Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Search for a Seafood Joint Is Over

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Search for a Seafood Joint Is Over

Article excerpt

Given its proximity to the water, this area doesn't really have many seafood joints, by which I mean casual places where the decor - - if I dare use that term -- leans to funkiness, the atmosphere is casual, the food good and inexpensive and the reputation high among locals. But Robbi's Reef in Venice fits this description perfectly.

Start with the location. Despite the colorful name, Robbi's finds itself in a drab strip mall along the U.S. 41 Bypass South, almost hidden. Inside, what catches your eye right away -- if it's not one of the aquariums -- are the hundreds of photos tacked to the wall showing anglers proudly displaying their catches of the day. It made me feel a little sorry for the fish, in fact. As if those weren't enough, several reproductions of well known fish hang above the bar area. In the rear, and adding to the funky vibe, bamboo wall coverings stretch across the room.

The tables are bare, the napkins paper, and the servers' attire runs to T-shirts and jeans, but everyone is friendly and efficient. It's the kind of place where if your server is tied up someone else will pitch in to make sure you're taken care of.

Robbi's has an admirably concise menu. Appetizers run to just six choices, along the lines of U-Peel-U-Eat Shrimp ($8.99) and Smoked Fish Spread ($8.99). Add Delta Catfish Bites ($6.99) to Gulf Coast Gumbo ($4.99/$6.99) and Po Boys ($9.99-$10.99) and you see a Louisiana connection.

We went out of order for Fish Tacos ($11.99), which are listed as a main course. These were pretty tasty, chunks of blackened fish mixed in with lettuce, tomato and cheese, and the servings were generous. So generous, in fact, the hefty filling had trouble staying in the small flour tortillas it was served in. Sour cream, which we didn't bother with, and a fresh, perky pico de gallo came on the side, along with a serving of black beans and rice (more on that later). …

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