The Hungry Tarpon, an old Keys-style fish shack highly touted in guidebooks and on Trip Advisor, is too busy for its own good. If you’re visiting Islamorada in the Florida Keys, and you’re looking for a good bite, skip this place.
Our experience here was sub-par from the get-go, and after reading all the hype about how fabulous this restaurant was, The Hungry Tarpon left me vastly disappointed. The hostess, who sat a walk-in table before us after she put us on the waiting list (and then forgot about us), was very unorganized and frazzled. Probably because she had no support and a million people to find tables for. I don’t blame her. The outdoor deck-dining area was understaffed. Only 2-3 servers were working several tables, so they brought food out late and therefore tables turned over at a snail’s pace.
With the entire patio deck, side yard, and inside seating–probably 20-30 tables–my guess is the kitchen is too small to handle the business. Our food took over 25 minutes to come, and when I got my Caesar salad, the leaves were shriveled and warm, no doubt from sitting under a heat lamp for 10 minutes. Four of us ate there, but our server forgot to bring one of the entrees, and by the time it came, the three of us were done eating so we shoveled the fourth fish sandwich into a to-go box.
The Conch fritters were more like doughnut holes. About 10% conch and 90% fried breading, these tasted more like flavored bread than actual fritters. Not once did our waitress check back to see how our food tasted, and the table next to us waited a whole 15 minutes with no service before one of the women got up and hunted down a server to take their drinks order.
The Hungry Tarpon wasn’t all bad, though. The ambiance is unbeatable. The decor was fish-shack themed and relaxing outside on the deck overlooking the teal blue ocean was pleasant.
Overall, I was not impressed by this highly recommended dining experience. It was not worth the wait and the prices, and if you’re planning a visit to Islamorada, you’re better off finding another restaurant, or bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beer in a cooler. Honestly.