Stay in Tampa Bay, especially along the beaches, for any length of time, and you will see restaurant after restaurant boasting they serve “The World’s Best Grouper Sandwich.” While some of these establishments do serve a pretty tasty meal, be warned: what you’re eating may not be grouper!
Grouper is a very white, flaky meat with mild flavor, which makes it a popular choice for restaurants to serve. It is also abundant in the Gulf waters, although recreational grouper fishing has limits per boat and specific seasons it can be caught. Real grouper has a thick filet, however “fake grouper” that is sometimes passed off for the real thing is typically a thin filet – because it is actually tilapia or Asian catfish!
In 2006, the State of Florida began cracking down on restaurants misrepresenting grouper on their menu when actually selling something else. Since then, the majority of restaurants in our area are indeed selling real grouper. In January of 2013, a local news channel randomly tested 10 popular local restaurants and each one came back positive – the real thing was on the plate.
But the best way to know if it’s the real thing? Catch it yourself! And I guarantee, nothing tastes better!