As I drove to the newish Safe Harbor location in Jax Beach, I could smell the salt air as I descended the bridge. It’s right by the boat launches at Mike McCue Park & Boat Ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway, so maneuver the parking lot with care–folks are putting in and taking out boats all the time. I pulled up and let a valet chap park my car for free (but be sure to tip). I asked about the crowd inside. He assured me it wasn’t too bad; we both knew there’d be a line. I don’t mind the wait–it gave me time to plan my attack. I stared down a cousin of the fish I was to devour. Doll’s eyes.
I like variety, so Captain Walter’s Combo (we like to think it’s named for Capt. Walter Floyd, a Mayport fishing legend) is the ultimate choice. Choose two ($16) or three ($20) sea creatures and have them fried, blackened or grilled. These platters include fries (substitute fried okra for tepid fries), coleslaw and hushpuppies. It’s enough to share.
The folks at this place are quite serious about seafood. Full of the bounty of the sea, Safe Harbor boats dock at Mayport Fishing Village every day, unloading at the original fish market, then bringing the various delicacies of the deep to Jax Beach.
Take advantage of whatever is deemed the fish of the day–mahi (a polite term for dolphin; no, not Flipper), snapper, triggerfish and more. The decent-sized portion of not-too-fishy trigger has a much firmer flake than you’re used to with salmon or mahi. We paired that with the half-dozen fried oysters and buttery grilled scallops included in Capt. Walter’s Combo.
Safe Harbor offers a taco feast, with all the good stuff you’d want. You can assemble four tacos any way you please. An order of banging shrimp tacos ($11) features a bunch of the fried crustaceans, drizzled with a spicy mayo-based sauce. My only complaint? More sauce! Unwrap warm, corn tortillas, light and smooth, and start your assemblage. Spread on sour cream, spoon on salsa, throw in some lettuce and a chopped pico. Top with yummy shrimp and bib up!
There are also three dips: crab (small $4.50/large $9), shrimp (small $4/large $7) or smoked fish (small $3.50/large $7). Maybe it was just a fluke, but our crab dip had more cream cheese chunks than crab bits. That’s not to say the sideways-walking crustaceans aren’t worth it at Safe Harbor–the crab cake was bursting with crab! The burger-sized cake, tender on the inside, had a nice fried crunch on the outside. Dab some rémoulade on top for a creamy, crunchy bite. For variety, try a crab cake melt ($9).
The view at this place is terrific–ICW vista, with sunburned tourists and watermen alike, wrestling with all kinds of vessels. If it’s a nice day, tie up your own boat at the dock and pop in for a cool drink and a fresh dish.
Don’t wait for your in-laws to visit to hit this Jax Beach/Mayport seafood institution. Everyone’s taken care of at Safe Harbor!
If you have a dining venue recommendation, email Brentley at [email protected].