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Salty Sam's opens shrimp-centric restaurant

December 6, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A former shrimp packing house is getting a little taste of its original purpose.

Salty Sam's Marina opened The Original Shrimp Dock restaurant in November.

"Seafood was a better match near the beach," said David Kastan, marketing director for Salty Sam's.

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Executive Chef Eddie Vasquez says he adds something extra to his dishes to make them stand out.

With a brightly-painted exterior and a rustic interior and expansive outdoor seating, the restaurant is going for a Key West, shrimp-shanty feel.

And the restaurant's focus on food is sourcing its fish and shrimp from right next door.

"It's boat to plate," said Executive Chef Eddie Vasquez.

Many of the menu items showcase the succulent, sweet pink Gulf shrimp caught by the local shrimpers. Vasquez said the menu took a while to develop because not only does it lean on local fishing, but he and general manager Joe Mitchell tried to make the menu accessible. Most items are under $20.

So far, the most popular dishes are the "shrimp-cargot," a shrimp dish take on the traditional snail escargot. Shrimp Dock serves dinner Monday through Friday, and lunch and dinner on the weekend, and serves local craft beers.

There's even shrimp on the pizza.

Vasquez is an Italian-trained chef, who started tossing pizzas at 14 years old. The New York native has been in the area for 14 years and has moved to the Shrimp Dock after working at an Italian eatery in Bonita Springs. While most of the restaurant features seafood served up in a variety of styles, Vasquez said he had to bring his pizza along.

The shrimp and scallop pico pizza is just what it sounds like - New York style pizza topped with shrimp, scallops and fresh pico de gallo.

Other entrees vary - there's pasta, Cajun-style barbecue shrimp, and more. Vasquez claims his dishes all have a unique twist to set them apart from Parrot Key Caribbean Grill next door, or other nearby seafood joints.

"I don't want to cook what everyone else has," he said. "I love being creative. I'm not scared to make something different."

The property's new look includes a wall of historical photos, taken right outside the dock. Kastan worked with island historian Joanne Semmer to collect a group of photos of the shrimping fleet of San Carlos Island, including the Shrimp Dock's previous tenant: the Island Packing Company. The building was constructed in 1950

The island used to be home to several different shrimping companies. The Island Packing Company had a unique and inventive process: a vacuum-like tube would suck shrimp from the boat to the warehouse, and a pickle sorter sorted the shrimp by size.

"Pink Gulf shrimp put southwest Florida on the map," Vasquez said. "They even called it pink gold."

The Shrimp Dock, which replaced Bootlegger's Barbecue, is located at 2200 Main St., and is open Monday through Friday from 3 to 10 p.m.and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 10 p.m.



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