There is a perfect setting for every food. Corn dogs should be eaten at a state fair, buttered popcorn in a dark movie theater, and anything on the Cracker Barrel menu just won’t be the same unless consumed during a road trip to drop off your little brother at some college in the Panhandle.
There’s a lot of good seafood in Miami and plenty of places to have it - but if you’re eating it at Shore To Door, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re exactly where you should be. It’s at this Coconut Grove spot, while alternating between a pile of Key West shrimp and smoked fish dip, that it hit us: This is the way we want to eat seafood for the rest of our lives - fresh from the ocean, in a sunny backyard, with a neverending cooler of beer a short walk away.
Shore To Door is a seafood market and restaurant that only serves food on the weekend from noon(ish) till about sunset. But it feels less like a restaurant than getting a text from your friend who likes to fish that says, “We need help eating all the snapper we caught today. Come over.”
And like a spontaneous backyard cookout, eating here is a leisurely experience. You don’t come for a 30-minute meal, you come for a lazy weekend afternoon of squeezing limes onto delicious things and losing track of how many beers you’ve had. All of the seafood here is sourced as locally as possible, and the menu really does depend on the daily catch. Generally, though, you can expect conch salad, fish dip, shrimp, a whole fried snapper with yellow rice, and stone crab if it’s in season.
We love Shore To Door’s backyard so much that we’d happily come here even if they served C+ seafood. It’s salty, mostly made of wood, and there are two big white coolers full of beer you can help yourself to (just try to remember how many you drank when it comes time to pay). But luckily everything that the two-person team here makes is basically the greatest hits album of Miami seafood - from simple things like fish dip and conch salad to the whole-fried yellowtail snapper that you’ll want to look right in the eye and whisper, “You’re delicious.” It also just reinforces our belief that this kind of food was meant to be eaten atop random outdoor furniture, mostly using our fingers, on a Sunday afternoon when we have zero obligations.
It can be hard to tell whether the food here is really that good or whether it’s simply the act of being here that makes one achieve a sense of shrimp-induced enlightenment - sort of how a movie theater activates that popcorn quadrant of your brain. But, also, who cares? When a place feels this right, the only thing to do is just enjoy it.
Before you do anything, hit this pile of beautiful fish dip with some lime. And if you’ve got a tolerance for heat, maybe give it a splash of one of the hot sauces sitting on the table. After that, dip away and don’t hesitate to ask for a refill of plantain chips.
There’s a pretty even ratio of peppers, onion, and conch in this so each bite is a perfect bite - unless your plantain chip breaks in half and you have to go rescue it with your fingers.
These fried fish bites are the size of chicken nuggets and come with a pink sauce that you will use every last molecule of. The fish is juicy and the breading is pretty thin, which allows the fish to still be the main thing you taste. And, once again, it all tastes better with a quick lime shower.
The shrimp are tossed in some sort of slightly sweet sauce and - whatever it is - we’d like to connect it directly to the pipes in our bathroom so we can shower in it.
Unlike most whole fish we’ve eaten, this is easy to pick apart with a fork or split with a friend since the meat falls so easily off the bone. Make sure to get a bit of snapper, yellow rice, and those pickled peppers all on the fork in the same bite if you want to hear a choir of angels sing in your head.
They sell little personal pies from the Key West Key Lime Pie Co., a pretty famous spot down in the keys. They come out frozen, as they often do in Key West, and it should be a mandatory way to end all meals here.