Sunday, December 9, 2012

Walt'z Fish Shak, Madeira Beach, FL

Craving a trip to the Keys but can't work it into your Holiday budget?  Fear not...there's a little corner of Key West tucked away down a lesser-traveled alley behind John's Pass Boardwalk.  Squint your eyes and drink a couple of their signature "fishbowl" glasses of wine (aptly named) and you'll swear you're there.

Behold its kitschy, bona fide splendor!

In the mood for a juicy burger?  Need a kids' menu?  Want plenty of options?  Snobby about your wine?  Too bad. You will take whatever's available (which is a very short offering of the freshest seafood available that day, a handful of creative side dishes, house wine and key lime pie) and be damned glad to get it.  Our selections du jour:

After inquiring as to white wines available by the glass and being told "Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio",  I quickly caught the drift that there was no further "drilling down" through the wine menu to be done and went with Chardonnay.  Not bad at all for a house wine and I had to love the all-day-sucker pour (just like we pour 'em here at home...aka the "Dog House").  And, after are at Walt'z "Fish Shak", not Walt'z "Wine Bar" (if your discriminating palate can tolerate no less than Ferrari-Carano, you might want to head north to Bobby's Bistro).  There was, however, a somewhat more expansive beer selection  available.

We wanted to try a lot and there weren't tons of things to try, so we opted for a selection of apps and sides.  I'll start with the Smoked Fish Spread which, in a word, was "incomparable".  I've honestly never met a smoked fish spread I didn't like, but this one blew our socks off (even UD's, who is nowhere near the fan of smoked fish that I am).  The smoked catch of the day was Bar Jack, a relative of amberjack with a similar taste and texture.  Large, flaky and very lightly smoked fish morsels folded together with mayo, minced red pepper, chopped onion and seasoning were served with Captain's Wafers (thank you...I'd like to smack whoever decided that Saltines were the perfect accoutrement for smoked fish spread), jalapeno peppers, carrots and celery sticks.  Of course, I pretty much ignored the veggies and focused on the freshest, creamiest, most delicious smoked fish spread that has ever passed these lips. We loved it so much that we got another order to take home for the next day.  I wish my photo did it justice, because this particular batch of fish spread was truly in a league of its own.

The Bahamian Conch Chowder set the bar, as well.  It was authentic (i.e. spicy) and hearty, with a rich and zesty tomatoey base liberally studded with conch and potato bits.
Next up, a couple of  sweet and meaty, pan-crusted grouper cakes served with a side of remoulade sauce; a zesty, nutty order of Island Rice & Peas (more heat here); and Beach Slaw, which is an oil and vinegar-based slaw with a nice balance of sweet to sour.  Craisins were thrown in to add interest.  Everything we tried was delicious, yet relatively simple, and clearly created with passion.  The word "fresh" sprang to mind again and again.

UD needed an order of the fresh Florida Pinks steamed in beer (we had read Walt'z promise to never serve seafood that has been frozen and we were their born again disciples at this point). Unsurpassed in their sweetness and firmness, these babies were almost like langostinos.
There was only one choice for dessert, but it was a fitting one.  A perfectly executed, classic Old Florida style slab of Key Lime Pie nestled in a graham cracker crust (no chocolate ganache or fancy pastry going on here...just the simple, honest truth).  I'll gladly try to be a little less bitchy tomorrow for a bite of pie today!
Good times!  Service was friendly and knowledgeable, if not a touch a harried at times.  Still, it was well above the acceptable level for a venue of its ilk.  With two beers and two schooners goblets of wine, it was still easy to drop $100 after 18% gratuity, so expect to pay for location and food quality.

Waltz Fish Shak on Urbanspoon


  1. I just have to say I giggled a little reading your post because it reminded me of the post I wrote about Ted Peter's. A flame war actually erupted on our blog because of that post. If a place has quirks, you gotta tell the truth! Doesn't mean you love it any less. :-)

  2. I had to go back and find that! lol

  3. Wow...that's all I got regarding the Ted Peter's post!!