There’s been a lot of changes in the dining scene on the Forgotten Coast in the three years since the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce last hosted the Chef Sampler.
Since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first put a serious crimp in the styles of dining spots, and shuttered the Sampler, there’s been closures and consolidations and relocations as the industry has adapted to change.
And of course, several of the area’s most high-profile restaurants have stayed and flourished where they are.
On Sunday night, at the newly reopened Fort Coombs Armory, the chamber hosted the 25th annual Sampler, with a large crowd and a strong showing of dining establishments.
Up to No Good, formerly located at the corner of Market Street and Avenue D, has added Tavern to its name, and is now adjacent to the Apalachicola Seafood Grill at Market Street and Avenue E, with both restaurants co-owned by Jerry Hall and his daughter Keri.
Lou’s Beer, Wine & Charcuterie, formerly at 117 Market Street, will now be found where Up to No Good used to be, with the Market Street location vacant for the time being.
Tamara’s Cafe Floridita has closed its doors at Market Street and Avenue E, and is now Tamara’s On the Go catering.
The Owl Cafe, The Smokehouse on Cape San Blas, The Franklin Cafe at the Gibson Inn and LongBill’s on Cape San Blas are all now affiliated with White Sands Hospitality Group, headquartered in Apalachicola.
Several of the other participants at the Sampler were long standing businesses who have not moved.
Among the oldest, the Blue Parrot Oceanfront cafe on St. George Island was on hand, as was the Up the Creek Raw Bar on Commerce Street. The newer establishments of The Station Raw Bar on Market Street, and Brag-N-Bones and Mangia, both in Eastpoint, also showcased their offerings, as did the Apalachicola Chocolate & Coffee Company. The Apalachicola Bee Company, which is expanding its outdoor seating at its location at Commerce Street and Avenue E, was called away at the last minute and so did not offer diners its fare at the Sampler.
Food trucks were on hand, including 10-4 BBQ out of Eastpoint, and The Food Truck out of St. George Island, as was the Chowder House, which is in search of a location. Gormley’s Gourmet Catering out of Apalachicola took part, as did Indian Lagoon Oysters, an aquaculture business out of Port St. Joe.
As has been a tradition, each of the tables had a featured designer, from businesses that included Up to No Good Tavern at the Grill; Berkshire Hathaway; Designs by Dorann; Roberson and Associates; Apalach Ghost Tours; Rivers Edge Gallery; Random Catch; Oysterbones; Island Misfits; White Sands Hospitality; The Station Raw Bar; and Up to Everything Apalachicola.
Non-profit organizations taking part included the North Florida African-American Corridor Project; Big Bend Hospice; Elder Care Community Council’ Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce; St. George Lighthouse; and SGI Brewfest.
Sponsors for the event, the Chamber’s major fundraiser, were Roberson & Associates PA; Century 21 Collins Realty Inc.; White Sands Hospitality; Island Misfits, Collins Vacation Rentals, Apalachicola Bee Company; Duke Energy and River’s Edge.
WHAT THEY SERVED
The Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe: Scallops Margarete, with deep sea scallops in creme sauce with garlic and red wine
The Station Raw Bar: Yum Yum Shrimp, fried shrimp with yum-yum glaze
10-4 BBQ: Pork Loin and Potato Salad
The Owl Cafe: Gumbo
Up to No Good Tavern at The Grill: Meatballs, Grouper Dip and Mango-Tango Cocktails
Up the Creek Raw Bar: Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp, and Cole Slaw
The Franklin Cafe: Seafood Paella
Brag-N-Bones: Prime Rib, and Pork Bellies on Steamed Buns
The Food Truck and Mangia: Spinach Artichoke Dip in Pastry Shell; Stuffed Mushrooms with Boison; Lasagna; Meatballs; Japanese Skewers; and Italian Grinder Sandwich Pinwheels
The Chowder House: Seafood Chowder
Apalachicola Chocolate & Coffee Company: Cheesecake Mousses; Tupelo Honey Walnut Chocolate; Chocolate Caramel Oysters; and Turkish Delight
Gormley’s Gourmet Catering: Gumbo and Tiramisu
Tamara’s On the Go: Paella, Chicken Piccata, Black Bean Soup, and Mixed Green Salad
Indian Lagoon Oysters: Oysters on the Half Shell
Lou’s Beer, Wine & Charcuterie: Charcuterie Board
The Smokehouse on Cape San Blas: Brisket