Tipsy Tarpon Seafood Shack opened in September at the Miromar Outlets in Estero. / Special to news-press.com
Tipsy Tarpon Seafood Shack
10801 Corkscrew Road, Estero
• Price: $$$-$$$$
• Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
• Call: 949-4447
• Noise level: Those seeking deep conversation should request an area away from the live entertainment, noise is otherwise minimal.
• Etc.: Full bar, outdoor seating, reservations accepted for large parties, takeout available.
SAMPLE OF THE MENU
• Lighthouse ceviche, $7.99
• Conch fritters, $8.99
• Peel-and-eat shrimp, $11.99
• Fire coral shrimp, $9.99
• Blackened mahi mahi tacos, $11.98
• Grouper with gouda-cheese grits, $17.99
• Blackened grouper with mango salsa, $21.99
• Big Shrimp Platter, $23.99
On a humid evening at Miromar Outlets, as a man in a Hawaiian-print shirt belts out Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” one might second-guess a dinner at Tipsy Tarpon Seafood Shack.
For those of us busy holiday shopping, with families to get home to and leftovers in the fridge, a stop at a place as touristy looking as this isn’t high on the priority list. The Estero restaurant, which opened in September across from Naples Flatbread on the easternmost side of the outlets, has that Pinchers-slash-Joe’s-Crab-Shack vibe – large, glowing sign out front, nautical knick-knacks adorning the walls.
Tipsy Tarpon’s expansive main dining room is lined in wood planks to resemble the inside of a ship. A saltwater aquarium along the far wall houses clownfish and angelfish.
Its menu is a bevy of seafood. Coconut shrimp and calamari, clams and hush puppies and steamed mussels – it’s nothing you haven’t seen on countless menus before. Nor is it especially memorable. Peel-and-eat shrimp were on the rubbery side one night. Conch fritters came as two-bite balls, piping hot with a nice crunch but little discernable conch.
Juicy oysters, served icy cold, were a bright spot of my meals, as were tender clams steamed in white wine. But a bowl of ceviche, some bites perfect, others chewy, led me to believe the kitchen had made a fresh batch of the lime- and chili-drenched dish, then tossed it with an aging one.
Tipsy Tarpon fares better with its sandwiches. A po’ boy arrived as a softly chewy baguette overflowing with crisp, perfectly fried shrimp. Seared mahi, tendrils of cabbage and a Key lime aioli made for delicious fish tacos. A grilled grouper sandwich featured a thick, tender fillet.
Grouper comes in many forms here: Nicely sautéed atop a heap of gouda grits you’ll wish were creamier and less dense; or coated in crushed-up potato chips and fried a touch too long, the thinner edges drying, shriveling and curling in under the stress.
The waitress warned us as happy hour came to an end, encouraging us to order another $2 draft or $4 margarita before prices jumped. Service was friendly and efficient on my visits, with many hands – one person delivers drinks, another brings food, another clears plates, your server manages it all – taking part.
The Hawaiian-shirt singer had retired by the time our bill was paid, and the dining room was sparsely populated. The few diners remaining shared booths with tissue-topped shopping bags; larger buys perched at their feet like hungry pets.
Tipsy Tarpon has some good things going for it, but I worry about this location. As one friend put it, “I shop at Miromar. I eat at Gulf Coast Town Center.” If Tipsy Tarpon wants to change that, it’s going to have to try harder.
Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Send email to email@example.com; facebook.com/JeanLeBoeufSWFL or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).