I normally don't review a restaurant until I've tried it at least three times. This is more for consistency of food and service, which I believe is imperative in the restaurant business. My personal view is great service will overcome mediocre food, but bad service will not overcome great food. We eat out because we want to be served and we want something we probably wouldn't cook at home, i.e. a seafood platter.
Friday night I took my wife and some friends to "Old Florida Fish House and Bar" located at 5235 E County Hwy 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. It sits back from 30A so the only landmark to notify you of it's location is a sign on the road. The parking is a little hard to find as it sits behind a small business center. It sits on one of the many lakes you will find on 30A and has a picturesque view of the lake from inside the restaurant. The decor is upscale but not pretentious. It is definitely not a shack as the name might imply. We arrived at about 6:00 and were greeted promptly and seated next to a window that looked out over the lake. Our server promptly greeted us, took our drink choices and told us about the nights specials. The menu is simple but ample with choices depending on what you are in the mood for. The only thing that baffles me is at the "Old Florida Fish House" there were no oysters on the menu. Not raw, baked, fried, or in the gumbo. We do have oysters here in Florida. Famous Apalachicola oysters. Go figure.
As always I tried the seafood gumbo, shared a wedge blue cheese salad, and a fried seafood platter of shrimp, scallops, fish, and a soft shell crab. I asked the waiter if the soft shell was fresh. He asked what I meant by fresh. I asked if it had ever been frozen. He said yes. I don't understand with all the seafood harvested here in Northwest Florida why blue crabs are not more prevalent in the markets. In New Orleans you can go to a seafood market and order a hamper of crabs to take home a boil. The most I have ever seen here is about six. Soft shells are a seasonal thing so it's hard to find fresh ones anywhere here. I do love me some soft shell crabs. If you ever attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and you should at least once, try the soft shell crab po-boy. The seafood was fried perfectly, not over battered, and had a good crust. It was served with the obligatory french fries. My wife ordered the crab cakes served over pasta with a lemon caper cream sauce. The crab cakes were nicely sized with a crusty exterior and full of crab meat on the inside, not too bready as some crab cakes can be. The lemon caper cream sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the dish. The chefs special was a blackened Snapper topped with crab meat. This is a classically simple dish that can goo bad fast if the seasoning over powers the fish and the crab meat is not lump. I have seen this dish done with claw meat. No no. My friends wife tries the Grouper Fish House. Sauteed grouper with topped with shrimp, crab meat, and a beurre blanc sauce. Again a classic presentation of a simple dish, but full of texture and flavor.
To cap off the night we moved to the bar. By this time the restaurant was filling up and the band "The Fish House Band" started to play at 8:00. The band consisted of a keyboardist, sax player, and a conga drum player, all of which took turns at vocals. The music was great and a fine way to end our outing.
At this point I will not assign "Old Florida Fish House" any stars until I go back two more times, but at first glance, I will return. I hope you try this establishment.