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.