Walt’s Fish Market (DANGER! ANNOYING REGGAE MUSIC ALERT!) is a “fish shack” in Sarasota that is reminiscent of a “local” Joe’s Crab Shack, or someplace like that. There are bibs involved, taxidermy marlins and barracuda on the walls, as well as sunburned tourists and lots of old retirees. We went with the family on Saturday night, and it wasn’t too good. Walt’s has been around for about 40 years, and has evolved from a market (and a formidable one at that, with at least 30 varieties of fresh and smoked fish to take home) to a 200 seat indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant. It is not on the waterfront, which is a good thing, as waterfront eateries typically don’t have to try as hard to fill up, and therefore slack when it comes to food quality.
We arrived around 7:30, prime-time, and waited about 20 minutes to get a table for 6. From the moment we arrived, the vibe was off. The music was too low. Here you have 57 people hungry (and thirsty) for a good time, drinking Bud’s and shooting the you know what as they wait for a table, yet the joint felt like a funeral home. Boo. Strike 1: The waiter took too long to come over and greet us (we had all decided what we wanted and stacked our menus before anyone acknowledged us). It was busy, but not crazy busy. On the plus side, sodas come in absolutely giant styrofoam cups (a good thing, since we would not see anyone to fill them up again).
Strike 2: the food was delivered, with much confusion. I had to assist the waitstaff to make sure everyone received the correct entree, but my brother in law never felt that his was right (sides were incorrect, etc), even though the waiter insisted it was what he had ordered. Strike 3: the food just wasn’t that good, for the price. While the fish was fresh (we ordered grouper, flounder, and tripletail, nothing was seasoned properly. Veggies were way too peppery, while the fries were completely bland and dry (and everything was luke- warm or cold).
Strike 4: I ordered another beer when my food arrived (I was the only one drinking) but it arrived when we were done eating. It’s a Bud bottle. You don’t even have to open it, I have an opener, just toss it over… Our server was very nice but unfortunately was just not very strong. My mother in law discreetly spoke with management, as they had been in a few times, and were looking forward to bringing us, as it was usually outstanding. Now for the disclaimer. You guys know I don’t intentionally trash restaurants. I own one, and that is considered poor form, however this blog is basically my journal, and I will call them how I see them.
Also, I am not trashing Walt’s because it is located out of the area, and you guys will probably not ever go, I am trashing it because it was definitely one of the weaker restaurant outings I have had in quite some time. Lastly, the place was packed, and I’m sure they don’t care what little old Ps561 thinks. They are doing something very right. The Yelp! reviews are very positive as well. Perhaps we caught them on an off night. Can’t recommend it to ya though. If in Sarasota/Bradenton, make your way over to the Rod and Reel Pier, discussed in blogs such as this one, for a truly authentic “real” Florida seafood experience.