An Oyster Story With NO Pearl – And a Haunted Hotel?
Apalachicola, Florida has been a quaint, but rich in culture town since the 18th century. Known as the oyster capital of the world, for many years not much has changed. The bay across the Apalachicola River is no longer crowded with oystermen using their rakes to harvest some of the best oysters in the country. Today the face of the city has changed, but the inhabitants are resolved to bring back their fishing culture.
For visitors there is still much to see. I can assure you each person is welcomed, since the demise of the oyster business. The shops in downtown Apalachicola continue to be a collection of art, novelty and maritime treasures. The restaurants are still serving their unique area seafood entrees, but just not as focused on the oyster trade. The waterfront on the river is active with shrimp boats and grouper fishermen bringing in their daily catch along water street to wholesalers.
We recently visited Up The Creek Raw Bar along Water Street and found many of their customs hadn’t changed much. The oysters may be from around the bend in Louisiana, but the hospitality is unmatched. Up the Creek was named as one of the best small town restaurants. A couple blocks away is the Apalachicola Seafood Grill – more aptly named your local diner. Breakfast was superb, but old southern style hospitality may have influenced us.
The real story here is what has happened to their world renowned oyster reputation. For almost 20 years restaurants have been buying oysters from Apalachicola oyster purveyors. Raw bars throughout Florida and much of the southeastern United States relied on this highly acclaimed resource that 20 years ago seemed unlimited. On a visit to Apalachicola some 15 years ago there was an active river front with numerous oyster houses and hundreds of well seasoned oystermen peddling their daily catch daily at one of the wholesalers. A more recent visit found a vacant waterfront, closed shops, boats in dry dock and the town’s oyster trade economically depressed, but trying to evolve.
A change was coming even before the oil spill in 2008. It seemed restaurants had to find other sources for oysters on a more frequent basis. And then, in the last two years , they were gone! Now it appears the generations of oystermen can produce barely enough for the local restaurants in Apalachicola, let alone the demand from a handful of other states around the country.
What happened? What is the future? Is aquaculture the answer? Read the whole story here in an article developed by Laura Riley of the Tampa Bay Times. It’s a story about tragedy that starts upstream, but with a new generation of hope! The story may be the harbinger of other seafood delicacies.
Apalachicola Haunted Hotel?
We have to mention a place that intrigued us on several visits. The Gibson Inn is in the heart of town. It looks like a stately mansion, and that is just what it once was. The legend (and there is more than one) is that the hotel is haunted. A cocktail or two at the ornate, but small bar is enough to draw out the story of a couple of sisters who once lived here. We won’t ruin the ending, but my wife heard enough to be very vigilant, to say the least! This is one of the great Florida hotels from the 1800’s.