Take the short trip for Baffin Bay Seafood

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RIVIERA — It finally happened.

I had a terrible experience at a restaurant that I had planned to review. Everything was going according to plan. My girlfriend, my parents and I had every intention of having a nice brunch. They had ordered everything that I forced them to, and they had signed the non-disclosure forms I came up with. It was going swimmingly.

But it was just a terrible experience. The food was not good. The service was … distracted. I was so disappointed. I had a great joke ready about an elderly man at the table next to us wearing a cap that said, “I identify as a pissed off American,” and now you will never get to enjoy it.

Luckily, I had a back-up plan. Earlier in the week, I had informed one of my editors that I had planned to drive to Riviera Beach in Kleberg County. I asked if I could write a review about a seafood restaurant in the area. He said he wasn’t sure, so I asked another editor and he mumbled something, but it seemed like a positive mumble so I took that to mean that it was fine.

My girlfriend does not like seafood. The Catholic in me has felt the urge to convert her to seafood for a while, and with no other options in Riviera Beach, and nowhere to run, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to force her to eat something against her will.

To be quite honest, there isn’t much at Riviera Beach, and that’s all we needed. The breeze from the bay and the sound of seagulls laid the foundation for a comforting experience a short hour-and-half drive away from home.

Baffin Bay Seafood is located just along the bay near a popular fishing pier. The restaurant was busy when we walked in, but we were immediately greeted by one of the waitresses and told that they would have a table cleaned for us in a few minutes. We were told that we could sit at the bar while we waited, but we instead chose to wait in the outdoor patio that overlooks the bay.

We sat at one of the picnic tables on the wooden patio and took in the sights and sounds as we stared at the empty bay and its shallow waves. My only complaint was how quickly our table was ready. I could have sat out there with my girlfriend for at least a few hours.

We were seated and our waitress brought some menus and a basket of crackers with a small bowl of homemade tartar sauce. The orange-colored sauce was chunky and tangy with a hint of sweetness, as if trying to mimic a sea breeze.

The bacon wrapped shrimp were wrapped in thick slices of bacon with a thin slice of jalapeno hidden inside. (Francisco Jimenez | The Monitor)

We ordered some bacon wrapped shrimp for starters, which didn’t take long to reach our table. The shrimp were wrapped in thick slices of bacon with a thin slice of jalapeno hidden inside. I can’t be sure because I didn’t ask, but I think the shrimp were deep fried.

I watched intensely as my girlfriend studied the shrimp. She took a tiny bite, getting mostly crispy bacon. I coaxed her to take another bite, which she did reluctantly. She appeared to be pleasantly surprised.

“Not bad,” she said. “It’s real beefy. That shrimp has a lot of love to give.”

When the waitress returned to take our orders, my girlfriend ordered the chicken fried steak with a side of mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad. I asked the waitress for her suggestion, and she recommended the black drum ribs.

The black drum ribs were lightly breaded in a salty batter reminiscent of a backyard fish fry. (Francisco Jimenez | The Monitor)

She said that the black drum ribs are very popular and all-you-can-eat. She added that people enjoy picking apart the meat from the tiny bones. I took her recommendation with a side of onion rings and some hush puppies.

I can see why the black drum ribs are a popular item. They were lightly breaded and deep fried, giving the sense of a home-cooked, backyard fish fry. They were served next to a mountain of onion rings, which were lightly battered and lightly crispy. The hush puppies were fine.

The chicken fried steak was smothered in white, peppery gravy with a piece of Texas toast on the side. (Francisco Jimenez | The Monitor)

My girlfriend’s chicken fried steak was smothered in white, peppery gravy with a piece of Texas toast on the side. The gravy made the steak a little more soggy than I would have liked, and the batter had a bit of sweetness. And the mashed potatoes were buttery and served with the white gravy as well. She said that she appreciated that the restaurant had non-seafood options on the menu.

I picked off a few pieces of meat from the toothpick-like fishbones and offered them to my girlfriend. For someone who is not inclined to order seafood, she seemed to enjoy it. I can’t say that I agree with those who may enjoy picking the meat off of the bones, I did enjoy the crispy breading on the drum ribs.

The carrot cake was moist, rich, dense and delicious, and the perfect way to offset the saltiness of the fried meals. (Francisco Jimenez | The Monitor)

We ordered a slice of carrot cake, which was the perfect way to offset the saltiness of our meals. The cake was moist, rich, dense and delicious.

The experience as a whole was relaxing and pleasant, and the service was top notch. We may have to make a detour to Baffin Bay Seafood the next time we find ourselves driving through Riviera.

Baffin Bay Seafood is located at 1294 Co Rd 2360. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.