Walt Wickman points at the boat slip directly below a table at his outdoor restaurant.
“You can’t get more local than this,” he says.
The boat slip houses the 38-foot Wing Shot from which Wickman buys much of the fish served and sold at Olde Bay Café and Dunedin Fish Market.
On a recent, steamy Saturday morning, the boat, captained by local fisherman Danny deLiesseline, comes in after almost a week in the Gulf of Mexico. The captain and his assistant unload hundreds of pounds of fresh grouper and red snapper into coolers to be brought into the Dunedin Fish Market. The cooks there fillet them for the dinner and lunch plates at Olde Bay Café or to be bought fresh and cooked at home.
Wickman and deLiesseline are carrying on a Dunedin tradition that started in the 1930s, when the fish house, run by the Saunders family, was originally built at the west end of the marina. The building was moved to its current location in the 1960s. The market tradition is a source of pride for the city and when Wickman and his business partner Dennis Doyle took over renting the space in 2011, Dunedin stipulated that the fish market must be kept open as part of the restaurant.
Wickman wouldn't want it any other way. The fish market has special meaning for him also. His father, an avid fisherman, bought it in 1971. Working there as a teenager seeded his insatiable desire to learn the best culinary techniques in America in hopes of one day adding a restaurant.
After his family sold the business to an employee in 2000, Wickman wasn't sure he would ever have the chance to fulfill his dream. In 2006, he opened a casual fine dining restaurant Walt’s Seasonal Cuisine on State Road 580 (now Bistro Atlantis). Five years later, Wickman had the opportunity he had been waiting for. He sold Walt's Seasonal Cuisine, rented the Dunedin Fish Market and built the waterfront café under the Dunedin Municipal Marina Office in March 2011.
Finally given his chance, Wickman's intentions are to return to the spirit of 1971, where his father strived to have the freshest local fish in the area.
Olde Bay Café and Dunedin Fish Market is throwing a Craft Beer and Crab Festival this Friday, Oct. 19, from 2 to 10 p.m. The festival, celebrating the opening of stone crab season, will be groovin’ all day in the restaurant’s front yard of Edgewater Park. Proceeds will go to support two local charities, Cure on Wheels and Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance.
Want to Go?
See just how local it gets with Olde Bay Cafe's sandwiches, fish tacos, local beers and phenomenal Asian noodle salad. Then review your experience on Patch!
- Where: Olde Bay Cafe & Dunedin Fish Market, 51 Main St.
- Contact: 727-733-2542, www.oldebaycafe.com
- Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.