We parked in the gravel lot and followed the designated path past an indoor oyster bar nook and a shady area with picnic tables situated in freshly raked sand for outdoor dining. We almost stopped there, but the lure of I. C. Sharks' large and squeaky-clean tiki bar beckoned. After determining that we could order from the menu there, we settled into comfortable stools and took in the tropical Tampa Bay ambiance. Soft reggae music was piped in and the entire parameter of the bar was lined with small box fans blowing inward, keeping us cool and comfy throughout the course of our lunch despite the Florida Labor Day weekend temps. We got our personal "party" started at 11:00 on Friday morning (thus the level of vacancy), but many others followed us shortly thereafter and before long most of the seats were taken.
Our bartender/server was sweet, attentive and low-key. Cold beers and copies of the short menu (consisting mainly of sandwiches, simply prepared fresh seafood and burgers) were promptly presented. The Creamy Crab Bisque boasting a hint of sherry was a no-brainer. UD and I both loved the silken texture and the generosity of sweet crab morsels in this offering. If I MUST find fault with something, I would say that the dried oregano sprinkled atop it was unnecessary and perhaps even detracted from the delicacy of the soup with its pungent odor and flavor.
Sharks' Conch Fritters were a fine rendition, boasting copious bits of chopped conch dredged in just enough batter to hold them together. Crispy fried on the outside and tender on the inside, they came with a little sidecar of zippy remoulade. Almost everything on the menu is served with a side of potato chips and a small (somewhat dry) plastic cup of crunchy slaw. French fries are MIA here.
Finally, we tried a basket of Grouper Cheeks and Chunks (which turned out to be pretty much only chunks) with honey mustard sauce for dipping. They were tasty, clearly fresh and simply prepared. There was a common thread running through everything we ordered, however...and that was Old Bay Seasoning applied with a very liberal hand. As with the oregano in the bisque, I would've preferred that it had been dialed back...but that's just my personal opinion.
I. C. Sharks is a nice place for a cold one (there's also a full liquor bar complete with frozen drinks), a simple burger or seafood snack and a relaxing, waterfront view. It's very clean as far as outdoor dining venues go, which is always pleasing...especially to the womenfolk. The seafood market itself is liberally stocked with fresh and frozen seafood of all varieties. We grabbed a half pound of smoked fish spread and some red grouper to prepare at home the next day and both were excellent. Polly loves one-stop eating and shopping!
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.