Make us your home page

From the food editor: a Fried Grouper Sandwich recipe for our focus on regional food

This Fried Grouper Sandwich is featured in the “Big American Cookbook” by Mario Batali and Jim Webster.

Big American Cookbook

This Fried Grouper Sandwich is featured in the “Big American Cookbook” by Mario Batali and Jim Webster.

There are certain dishes you know in your bones, recipes you've made hundreds of times — or watched your grandma make hundreds of times, and happily ate. As we head into the last quarter of the year, and into holiday season, our sentimental connection to these kinds of foods tends to grow.

And those dishes that mean the most to us, that are passed down on crinkled recipe cards, usually have something to do with where you live. Or, at least, where you lived when you were a kid.

This week's issue of Taste explores the idea of regional foods, where they come from and how they get ingrained in our culture so much that even when we move somewhere else, we still crave them. You'll also find ideas for where to locally get some close approximations of certain types of regional foods: Chicago hot dogs, Maryland crab cakes and Buffalo chicken wings.

Whenever we write about these dishes, it tends to cause a stir among our readers. There was the time Times staff writer Brittany Volk got tons of emails in response to her opus on Jersey pork roll, the processed meat her New Jersey family grew up eating. Let us know what you think about our picks, or offer your suggestions for where to get regional food locally, by writing to

Florida is a melting pot of a state, home to folks from all over the country who have strong food feelings for dishes elsewhere. But there are classic Florida dishes. In this story, we talk to Jim Webster, who co-wrote a new book with Mario Batali called Big American Cookbook, which features hundreds of regional dishes from different states. From Florida, there is Key Lime Pie and Devil Crab, "handheld crabby croquettes" that "vendors would hawk" in "bygone days on the streets of Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood." And there is the Fried Grouper Sandwich, the quintessential dish born of the gulf beaches.

Here is what Big American Cookbook has to say about one of our area's most famous dishes:

"Sitting on Clearwater Beach. Facing west. Toes in sand. Sun quickly descending into the far reaches of the Gulf of Mexico. A plastic cup covered in condensation from its frosty contents. If this scene does not also include a Fried Grouper Sandwich, the picture is incomplete and I am unhappy. Be happy. Choose joy. I'll gladly eat these for breakfast any day I can see the magnificent Gulf of Mexico."

Lucky for many of us who live here, that can be every day.





Fried Grouper Sandwich


  • Canola or corn oil for deep frying
  • 1 (16-ounce) bottle beer
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds grouper fillets, cut into 4 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted
  • ½ cup Tartar Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Dill pickle chips
  • Hot sauce for serving


  1. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches of oil to 370 degrees. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the beer, egg, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Dry the fish with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dip the fillets in the batter, then carefully lower into the oil. Fry for about 6 minutes, turning as necessary. When fillets are golden brown, remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while the rest of the fish fries.
  4. Open the toasted buns and slather the bottoms with tartar sauce. Add a fish fillet to each sandwich and top with tomato, lettuce and pickles. Have a bottle of hot sauce handy and serve with fries and a sunset. Makes 4 sandwiches.
Source: Mario Batali's Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA (Grand Central Life & Style, 2016)




Tartar Sauce


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped capers
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pickles, plus 2 tablespoons of the brining liquid
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon


  1. Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, chopped capers, chopped pickles and juice, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir to combine.
Source: Mario Batali's Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA (Grand Central Life & Style, 2016)


From the food editor: a Fried Grouper Sandwich recipe for our focus on regional food 10/03/16 [Last modified: Monday, October 3, 2016 10:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend: June 30-July 2: Vans Warped Tour, fireworks, corgi races, Guardian Con, Dan TDM


    Plan your weekend

    Vans Warped Tour: The shirtless and inked-up masses will once again descend upon St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park on Saturday to mosh and thrash to dozens of bands across seven stages. This year brings the likes of Gwar, thrash group Municipal Waste, Southern metal band Valient …

    Corgi in the grass; Dog playing the the grass;
  2. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  3. Fourth of July celebrations firing off all around Hillsborough


    Apollo Beach

    Food Truck Festival celebrates fourth

  4. Channelside, downtown sight of holiday festivities


    CHANNEL DISTRICT — The City of Tampa's largest Independence Day celebration, Light Up Tampa Bay, returns to Channelside Plaza on Tuesday with fireworks, live music, entertainment, face painting and food trucks.

    Fireworks explode over Channelside during last year’s July 4th celebration.
  5. YouTube's Minecraft sensation Dan TDM brings live show to Clearwater


    Dan Middleton's YouTube channel has had more than 10 billion views since 2012.

    Dan Middleton's Dan TDM live tour is set to stop in Clearwater on Sunday. [Photo by Emily Herogian]