Joanie's Blue Crab Cafe: Beer and Gator in the Everglades (Photos)
|All photos by Laine Doss|
|Bikers park in front...cars in the back.|
Located in Ochopee about 66 miles west of Miccosukee Resort & Gaming and about 40 miles east of Naples, Joanie's rises like an oasis out of the swamp, next to the occasional alligator or turtle on the road.
The front parking spots are reserved for bikers, so pull alongside the red house and gas station that Joanie Griffin converted into a roadside restaurant 25 years ago. Joanie is still there every day, either greeting you as you walk in with directions to get a cold one out of the coolers by the small band stage or working the kitchen, cooking up some gator.
|Don't feed him.|
That, by the way, is basically the menu. Gator. Gator served in a burger ($9.95). Gator salad ($16.95). Gator nuggets ($13.95). Indian fry bread ($5.95) is served with dipping salsa, and a swamp combo of gator, frogs' legs, and catfish is $16.95. You'll also find the blue crabs that the joint is named for (three for $16.95). Vegans will enjoy homemade vegan chili ($5.95). There are also chicken sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs.
On a Sunday afternoon, the place is hopping. A group of about two dozen bikers sip beers on the side porch, while a steady flow of tourists arrives for beer, sandwiches, and a much-needed bathroom break.
A keyboardist accompanies a pretty good singer, covering everything from Adele to Jethro Tull. Whether as a pit stop on the way to the other side of the state, or a day trip in itself, Joanie's Blue Crab Cafe (along with a side trip to the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters) brings back some good memories of times when roadside attractions and lunch stops were kitschy and fun. It's a bit of old-school Florida. Just watch for the gators.
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