Old Fashioned Seafood at Charlie’s in Florida

November 28, 2012 at 10:25 am , by Serina Patrick

Crystal River is the quintessential retirement community in central Florida with lots of golf courses and quaint shops. There are also numerous restaurants that serve fresh local seafood….primarily fried. Charlie’s is one of them, located directly on the bay where their own boats bring in the catch of the day to serve and sell in the market.

Open since 1959, Charlie’s hasn’t changed much, including the plastic tablecloths that mirror the nautical decor. The menu reads like any Andy Griffith era seafood diner….hushpuppies, fried oysters, baked potatoes, cole slaw. You get the picture.

Although I tried to discourage it, LC insisted on ordering the shrimp jalapeno popper appetizer. Sure, it would be fried, but the idea of a shrimp surrounded by cream cheese then stuffed inside a jalapeno sounded rather appetizing. And isn’t that what an appetizer’s for?

The time-warp menu comes with matching prices, entrees coming in around $13. Each comes with two sides of your choice. Completely out of character, I ordered the crab stuffed baked tilapia with fried okra and a baked potato. Normally I would include a side salad but my Mom warned me to steer clear of the 1972 throwback made with iceberg lettuce and packaged slivered carrots….keepin’ it classy. Don’t even think about asking for “field greens” here, it would only confuse your waitress. (I would normally say server, but it doesn’t seem appropriate here).

My parents ordered their regular, unadorned broiled fish, ironically with those iceberg side salads.

LC, always willing to clog another artery if need be, chose the scallops Rockefeller, a casserole dish with plump scallops, bacon, and spinach in a cream sauce, topped with shredded cheese and baked until bubbly. Fried okra and corn rounded out his dinner.

Our waitress brought out our beer order and moments later, the appetizer. Four large shrimp covered with cream cheese, then deep fried. But wait, something was amiss….no jalapenos whatsoever. Strange and not-so-appetizing. LC inquired but it only confused our waitress.

My stuffed tilapia was sprinkled with cayenne and baked until the fish was flaky and white….easy enough. Equally hard to screw up is a baked potato, but fried okra is consistently overbreaded wherever I try it and Charlie’s is no different, hense the small brown orbs decorating my plate, cleverly concealing the green vegetable.

LC’s scallops were nice, but the dish was simply too rich. If you get a chance to visit Charlie’s with your great Aunt Betty, stick with the classics….and stay away from the shrimp “jalapeno” poppers.

224 NW US Highway 19 352-795-3949

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