This weekend, we traveled north to Jacksonville, FL. One half of our family is from there. I remember my Dad taking us to see the shrimp boats docked by the Navy Base in Mayport just outside of Jacksonville when I was little. Only as an adult have I become enough of a shrimp snob to tell the difference in the different types of shrimp. My usual go-to shrimp is the Key West Pink Shrimp. I also love Rock Shrimp and Royal Reds. All of these are from Florida. In the past few years, I have had the pleasure of enjoying the occasional treat of a TRULY FRESH shrimp from Mayport, FL. They are White Shrimp. They are some of the only shrimp that I have had the chance to enjoy before they have ever been frozen (most shrimp are frozen immediately after being caught to ensure freshness). Shipments of them do not come in often and, when they do, I always have to have some! They are so delicious and the texture is unique; they just have this freshness to them that I love. They are my favorite.
First of all, Mayport is gorgeous. It is one of those places you could just pick up and move to regardless of whatever obligations are at your current location. It’s slow, sleepy, and about as “old Florida” as it gets. Old wood homes with big wrap-around porches. Marsh everywhere you look. People are fishing on the side of every road you turn down.
Keeping up tradition, my husband took our boys to see the shrimp boats while I was visiting with family. Upon his return, he told me that he found the most amazing looking seafood place and we just HAD to go back later for dinner. I’m ALWAYS game for field trips that involve food. And when they involve my FAVORITE shrimp, you know I’m there! I googled the name of the restaurant and was a little nervous about the reviews, but I knew we weren’t going to be in a rush. I have patience for days and those shrimp would be worth it.
This is Singleton’s Seafood Shack. Bursting at the seams with charm and nostalgia. I love it already. (Given the location of this restaurant and how important the shrimping industry is to their economy, I found this sticker on the door hilarious. Just for the record, I love imported shrimp. I believe it is important to find balance in our seafood diets between farmed and wild items. I figure every serving of imported shrimp I eat saves one future serving of wild Florida shrimp for my kids to enjoy one day. I certainly have my preferences, but you won’t see me turn down an imported shrimp!)
There are herds of “wild” cats EVERYWHERE in Mayport. They are extremely friendly, well cared-for, and very well-fed. If I were a cat, I would be happy in Mayport. We were greeted by many kitties as we approached Singleton’s!
We sat on the comfy, rustic patio. The menu was small, but it had everything you would want from a Seafood Shack. The gator tail appetizer had me even more excited about dinner. Lightly breaded and fried to perfection. The most tender gator I have ever had (winning over gator I have eaten in Louisiana and the Everglades).
I ordered the Fried Shrimp and my husband ordered the Grilled Shrimp so we could share (neither one of us could decide). Everything comes with Hush Puppies… and they were good Hush Puppies (the really sweet ones with lots of onions). The shrimp were so lightly breaded that you could see the coloring of the actual shrimp. Perfect. We ate every single one.
Just for the record, the service was great!!! Everyone was friendly. Our food came out in a reasonable amount of time. I can see how some people visiting might be turned off by the plastic utensils and rolls of paper towels or the overall casual nature of the place, but I think it was the best part. We even had kitties keeping us company while we ate. The view and the sunset were amazing. What more can you really want?
The shrimp quest was successful. I got my fix, at least for a little while.
Singleton’s Seafood Shack
4728 Ocean St, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233