Panama City Beach Florida: When you visit a beach destination, like Panama City Beach, one of the first things you do after carrying that heavy luggage to your condo is make a run for one of our excellent locally owned seafood restaurants. Seems as if there is one on every corner…because their literally is. As a matter of fact, if you were to walk blindfolded down Thomas Drive or Front Beach Road, chances are you’ll bump into one before you get ran over by a golf cart. (FYI: we don’t recommend walking blindfolded anywhere…especially down the strip in Panama City Beach). We locals love our seafood as much as the tourists. That’s exactly why there are so many yummy places to eat it.
For the most part, all local places serve locally caught and prepared seafood. Most even do a good job of it. That being said, however, many of you visitors come into town and order things that perplex us locals. You seem to want fresh seafood, but in all reality, you just want some seafood…close to salt water. You don’t really care if it was caught locally or not.
With that in mind, we think it important to point out some very popular seafood menu items that aren’t actually local to gulf waters. On a side note, we apologize if you didn’t actually know this information. The last thing we want to do is crush anyone’s seafood dreams.
We sincerely hate to break it to you, but King Crab and Snow Crab do not live in the waters off of Panama City Beach. They are native to A gulf…just not ours. Alaskan and King Crabs can be found in the Gulf of Alaska. So, those steamed crab legs that 70% of you order when you come down to visit PCB are obviously frozen before hitting that steam pot. Not only that, but they travel an awful long way to get to your plate…or bucket…or table.
If you’re a purist and still want a crab dinner, take heart. We do have blue crabs in our warm gulf waters. If you’ve ever noticed some ball shaped buoys that look like basketball sized corks floating around the St. Andrew’s Bay or Gulf of Mexico, that’s our local crabbers catching the blues.
Unfortunately, these guys run a little smaller than their Alaskan kin. Plus, they have short little legs that make steaming them just not worth the effort. (See Image) In other words, if you’re wanting crab legs as an entree, you’ll have to go Alaskan.
You can, however, enjoy a delicious bowl of she crab soup…which, if done right, is quite tasty and can make your freaking day. Blue crab boil is another option for some tastiness. You just have to ask around.
Before you get really upset with me, we do have lobsters in the Gulf of Mexico. They just don’t have claws. This is something your should know. If your dish has lobster claws, it came from somewhere else….like, well, Maine. Not entirely sure how they defend themselves, but I like to imagine them with a cache of ninja style weapons or some lasers. Anyway, you’d have to ask a marine biologist the hard questions. I just know they don’t have claws.
That being said, they do have tails (as you can seen in the pic), so if you order a lobster tail, there is a chance it is local. Just ask your server when ordering where your food came from.
Calamari (Squid Tentacles):
Finally on our list is the delicious, succulent, and fried treat that I absolutely love: calamari. There are squid in local waters, but I have never met any local squid fishermen…or deep sea squid charters…or squidding guides. I couldn’t find info that said exactly where they are harvested, so I just went ahead and drew the conclusion that squid aren’t local. That being said, it is tasty and a great pregame treat to a good locally harvested meal. if you haven’t tried it…give it shot.
Some Other Stuff:
I believe there is a bible verse that says something about everything having a season.That is true for local seafood too.
Oysters, for example, are one of the most popular menu items throughout the country. At one point, a large percentage of those oysters came from about 40 miles east of Panama City Beach in Apalachicola. Due to a water crisis/dispute with Atlanta involving the Chattahoochee river, Apalachicola oysters are no longer available year round. As a result, some of the oysters you get locally may be farm raised, from Texas, or from Louisiana. While the Texas and Louisiana versions are still decent oysters, Appalach oysters just seem to be a tad better.
The Same goes for shrimp. Since the creation of shrimp farming, we now see a good bit of farm raised shrimp in local restaurants, but you can get those anywhere in the U.S.. In order to ensure you’re getting fresh shrimp while in Panama City Beach, you need to keep your eye out for menu offerings that say things like “Ruby Reds” or “Gulf Shrimp”, because that’s the path you need ride down… even if it is a little more expensive. The wild shrimp are just so much better, and come straight from the gulf to your table. Those reds though…mm-mm. You’ll thank me later.
Hopefully, I haven’t shattered your seafood dreams too harshly, or brought you to tears over crab legs. As a fat guy who prefers some truth in my food, I just had to do it. I always see folks waiting all year to eat “fresh seafood” at the beach when they could have just gone to their local grocery store and gotten the same stuff. Now you know.
One more thing: If you didn’t realize that salmon isn’t local, then I don’t know what to tell you. You need Jesus to watch Nat Geo a little more often.
For more information on what seafood actually does come from the waters around Florida, check out this link right here.
About the Author:
Chief Beach Dude
Wes H. is the chief beach guy here at PanamaCityScene.com. He loves his family, food, craft beer, and living at the beach.