A few weeks ago, Joan and I ventured to the east side of Florida to meet with friends, Lida and Roy Kaplan. The four of us were to board the Noordam the following day on a ten-day cruise to the southern end of the Caribbean. Although we were aware that the Holland America line had a reputation for rich food and that we were destined to overeat in the immediate future, this did not require that we forego supper! Couldn’t let that happen.
We drove about ten minutes to a restaurant-tavern, Pineapple Joe’s Grill and Raw Bar. The building, on U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce, is hardly imposing. It has clearly been here a while and the number of cars in the crowded parking lot was evidence of local popularity. Once we entered the building, it was obvious that this establishment was unique; a place like TV’s “Cheers” where nearly everyone was a regular and the banter between wait staff and patron was infectious. In the back were pool tables and, all in all, a warm inviting establishment.
Although Pineapple Joe’s has a full bar, the variety of ice-cold beers caught Roy and my interest. As we quaffed the beer, and the ladies indulged in iced tea, we looked over the menu. I immediately focused on a southern treat that I find truly wonderful: fried green tomatoes, slices of green tomato, lightly breaded and then deep fried. The result is a tart taste treat! I could make a meal of this stuff, especially when accompanied by cold draught beer.
Although the tomatoes almost filled me, I couldn’t resist another favorite, a bleu cheese covered rare hamburger, oozing juice and flavor with every sloppy bite. Many restaurants, perhaps having less confidence in the freshness of the hamburger or the cleanliness of the preparation process, will serve hamburgers well-done and juiceless. That kind of burger needs multiple toppings to create taste, all fine but the taste of the hamburger is hidden! The hamburger and green tomatoes would, by themselves, justify a trip to Pineapple Joe’s – but the menu is more extensive.
Joan ordered and enjoyed a blackened fish sandwich which was huge, overlapping the roll. The fish was covered with the spiced blackening and was thick and moist on the inside. There are a number of side dishes that accompany the sandwiches, including the expected chips but also black beans and rice. (There are parts of the country where the Cuban influenced black beans and rice, “Moros y Cristianos”, is not familiar. They are missing truly fantastic comfort food.) Joan, on the other hand, knowing the serious eating was coming up, chose cole slaw. Solely in the interests of accuracy I tasted her slaw and it had a delightful tang.
Lida ordered a combination of appetizers, fresh fried mushrooms, onion straws and conch fritters. The serving was ample, large enough to provide a taste for everyone. While many items on the menu are fried, the batter or coatings was not overpowering. The taste of the mushrooms or onions came through.
Folks in the next table had ordered, and were enjoying, a bowl of thick and fragrant clam chowder, chock full of clams, and an impressive sized platter of fried scallops. I was not offered a taste of either, but next time I am going to indulge in that chowder. I am also likely to try a number of other items on the menu, especially the pasta topped with clams, artichokes and mushrooms.
Pineapple Joe’s is just the place to enjoy a beer, good and unpretentious grub, good company and a most welcoming attitude. One has a feeling that, after a visit or two, everyone will know your name.