DOWNTOWN — Three years ago Nick Cruz acquired the abandoned Chubasco seafood building on Interbay Blvd. with just $50 in his bank account and introduced Big Ray’s Fish Camp to Tampa because he believed the area lacked decent seafood restaurants.
Cruz didn’t have much knowledge about opening a new business, but he had a vision—a fish shack that resembled those popular in the ’50s and ’60s.
He collected old fence panels from around the neighborhood converting them into his three tables and bar and gathered fresh fish, and within a few months his grouper sandwiches, conch fritters and peel-and-eat shrimp attracted locals and the attention of Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley. The recognition won him a spot in the top 50 restaurants of Tampa Bay.
Now the fish shack owner recently signed a licensing agreement with Aramark, the food and beverage provider for the Tampa Convention Center, for a site located at the Riverwalk adjacent to The Sail.
"I didn’t foresee this happening in the beginning, but I quickly realized we had something special," he said.
"I’m excited and ecstatic to be apart of history at the Riverwalk area. When people think of eating fish and seafood they want to be by the water so I think it’ll be a good marriage for us."
The Riverwalk location will mirror the original Interbay location with the same menu offerings, but with a full kitchen and new and upgraded amenities such as shade structures, additional seating, upgraded and expanded restrooms, new air-condition units and more.
Cruz says he hopes to grow the brand and eventually build more along the coastline of Florida, but the original flagship location will always be there.
Prices range from $10-$16 and the operating hours will be determined but are expected to run parallel to the Sail operating seven days a week.
Construction for the facility begins Monday (Sept 17) and Big Ray’s Fish Camp and the Sail Plaza is slated to open by April 2019.
For more information visit bigraysfishcamp.com/ or call (813) 605-3615
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