Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

This shark tooth dive trip to Venice, Florida was an “every meal out” trip, and we had no idea what to expect in the way of restaurants.

Road trips and dive trips are a chance to experience new food. Sometimes we opt for grocery shopping and preparing our own food; but other times, we throw caution to the wind and plan on a total splurge and eat out every meal. Avoiding chain restaurants is our goal, but that doesn’t always work, as you can see above with the very impersonal “black shirt” call ticket.

About a year ago, we stayed at an Airbnb to do some shark tooth diving, and did most of our own cooking except for one brief excursion to a takeout for grouper baskets. This time, we went with open minds and had a few surprises. I’ll start with a most exceptional Mediterranean dinner at Bodrum.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Bodrum – a Culinary Highlight

This place is worth at least one night of dining – if not more. I wasn’t sure what I would order; Bodrum is a fusion of Turkish and Greek, and I’m not truly familiar with either genre, having yet to travel to Turkey or Greece.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

The directions took us to the curb, then we found our way to the restaurant through a brick-lined breezeway. This area of Venice is rather European in feel, with open-air dining and sidewalk seating

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

I wasn’t familiar enough with what would be nice and light and fresh. As I often do, I looked at the tables around us. The inside restaurant was packed; an obvious local favorite. We sat outside, and I peeked at other diners’ tables. It looked like anything and everything was popular. No help there.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Finally, my choice was Haydari since I’ve never had it, much less heard of it, and we chose to split a salad that turned out to be large enough for four.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Bill chose falafel. I thought I knew what that was, and I’ve made them in the past. From a mix. These were nothing like anything I had before. I was hooked. Every bite was an exquisite culinary experience.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Turkish coffee. It arrives in a teeny, tiny cup. Bill held it with two hands – I think because it was so delicate, but in afterthought – maybe because it was so strong! The bottom third was pure slush.

The dessert was a Kazandibi, a Greek milk custard with caramelized sugar on top. There was a lovely topping of ground cinnamon, and the most creamy, perfect consistency of custard beneath.

In all, Bodrum certainly was the culinary highlight of our long weekend in Venice. I can’t wait to go back shark tooth diving in Venice just to eat there again.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Metro Diner for Breakfast

Ok, no laughing, but since I rarely eat out, and nearly never eat at chains, so I had never eaten at a Metro Diner. Bill assured me it was dependably good.

Breakfast before two hour-and-a-half dives demanded a full plate, so we headed to Metro Diner to fill our bellies.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

We checked weather, wave conditions, cloud coverage and more for the day’s dive while waiting. I will have to say, we had the most attentive, helpful, cheery waitress I think I’ve ever had at breakfast anywhere anytime. Well done!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Well, I got a plate full of food, that’s for sure. Bring on the butter! Carb city! I wasn’t sure if we would go to sleep or, better yet; have enough fuel to last the entire day of diving!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Bill’s breakfast bowl was big and hot; we figured that would stick in his belly for at least the first dive. We didn’t finish the bread, but I wrapped it in a napkin Cuban-style for a snack later. Either I could feed the fish or us. We ended up eating it during our surface interval between dives and being glad we had it.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Pops Sunset Grill for Late Lunch

After one unsuccessful and one successful dive, flush with pleasure in our finds, we decided to treat ourselves to waterfront dining at the recommendation of one of the workers at Venice Dive Center. Pops Sunset Grill is a great location to thaw out in the sun and watch the boat traffic on the waterway.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Initially, parking looked pretty slim. We found a spot up front, and it wasn’t until we were on the way out that we realized the parking scheme. There’s a huge lot across the street, and a six-seater golf cart to ferry diners back and forth to their vehicles.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Waiting for celebratory cocktails, we admired the view, and considered the fishing line strung across the opening. We knew why it was there…

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

…because feathered friends really like French Fries!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Having learned our lesson and been “tricked” by being served in single-use plastics plenty of times before, we quizzed our waitress. “Can we have a regular glass? (no) What do you serve the cocktails in? (recycled cup) Are you sure you will use these cups again? (yes we do) We weren’t completely sure, but we took the gamble and ordered tropical treats.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

We both had a Pop’s Punch, with Goslings rum, and some other rum, and some more rum… Post dive, it was a nice treat to sip as we watched the waterway traffic, contemplated our finds, and waited for our meal.


View from Pops Sunset Grill

There was plenty to watch as we waited. Pontoon boats seem most popular here, as well as smaller center consoles and bow riders. We could see and hear the bridge opening just up the waterway.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida
, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

The food arrived, and the cold bean salad is rather nice! We had a fish basket with the salad, and a jalapeno burger. Prices were not horrendous.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

The atmosphere at Pops is lovely. You feel like you are off the beaten path, and the small bits of landscaping are tropical and well-maintained.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Seating is set up so you are not elbow-to-elbow with other tables. There are areas on the waterfront that are situated at different levels, so you don’t feel crowded.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

We’ll be back to Pop’s!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Dinner at Metro Diner

After the second day of diving, we weren’t dressed for eating out. We elected to return to Metro Diner for dinner. Waiting for a crowd, eating inside, and gourmet prices didn’t appeal to us – we just wanted something simple and quick.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

So, who knew Metro Diner has $2.99 bloody mary and mimosas? Not us! Happy Hour at Metro Diner?!?

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Bill had an enormous burger with onion rings. Everything was cooked and condimented exactly as he ordered; it was a satisfying dinner.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

My burger was loaded with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and bacon. After a long day of diving, it was filling and tasty.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Venice Island Coffee for Breakfast

We’re always on the lookout for a local breakfast spot with some homemade specialties. We found Venice Island Coffee right in town.

