Thirty-five years ago, Grandpa Mikey Cooper moved his family “lock, stock and barrel” from the Tennessee hills to tropical Isles of Capri. Extended family from Oklahoma pitched in to help rehab “Poor Paul’s Fish Camp,” formerly an original 50s bait, tackle and grocery store, to create the remodeled Pelican Bend restaurant. There have been additions to the original floor plan over the years and more people waiting in patient lines to enjoy the best seafood chowder, shrimp, sautéed fish and peanut butter pie around.
Wait a minute, did I say “lines”? There’s another generation of Coopers who nixed the lines and is providing appetizers, light fare and beverages while you wait to partake of the full menu inside! From Friday – Sunday, 4-7 PM, you can add your name to the reservation list, take the pager and stroll to the outside tables by the boats and docks, enjoy the salt air and sunset as the pelicans drift by watching keenly for the results of the catch brought back by the returning fishing charters. It’s a view made in, well, heaven. That pager may startle you out of your reverie.
The ambiance and unique menu was created by Mikey’s grandson, Steve Cooper and his wife, Morgan, with the rest of the family’s support. Try these choices on for size with an ice cold beer or wine: Blackened hogfish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and key lime aioli drizzle, or lobster salad slider on a warm ciabatta roll, or smoked fish dip with a spicy blend of crushed pepper, cream cheese and smoked fish served with banana peppers and made to order tortilla chips. Salivating yet? Did I mention the
seared Ahi tuna?
There are tables and umbrellas outside and tables inside the screened chickee bar where you’ll try to find a license plate from your home state intermingled with fishing, photos and other memorabilia. This scene is probably reminiscent of the original Poor Paul’s Fish Camp! Outside, there’s another chickee bar that seats 12, with all the familiarity of your local tavern back home.
The Coopers are strong advocates of using local fish and produce and obtain both from sources on Isles of Capri. The brand new Capri Crab Company, “From our Boats to your Door,” provides “right off the boat” stone crabs. Produce comes from local fields to Paula’s Capri Produce market, open to the public, on the corner curve with the palm tree coming out of the market roof! You can’t beat the local color and taste of freshness. You can also watch fresh fish being unloaded and cleaned on the dock and pinch yourself that you’re really here and not in a dream.
You are immersed in authentic sights and delectable menu choices, but there is an evolving menu right now, so don’t expect a polished final format. New items like Pulled Pork Sliders and other choices are coming soon, based on the creativity and enthusiasm of Morgan and Steve. They are committed to preparing delectable, unique food in an atmosphere that is relaxing, full of reel [sic] fishing experiences and soon will have entertainment.
After all, with those qualifications, isn’t that why we go to places like this, behind the bend, and keep going back again and again and…
Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!