers ourselves, but even we felt particularly youthful sitting amidst the early evening crowd. There's an early bird special for $11.95 that includes soup or salad and a generous list of menu items which we did not partake of, but which many others were obviously there for (can you say "Q-Tip City"?). But, who can blame them...it's a great deal, and southwest Florida is God's Own Waiting Room, after all. We were already getting adequate service, but our waiter clearly *perked* when when we tossed our Early Bird menus aside and began demonstrating our penchant for being ordering fiends. I also must mention that the wine list at Barnacles is very nice with markups that are more than fair. While many restaurants mark up their wines up to 200%, Barnacle's markups seemed to be closer to the 50-75% range. Bonus points.
Whenever Lobster Bisque is on the menu, it inevitably winds up in Sweet Polly's stomach and this one was no exception. This was a good bisque (not the best I've ever had, and not enough sherry for my taste...but solid). It was adorned with lobster morsels and a crouton, and was nice and creamy. I particularly enjoyed dipping my hot, crusty bread slices in it.
As I stated previously, I do <3 me some oysters and since they were very prominent on Barnacle Bill's menu, I stayed on the mollusk path and order the Fried Oyster Dinner. It was not disappointing...the oysters were perfectly battered and fried, and clearly very fresh. The mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli/carrot combo were standard issue...no one in the kitchen was knocking themselves out in the side dish creativity department, but they were tasty and decently presented.
I'll take this moment to reiterate that when I'm sitting in a "real" restaurant (not at a dock-of-the-bay kinda place where I'm ripping the heads off of my shrimp and drinking beer out of the can...which can be delightful and has its precious place in my food-snarfing heart), I'm not crazy about plastic condiment cups or foil-wrapped butter pats. We spent $160 dollars on this dinner before tip and got both. I digress, though.
My Better Half ordered the Dungeness Crab entree, and proceeded to Hoover their little legs and claws clean with no complaints. That was some fine, sweet crab!
Desserts were both delightful. Key lime pie was sheer perfection and had the taste and appearance of being house-made. SO good!
Creme Brulee Boy ordered his usual...with a twist. The Honey Creme Brulee was really nicely done and the honey garnish added an interesting touch.
Bottom line: This was a decent meal. The seafood tasted fresh and was well prepared, if not cutting edge. We got amazing treatment and service, both from our waiter and a lovely woman who seemed to be one of (or related to one of) the owners. She was a constant presence in the dining room, making sure that everyone was happy. It was classic Florida fare (nothing we haven't had before, but pretty tasty stuff overall). Underdog likes to bring clients to this place for lunch because of its consistency and will continue to do so. I on the other hand, prefer somewhat more innovative cuisine and probably won't be clamoring to return anytime soon.
Our $160 tab was largely due to the purchase of one $52 bottle of wine and two $9 glasses of wine. There are deals to be had here, especially for Early Birds. And, for the record, I am NOT an early bird. I just like to eat lunch late. Really late. :/