Friday, March 29, 2013

Tortuga's Seafood Restaurant

Tortuga's Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon
2705 Tamiami Trail, Towles Plaza
Punta Gorda, FL 33950

We recently moved into the Punta Gorda area, so we were out exploring our new neighborhood last week.  We saw a sign for seafood, and thinking it was a restaurant, we stopped in at Law's Seafood.  It was a good news / bad news situation.  Good news - It's a fish market, and as we arrived we saw a local fisherman unloading his boat.  Fish is fresh!  Bad news - we were hungry and needed a restaurant, not a market.  The proprietor was helpful and she told us to go up the street to Tortuga's Seafood Restaurant.  We took her advice.

First impressions when we arrived were good - the place is straightforward, clean and comfortable.  It's a restaurant on one side and a fresh seafood market on the other.  It didn't smell "fishy" at all - a great sign.

After reviewing the menu, I decided to skip the seafood and try the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and added bacon for a buck extra.  It came with a side of potato wedges.  Jimmy Buffett may like his with Hines 57, but fortunately Tortuga's comes open-faced with mayo on the side, just the way I like it.  The lettuce was crisp and expertly folded, the tomato was a brighter shade of red than I knew was possible.

The burger itself was obviously fresh ground and had never seen a freezer.  Bun was a freshly toasted kaiser roll, soft and tender and just cohesive enough to hold everything together.  I believe I counted 4 strips of crispy bacon and the cheese was a nice mild cheddar.  I was a very happy camper.

Gayle went for the star attraction - Crab Cakes.  I typically avoid crab cakes because I figure if I want to eat a smushed ball of bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning I can probably do that at home.

In this case, I was proven wrong - way wrong.

As soon as she took a fork to the crab cakes, I could tell I needed to come back soon and try them for myself.  They were quite obviously 90% or more crab, with barely enough binder to hold them together and zero extraneous filler.  Gayle was generous and let me try a bite.  I don't know how to describe a crab cake as light and tender, but just imagine one that is nearly 100% fresh crab meat and you'll get the idea.

Julia Child is quoted as saying “You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Tortuga's embodies this quote, front to back.  As our server was clearing the plates I remarked on how good the food tasted.  She looked sort of amused and said "amazing what fresh food tastes like, eh?" I agreed. She said people often ask her the secret to the good food here and she tells them it's simple. Buy fresh food and cook it correctly.
I'm a believer.

Be sure to remember this place in the summertime.  After the snowbirds go home and things are slow and quiet, this is a place we need to patronize and encourage.  Like tending a garden, we need to make the effort to be selective and shop with our locals.  This is a place that will treat you right.