Excerpt from “Seafood Lover’s Florida” by Bruce Hunt, from Globe Pequot Press, due for release October 2016:
There are plenty of reasons not to eat smoked mullet. They are a lot of work to consume. They are full of bones. And you’re going to smell like smoke for the rest of the day. There is one really good reason to eat smoked mullet though: it is some of the tastiest fish you will ever put in your mouth. Smoked mullet is not for everybody. But if you’re willing to do the work, the reward is great. Mullet has a lot of bones, so it’s a lot of work to eat. First grab the tail and gently pull it across the meat. That removes the backbone and most of the rib bones all at once. But there are still a lot of bones left in there. Gently “comb” the meat with your fork, in the direction that the bones point, and the tender, moist (if smoked properly) meat should come free. You are still going to end up getting some bones. Don’t try to chew them up and swallow them. Just resign yourself to the fact that you will be spitting them out into a paper towel. Your fellow smoked mullet diners will understand.
Some seventy years before road-side food trucks and trailers became all the rage, a guy named Ted Peters was serving smoked mullet out of a smoker on wheels set out in front of his restaurant on Blind Pass Road, between St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island. Peters had previously worked at the fisherman’s co-op on nearby Madeira Beach (where he learned the smoking technique) before opening his small restaurant, called the Blue Anchor. The smoker was essentially his road-side olfactory advertisement. In 1951 he moved the operation across the bridge to the St. Petersburg neighborhood of Pasadena, where it still is today. The smoked fish became his mainstay and that merited the restaurant’s name change. For a long time they only offered smoked mullet, and on occasion when it was available, Spanish mackerel. Now they offer salmon and mahi as well. Mullet sometimes gets a bad rap as too oily or chewy, but I find it just the opposite: light, flaky, and tender. At least it is when it comes from Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish. Plus mullet seems to accept the smoking process very well, taking on that wonderful flavor without being over-powered. Ted Peters smokes their fish over Florida red oak, for about six hours, and it comes out perfectly moist and tasty. The other item that brings me here is Ted Peters outstanding homemade German potato salad.