Almost Famous Mel’s has a new focus, a new chef, and a new name.
The restaurant at 657 S. Collier Blvd. is now Famous Fish, said controlling partner Mel Slawik. Or to give the complete name, Famous Fish Seafood and BBQ, reflecting a new emphasis on seafood at the well-known Marco eatery.
“We’re always getting feedback from our customers,” said Slawik. “We did an actual survey, and three out of five customers who responded said what they wanted was more seafood. Seafood is health food, and more people are health-conscious these days.”
The restaurant will keep many of the barbecue offerings for which it is known, and add a range of what they are calling “seafood with a twist.”
“Our menu is unique and upscale, but with a casual flair,” said chef Louis Cataland. New seafood dishes include shrimp tilapia, sautéed with a little bit of spice and served on corn pones; and clams casino, flash-baked in pimento butter and topped with apple-smoked bacon.
“If you love shellfish and don’t try that, you’re shorting yourself,” he said.
The same slow smoking over a variety of hardwoods that has given their barbecued foods a distinctive taste will be used with a variety of local fish.
“We have grouper, snapper, pompano, tilapia – whatever’s fresh,” said Slawik. The restaurant is also adding a seafood bar, with shrimp salad, peel-and-eat shrimp, and oysters and clams on the half shell. They buy fish locally from Kirk’s and Captain Jerry’s, as well as purveyors on Florida’s east and west coasts.
“Don’t worry, we’ll still have old favorites like our famous half-pound hamburgers, our homemade french fries and sweet potato fries, and our flame-roasted corn on the cob,” he said.
At Famous Fish, as at Mel’s, flavor is king, said Mel Slawik. Their beef brisket, served as a platter or sandwich, is tender, juicy and flavorful after slow-roasting in the smoker for 12 hours.
“Our chicken wings are bursting with flavor,” he said. “We don’t separate the wings and the legs, so it seals the flavor in.”
Barbecue offerings are served with three homemade sauces: Mel’s original is a sweet sauce with molasses and brown sugar; Jon’s is bourbon-based and smoky; and Hot and Happy, said Slawik, has a little sting.
Famous Fish also has a new concept for the bar.
“We’re putting in an experimental drink program,” said Slawik. “We’ll have name brands including Smirnoff, Cuervo, Cruzan and Captain Morgan for $3, all day every day.” Draft Bud and Bud Light, he said, are always $1.99 for a 14-ounce glass.
In addition to his controlling interest in Famous Fish, Slawik also owns Cathy O’Clarke’s, and is a Realtor with Land & Sea Realty.
Linda Knox came down from Naples and stopped in to the new Famous Fish. They took a friend to Tigertail Beach, she said, and got hungry.
“I had the crab cakes and the sweet potato fries. It was just fabulous,” she said of her visit to Famous Fish. “The crab cakes have huge chunks of crab, and the sweet potato fries are thick, so they don’t have that oily fried taste. I highly recommend it.”