One of my all-time favorite oyster bars, Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar, on St. George Island (just offshore from Apalachicola) abruptly closed at the end of 2015, just days before my publisher deadline for Seafood Lover’s Florida (Globe Pequot Press, 2016). But I’m happy to report that Paddy’s Raw Bar (in a new building at Eddy Teach’s original location) has taken its place. The oysters they shucked for me at lunch came out of Apalachicola Bay that morning. You can taste it too. Just that hint of salt is what tells you they are that fresh.
Fletcher, a regular at Paddy’s.
The majority of Florida’s oysters come from Apalachicola Bay’s fertile waters. The clear clean fresh water that flows out of the Apalachicola River hits the salty Gulf of Mexico, creating a perfect brackish balance for breeding in the shallow waters of Apalachicola Bay. Apalachicola oysters have a well-deserved reputation for being just a little sweeter, a little tastier. However, over the last decade the bay’s oyster population has declined. To understand why, you have to start way up in the Appalachian Mountains, where snow-melt and rainwater drains and filters over waterfalls and down mountain brooks. Those eventually converge and feed Lake Lanier, just north of Atlanta. Lake Lanier is one of Atlanta’s primary sources of water, and Atlanta’s exploding population has been siphoning off more and more of the lake’s water which, downstream, via the Chattahoochee River, ultimately feeds the Apalachicola River. Now the bay’s perfect brackish balance has been upset and it can’t produce oysters as abundantly as it once did. They still get outstanding oysters here and they’re as tasty as ever, but the yield has dwindled in recent years.
In spite of that, on my recent visit to Apalachicola, and to nearby Eastpoint and St. George Island, I ate at more oyster bars than ever, and all were doing a booming business.
In addition to Paddy’s, I found Lynn’s Quality Oysters just across the bridge in Eastpoint (thanks to Brian Krontz at Island Dog Beach and Surf Shop on St. George for putting me on to Lynn’s). This is a genuine locals spot. Sherrill and John Carroll opened Braxton & Carroll Seafood back in 1971. Daughter Lynn Martina bought the business from Mom and Dad in 1997 and put her name on the sign. Lynn’s, which backs up to the bay, is a raw bar/restaurant and seafood market, all in one.
Hole in the Wall Raw Bar in Apalachicola is a classic…well…hole-in-the-wall bar, with great atmosphere and great fresh oysters.
And one of my perennial Apalachicola favorites, Up The Creek Raw Bar which opened in 2008, has the most serene view overlooking the Scipio Creek tributary off the Apalachicola River, from its second-floor screened porch.Bruce Hunt