By J.M. Copeland
For Hometown News
No shirt, no shoes, no problem is a popular saying at Crabby Joe's Deck & Grill on the Sun Glow Pier in South Daytona and just what most diners might expect from a restaurant built on a pier stretching out 900 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
Basket food would also be expected at a restaurant where fishermen with poles resting on their shoulders have to pass through to get to the fishing area of the pier.
"Our lunch is served until 4 p.m. and it is served in baskets," said General Manager Luke Zona.
Lunch fare includes a variety of fish sandwiches, fish tacos, burgers and soup and salad, but at 4 o'clock the menu changes, the sandwiches disappear and Chef Hector Rodriguez's dinner entrees are presented.
"He became our chef during February race week and he made some changes for us," Mr. Zona said
My husband and I took his recommendations, for the Rose Petal Shrimp and Crab Cake and for me the Mahi Mahi & Jumbo Shrimp in Alfredo Crab Sauce. I am not a big fan of crab cakes so what to order wasn't difficult.
I was assured by my other half the crab cakes were exceptional, not like most crab cakes that are more filling than crab.
Perhaps Chef Rodriguez's crab cakes would have changed my mind about them, but the two generous pieces of blackened Mahi Mahi smothered in Alfredo sauce with huge shrimp on top were so luscious I never gave my choice a second thought. As a side I selected the Key West vegetable medley and I'll admit it I expected overcooked veggies but that was not the case. It was cooked to perfection and I could have made a meal out of those vegetables.
Location is everything and this restaurant has the best view in town, or as Mr. Zona told us, "the best tasting view."
Mr. Zona said the restaurant had tried winterizing the wooden floor slats during cooler months but it didn't feel the same.
"Our customers said they missed looking down through the floor boards to see the waves," Mr. Zona said. "Sometimes you can see fish."
Crabby Joe's appeals to a wide variety of diners, from families with children to locals and race car legends, specifically Richard Petty.
"Richard has been coming here for years in February and July," Mr. Zona said. "The Pettys came in for Richard's birthday in July."
The Pettys aren't the only drivers that make Crabby Joe's a stop when they are in Daytona. Inside the entrance, on a wall of fame, Sterling Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ward Burton are just a few whose pictures greet guests.
On weekends it is not uncommon to see Mike the Balloon Man visit tables with children creating elaborate fishing poles with fish on the line, princess crowns and pirate hats out of balloons.
Plans are underway to enlarge the Calypso bar and widen the dining area. In the meantime the current area is being covered in marine themed murals by artist Craig McMahon. Mr. McMahon has created a three-dimensional octopus and has something in common with Michelangelo, he's painted part of the ceiling. Unlike Michelangelo, Mr. McMahon painted from step ladders, not lying down.
"You fall asleep," he explained.
The fishermen are part of the entertainment.
"They are part of the atmosphere. They walk through, sometimes with large fish," Mr. Zona said. "We will cook the fish they catch for $3. We do ask they buy the sides and a drink. Tourists may not have kitchens. We will cook their fish even if they didn't catch them on the pier."
The full menu, virtual tour and live pier cam is available online at sunglowpier.com.