It’s possible we were in town in the off-season, because the bakery case was nearly empty. It didn’t look like we were the late crowd, either, because people only started arriving as we were leaving.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Prices were very reasonable. That’s my own coffee canister, and it was only $2 to fill it with coffee and all the half and half I wanted. I had a breakfast sandwich on 12 grain bread, and Bill had a breakfast plate that came with a prettily-arranged fruit bowl which we shared.

The location is convenient to the downtown historic shopping district, and we noticed residents cycling and walking to breakfast.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Daiquiri Deck Island of Venice

At the dive shop, we asked if there was somewhere we could get a smoothie. “Smoothie?” they all echoed. “Uh, uh, uh well… you can get one with alcohol in it…” Where? At the Daiquiri Deck!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

So, we went. Right in the heart of the downtown area was a very nearly empty place with a huge rack of t-shirts welcoming guests, as well as several huge televisions. Outdoor seating also was available.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

The place reminded me of Fat Tuesday’s in Key West. There was a menu for making combinations of a couple prefab drinks into something new. We stuck with the basics – a mudslide and a margarita.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Truly, we try to avoid places that serve in single-use plastics. These drinks came in sturdy plastic cups – we hope they get reused. Scared to ask, we contemplated the “shooter” – a plastic test tube. The waitress eagerly told us we could keep it as a souvenir. No thank you. The drinks were reasonably priced.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Mainly, we worked at ignoring all the televisions and plotting out our next dives. We had a list of possible spots to head to next.

Salem’s Fresh Eats – Winter Haven

A pit stop in Winter Haven on State Road 17 meant grabbing a place – any place – fast. We had planned to get a bit further, but ended up at a Florida chain called “Salem’s Fresh Eats.” Usually we avoid the chains, but darn it, we were starving.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

I have to say, this is the biggest gyro I’ve ever seen. I would have liked more vegetables – well, any vegetables – on this sandwich. It was generous indeed.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

The place reminded me of a Long John Silver’s crossed with a Miami Subs. Condiments were available in paper cups, but drinks came in styrofoam.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

I used my own refillable cup, and avoided a few single-use items.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Salem’s Fresh Eats is based in Tampa, and has 13 locations. They specialize in seafood, chicken, sandwiches, big bowls, salads, and even cheesecake. Plenty of locals were eating on their lunch break, so we figured it must be a good value for the money.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ – Bowling Green, near Wauchula, FL

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

We actually passed by Smokin’ Joes on the way to Stream2Sea to exchange a recyled fishing net Rash Guard for a different size. As we passed by the place, Bill commented “Any place with a wood pile like that is bound to be great.”

At the recommendation and invitation of Autumn Blum, Stream2Sea owner and chemist, we headed back to Smokin’ Joes for lunch. Oh, wowza! You cannot imagine the size of this smoked mullet, which was excellent.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Order are taken next to a freezer full of meat – and we were disappointed to hear that several favorites were already “run out.” Okra, and something else. However, there was plenty of coleslaw and mac and cheese for sides.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Yes, any place with piles of wood like this – that turned out to be the secret tip to finding a great meal.

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Ecoconscious Travel Sunscreen, Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash

Into my toiletry bag went my eco-conscious body products, so neatly assembled in a single kit available from Stream2Sea and packaged in guilt-free sugar cane biodegradable containers. Little did I know how useful everything in the Conscious Explorer Kit would be! Feeling prepared! (“KimW” for 10% off!)

What to Read Next

You can read about where we stayed – Waterfront on Roberts Bay // Venice Florida // Airbnb Review – Airbnb discount code below.

Or, watch the video about what we found – What We Found: Shark Tooth Hunting // Venice Florida // Deep Water Happy

Coming up next are articles about the actual dive sites where we searched, so subscribe in order to know when they publish!

, Eating Our Way from Venice to Wauchula // Dining Off the Chain in Florida

Airbnb – Make Your Trips “Off The Chain!”

Ok, so, here are two Airbnb discount codes. Try either one! The offerings from Airbnb change every couple months, so use whichever gives you the best deal. You can only use a code one time, so compare, choose whichever gives you the best deal since they change periodically, and make it count!

As of today, this one, Airbnb says, “Kimberly gave you up to $55 off your first trip.” Friends who sign up for Airbnb with my link will get $40 off their home booking. And they get $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more.

Also today, this one, Airbnb says, “Deep gave you up to $415 off your first adventure. I’m ready to book from this one right now! I’m thinking it’s a computer glitch – so jump on it fast!

Waterfront Home, Guest Suite w/private bath…. is the listing we booked on Airbnb. Lucy has a few other offerings; a room with a shared bath, a guest cottage, or the entire home. If you click on the circular link of any host, you can see all their listings. This home is on Roberts Bay in Venice, Florida.

That Awesome Shirt

Invest in Yourself

The “Black Shirt” Bill’s wearing at the beginning of this article is from Crisis Medicine. My First Aid and CPR annual course simply did not have enough depth and breadth for on-the-water emergencies. So, I highly recommend the Tactical Casualty Care online course from Crisis Medicine.

It’s taught by an emergency medical physician who is a former US Army Special Forces Medic (18D) who has trained thousands of private citizens, first responders in law enforcement, fire, and EMS in casualty management in high risk environments.

“Crisis Medicine trains students to quickly identify and treat immediately life-threatening injuries during a high-risk environment and avoid unnecessary loss of life.” Mike Shertz, MD/18D

For courses through Crisis Medicine, Mike has generously given me a code to share with you for a 20% discount; just use “DeepWH” at checkout for the Tactical Casualty Care TC2 course.

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