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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

Food Review: Corky Bells Steak and Seafood (East Palatka, FL)

Contributed By: Mark Bonovetz

Let me start by saying I travel a lot for work. A LOT. And over the last two years I’ve eaten at every fast food chain you can think of. And frankly, if I ever eat at one again it will probably be the last. That being said, most of my travels take me to all corners of the country. Which made me think hey, why eat mainstream when you can dine at the local establishments in these towns. The greasy spoon. The seafood joint. The steakhouse.

And that is just what I began to do. And needless to say, my journey has just begun.

I start my journeys by asking the workers on the job site, “Where do you eat?” “What is the local cuisine everyone has to have?” And I go from there. And today’s dinning mystery, on the advice of EVERYONE on the job site, was Corky Bells Steak and Seafood (East Palatka, FL).

I pull into the lot and it is packed full of vehicles. First good sign. I get out and go in and the hostess asks how many for dinner? One I say, and she immediately responds with “First come, first serve in the lounge if you like?” I peak around the corner and there are seats open. Perfect. Considering the cars in the lot, I’m not taking any chances.

I sit at a high top and in a matter of a minute one of the bartenders is at my table asking what I want to drink. Bourbon selection is standard so I do Makers Mark on the rocks. Can’t go wrong there. She is back behind the bar and back with it. She hands me a menu and gives me a few minutes to pilfer through it. But I already know what I want. What was referred to me at the job site: Gator Tail.

Now, first thing I think is that there is going to be this big chunk of meat, grilled or fried, and it’s going to look like an alligator tail. Bring it. But before I get that I ask for a bowl of chowder. She asks me if I want the New England or the minorcan? The difference? The minorcan is tomato based and has a bit more potatoes. Let’s do that. And she walks away and comes back with a bowl full of goodness. Then I ask, “Can you tell me what gator tail tastes like?”

This is where the fun starts.

She tells me it tastes like a dark meat chicken/pork combination. The guy across the bar yells “It tastes like chicken!” I said, "Hey, I’m from Wisconsin!" They all yell back “So is this guy!” And sure enough, another guy from Wisconsin is in there as well. Now I feel at home. And before I could even begin to order the entire bar area was involved in my order. Phenomenal! I am laughing so hard I can’t talk. Finally I order the gator tail and some collard greens. I am a collard green snob. And living in Wisconsin only one place has ever tickled my collard green fancy (thank you ZoZo’s BBQ.) So I am not holding out hope.

All the good natured and witty banter continue and my food arrives. I am salivating. Fried gator tail, collard greens, and hush puppies. Not a big fan of the puppies in general, but I will give them a shot. Nothing else has gone wrong so far. How can these?

The gator tail bites are generously breaded, but not over bearing. A very meaty combination. Chewy but not gamey. Extremely tasty. I dipped mine in ranch, but you could eat them without it. The collard greens were amazing. Not too overpowering, but marinated just right. Totally worthy of ordering again. Which indeed I will.

Portion sizes are more than enough for a hearty eater. Salad was fresh made and the blue cheese was very tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed my food.

But what I enjoyed even more was the beyond belief friendly people in the place. Not just the wait staff and the bartenders, but the people in here enjoying the atmosphere. I’ve never felt more comfortable at a place in a town I’ve never been to than I have here. I can guarantee I will be back each and every trip I make it down here.

Thank you to everyone here for an amazing dining experience.

Mark Bonovetz is an avid traveler for his job, and enjoys trying new places everywhere he goes.


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