By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
PALM BAY -- When Jim Ritter sold his body shop and began investing in real estate in 2002, he never pictured that he would be where he is today.
"I didn't think I would be going into the restaurant business, but here I am," Mr. Ritter said.
In 2008, Mr. Ritter partnered with the former owner of Ozzie's Crab House, which was originally built along U.S. 1 in Grant in 1968.
"In January 2008, Ozzie's burned down and the old owner wanted to rebuild at the Grant location, but it was going to be a major investment," Mr. Ritter said. "When I found this location, I called my partner, and we purchased this building in November 2008."
After nearly one year of renovations, Ozzie's Crabhouse opened in December 2009. Mr. Ritter then became the sole owner after he bought out his partner in May 2011.
"This is the first restaurant I've ever owned, so that's a challenge," Mr. Ritter said, "and it's something new that I am learning every day."
Making Mr. Ritter's workload easier is longtime friend and general manager, Donna Brooks.
"Donna's been a dear friend of mine for 35 years," Mr. Ritter said. "She's made things so much easier here at Ozzie's and I could not have done this without her."
Ozzie's Crab House is a fresh seafood staple in Brevard County, famous for its "All You Can Eat" blue crabs.
"We have a niche there," Mr. Ritter explained. "You can get seafood in a lot of restaurants, but you can't get blue crabs. Aside from us, I believe there are only two or three restaurants that offer them."
In addition to Ozzie's delicious "All You Can Eat Blue Crabs," diners can feast on a wide variety of seafood delights, including mahi-mahi, grouper, shrimp scampi, fresh bacon wrapped scallops and much more.
Ozzie's Crab House also offers a variety of land-based plates, including Chicken Alfredo, New York strip steak and prime rib.
"We have a lot of great dishes here at Ozzie's, which are always fresh and made to order," Mr. Ritter said. "I really enjoy the Ozzie Delight, which has a little bit of everything -- clams, fresh-lump crabmeat, mahi-mahi, scallops and whole shrimp, sautéed in a garlic butter wine sauce and tossed with fresh tomatoes, bell pepper and onions, served over linguine."
Mr. Ritter takes a great deal of pride in the fact that Ozzie's Crabhouse serves up the freshest dishes in town.
"Everything is made from scratch and to order," Mr. Ritter said. "Our soups are all homemade, as well as our desserts."
Ozzie's also offers gluten-free options for those with a more sensitive palate.
In addition to the delicious, fresh food, Ozzie's Crabhouse is also a mecca for live entertainment, including an open mic night on Tuesdays, Bluegrass on Wednesdays and karaoke on Thursdays, with Friday through Sunday's live entertainment varying throughout the month.
"Ozzie's Crabhouse has an amazing atmosphere and excellent personnel. We have great food and an awesome reputation," Mr. Ritter said. "Our food is the kind of food that you make and serve right away to ensure the quality and freshness of our creations."
Ozzie's Crabhouse is located at 4391 Dixie Highway N.E., Palm Bay.
Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The Northside Lounge hours are 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily.
For more information about Ozzie's Crabhouse, call (321) 724-0009 or visit www.ozziescrabhouse.net.