The Lake Park Diner in Naples, FL

People who love to eat are always the best people—Julia Child

Today is a great day. It’s 3:00 in the afternoon and I’m still in my pajamas.

Here’s why:

We now live on a small lake in southeastern Indiana. It’s cold and snowy and Mrs. Big Surf says I can’t go outside to play.

So when I see snow, I think of the sun, surf, and always…good food.

In October of last year (2021), Mrs. Big Surf and I traveled to the warmth and beauty of Naples, Florida to visit the cuz and his lovely bride. For some reason they seem to think we are enjoyable company.

Our first meal was very memorable, breakfast at The Lake Park Diner. It was memorable for two reasons. First of all the food was tremendous. Along with outdoor seating and a beautiful morning, this made for a great late morning eat-a-rama. A second memorable thing happened, the Mrs. Cuz threw down the gauntlet with her attempt to silence my powerful pen and not do a blog about this “diner with a conscience”. I was aghast to think someone would not want to see this wonderful diner praised in the world of mega-bites. (Wow how clever is that).

She admitted that she did not want this diner spoiled with all of the publicity this perspicacious (you will have to look this word up, took me three times to spell it) writing would bring to south Florida. So I will plead with all of you forty-six followers, please stay away. Now to the attorney for The Lake Park Diner, I hope this doesn’t make me culpable in some sort of smear campaign against this fine establishment.

This is a great place for a relaxing breakfast in Naples.

I went out of my comfort zone and ordered the Korean Short-rib Hash, which is pictured above. This was very good and very foreign to a good’ole boy from Appalachia. Also some very tasty deviled eggs had to be tried. Mrs. Big Surf ordered the Buttermilk Chicken Biscuit which was fabulous.

Wonderful deviled eggs with bacon jam and smoked paprika and topped with micro greens.

The Buttermilk Chicken Biscuit was served with a side of fruit. This was a good dish.

The menu board at The Lake Park Diner.

Very comfortable dining in the large outside area.

I normally don’t show men’s bathroom art, but this was pretty cool.

I really don’t know what the phrase “Diner with a conscience” means but I was self-conscious downing my breakfast so fast.

Now I am going to try to dance on the legal high wire here and tell you what a wonderful experience we had eating breakfast at The Lake Park Diner and keeping all of my viewers from showing up in droves here. So if you will, make sure Mr. and Mrs. Cuz are dining elsewhere when you show up at The Lake Park Diner and it will be our little secret.

Port St. Joe, Florida

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop.’ —God to Job .

I am always humbled by the ocean. I love standing or sitting in the sand and just looking into the seemingly eternity of the endless sea. It gives me peace and I know that comes from the Eternal Creator.

So the next few paragraphs may seem like a living oxymoron…

In the paraphrased words of Clark W. Griswald, we packed up and headed out for a good, old-fashioned, family-fun vacation…six adults and five children, the oldest being five yrs old. Yeah, that’s right. Big Surf has guts, courage, lunacy, or a death wish.

It’s amazing how the synergistic effect of the energy of five children can overpower the synergistic effect of the tranquility of six adults. To make matters worse, the winds on the beach were above a soothing breeze and we adults were not allowed to go into the water due to the risks of riptides.

By midweek, I was ready to run up a white flag and replace the double red flags that blew as a constant reminder this beach trip was going to be different from all the others.

The locals kept telling us “This is so unusual for this area to have winds like this for this many days in a row.” As if somehow that was supposed to give me comfort. But nonetheless, Big Surf Daddy is still a beach animal and on the beach he must be.

We were able to spend two full days in the water out of six. One of those being at a lovely small beach called Windmark Beach near Mexico Beach. It was much calmer and we could swim.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, we all had a grand time, exhausting but grand. After all, we were on a beach in Florida for a week. Yes it was “breezeful” (to quote a former teacher), but we powered through and built castles and the kids played. We read books and talked and even built a few fires and roasted wieners and marshmallows and Big Surf wouldn’t have changed it for all the humid in Kentucky.

Port St. Joe is a beautiful small beach town just southeast of Appalachicola on the coast of the eastern Florida panhandle. There are wonderful seafood restaurants and markets. With the small children, we cooked a lot and ate out only a few times.

I will report of these food delicacies we sampled…

Our first night out, we had to go to plan B. Our first choice was, as always seafood, but there was a long wait. We went instead for some Mexican food at Pepper’s. We still had seafood, most of us had the Mahi tacos which were very good. So definitely no disappointments here.

These Mahi tacos were delicious and so fresh at Pepper’s.

Our go-to seafood market for the week was St Joe Shrimp Co. on Cape San Blas. This market had great service and selection. The tuna and shrimp were excellent. The frozen scallops were very good. The frozen crab cakes were good (but could have used a little more crab) and easy to fry up. The frozen hush puppies were great. They even serve lunch there daily of fried foods and sandwiches.

While our crew was eating lunch there one day, I bought some seafood for our dinner that night. I took a grouper sandwich basket and a bowl of seafood gumbo for lunch back to our house for Mrs. Big Surf and me.

There are two locations of the St.Joe Shrimp Co. One is on Cape San Blas and the other is in Port St. Joe.

One of our traditions on a beach trip is a Big Surf Low Country Boil. It is so easy. However in our rental house there wasn’t a pot to accommodate the size of the dish, so I had to divide it into three different pots. So not as easy as usual. This makes for a nice and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with our family.

And if you have some left-over shrimp, just throw them in with some scrambled eggs and salsa for a great breakfast dish.

We cooked scallops, crab cakes, and hushpuppies with sides. Of course there are an abundant amount of PB&J’s for the younger diners. The seafood and delicious hush puppies came from St. Joe Shrimp Co.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took a little sanity break and headed over to see Apalachicola and found this nice little restaurant that was so good, The Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar. If you make it to this restaurant, try to get a seat at the bar, you will have a good experience.

These butter and Parmesan oysters were very good at The Hole in the Wall.

The Fried Grouper Basket may have been the best ever at The Hole in the Wall.

Our final meal out was a wonderful meal at Provisions in Port St. Joe. We ate outside and the staff was very accommodating for our group with children.

Big Surf started the meal with the Sesame-Seared Tuna. This was incredibly good.

My entree at Provisions was the St. Joe Sauteé. I highly recommend this dish also.

Our final meal was a take-out from Uptown Raw Bar & Grill. This was a spur of the moment decision, a good one, after spending the day at Windmark Beach. This restaurant is owned by a nice young couple.

I know food doesn’t photograph very well in styrofoam take-out containers, however these oysters were so good. This is the Uptown Special. Big Surf was well pleased with his selection here.

There are many opportunities to eat good seafood in Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola.

To end this episode, I will show some of Big Surf’s beach scenes. I love beach photography and beachscapes. I apologize for the many photos.

Port St. Joe Lighthouse

Port St. Joe is part of the Florida Panhandle lovingly referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. I think this moniker is by design. After spending a week in this serene part of the Sunshine State, I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.