Friday, March 23, 2012

Gettin' Gritty at Pirate City - Pompey's Seafood Shack

On my last day at Spring Training this past Tuesday, my other two travel partners had become a little saturated with minor league prospects. They didn't say it, but I sensed it (even though both said that didn't mind going back to Pirate City) so I just grabbed the rental car and drove the 10 minutes to Pirate City myself.

It was a camp day, just the intrasquad games and workouts, and it was done for the day at 12 noon. At the end of the camp, Tim from Pirates Prospects and I headed out for lunch. Tim has been covering the Pirates' minor leaguers at Spring Training for the past 5 weeks or so. Right down from Pirate City is a great little place called Mixon's Fruit Farm, sort of like a Soergel's but with oranges instead of apples. They have a little dining area with all sorts of pressed sandwiches, but the highlight is the orange and vanilla swirled ice cream -- sort of like a Creamsicle. Tim liked the food and the convenience of it so much that he ate there 45 times since coming to Florida.

I decided to give him a break from number 46 by taking him to Pompey's Seafood Shack down E 26 Avenue, about 5 minutes from Pirate City. It features a bright yellow painted block building with hand-painted descriptions of the food on the exterior walls. There was also a smoker going out in the parking lot with spray-painted advertisments on the side, so you know it has to be good.

We walked inside and were taken aback by the sprawling menu on the wall. There were variations of shrimp specials (6 shrimp with fries, 8 shrimp with 1 side, 12 shrimp with garlic sauce, 4 fried shrimp/4 steamed shrimp) that caused both of our eyes to glaze over for a second.

I saw that conch fritters were on the menu and I was eager to try them. I've been trying to sample the sweet meat of conch for some time now. When I ordered from the man at the register, he said that they were out of conch. Waa Waa. He also said they were out of amberjack and dungeness crabs. No problem on the last two. I was trying to parse through all the shrimp combinations I could get when I settled on the #7 combo -- 12 shrimp in garlic butter sauce with potatoes and corn. I also ordered a side of fried okra to split with Tim.

Tim went with the pulled pork sandwich and fries combo, under the auspice that he had been making a lot of seafood for dinner at his condo. Who am I to chastise someone for getting delicious roadside meats?

While our food was being prepared, the older man in the back came out to collect our money. I could tell from his dialect that he wasn't American, so I asked where he was from originally. I expected him to say Jamaica or Trinidad/Tobago, but he said Haiti.

His name was Shiller and he left Haiti "to escape the government" a while ago. He left family behind in Haiti, namely him mother and sister. He opened up this restaurant "3 or 4 years ago". He was very friendly and quite easy to talk to. He was the kind of guy I could I wanted to ask a million questions to about life in Haiti and how he had adjusted to America, but our food was ready.

My shrimp were steamed and dropped into a bath of garlic butter sauce with little potato life rafts popping up here and there. My island of corn was sitting in the upper left hand corner. I'm not usually wild about shrimp that have not been peeled, but I decided to just pop the garlicy morsels in my mouth and chomp through the shells. The potato slices absorbed just enough butter for the flavor, but were not soggy at all. I was so full from the dozen shrimp and potatoes that I barely touched my corn. It was plenty to eat for lunch.

The okra was from a frozen bag and dropped into a fryer, but the bite-size chunks were still very tasty and something different than what you get back home.

Tim seemed to enjoy his pulled pork and fries, but the majority of our discussion was about prospects and players in the Pirate system. Shiller came out to check on us and tell us stories about his version of split-pea soup that he makes for his family, but he had to go back inside to take care of a sudden influx of customers to the little roadside building.

If you are in the Bradenton area, whether living or visiting, check this little hidden gem out near the intersection of E 26 Avenue and E 9th Street. (I have no idea how or why they number their roads down in Bradenton).

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