You may not know it, but tucked into an unassuming warehouse district on Premier Row, just off of Orange Blossom Trail and within minutes from The Florida Mall, there is a wholesale market that sells the best seafood money can buy. Called Bar Harbor Seafood, the company also prepares and delivers menu items to Boston Lobster Feast, has its own food truck and just so happens to have a food counter that is the hottest lunch spot in the area.
Around lunchtime on any given weekday, the line is often stretched out the front door. Once inside, the ordering counter is small and the preparation area is even smaller. Patrons order lunch, pay the cashier and wait patiently for their name to be called in a steady routine, person after person. All meals are served in to-go containers and are devoured at picnic tables that line one of the building’s outer walls under the shade of umbrellas and several palm trees.
This private, family-owned company has major buying power, purchasing seafood from all over the world: shrimp from Bangledesh, salmon from Chile and, of course, the sought-after Maine lobster. Every single day the management team at Bar Harbor Seafood purchases the seafood in bulk at a great price to use in dishes at Boston Lobster Feast and to sell inside the wholesale market. The company also has a fleet of 37 trucks that ship the seafood to restaurants across the entire state.
“We have something that no other restaurants have,” Chef Joe Machado, who has been with the company for nine years, says.
He’s talking about the company’s position as a purchasing powerhouse in the seafood market. Since they order a large supply of fresh seafood at such a low cost, that deal hits the pockets of each customer too. It means low prices for dishes on the lunch menu and for those extra items you’re likely to pick up for dinner before you go.
Machado works behind the scenes in the property’s kitchen five days a week, sometimes six depending on the season. He creates lunch specials on the fly based on the products that are available to him. He might use red snapper one day if the team found a deal and scallops the next if there is a large enough supply.
“We try to keep it simple,” Machado says. “You order and are out the door within 10 minutes. We are unlimited by what we can do.”
Some of the everyday menu items on the lunch menu are Clam Chowder ($3.95), Lobster Bisque ($5.95), Spicy Tuna Roll ($5.95), Fish and Chips ($7.95) and Whole Ipswitch Belly Clam Plate ($11.95). A crowd favorite, the Grilled Maine Lobster Salad Roll tastes like it came straight from New England with generous, lightly dressed chunks of lobster meat stuffed inside of a buttery split-top bun. Normally priced at $10.95, which is a steal in itself, Bar Harbor Seafood serves this dish on special each Monday and Tuesday for $6.99.
Another tasty special is the Smoked Salmon Salad, coming in at an affordable $8.95. Machado smokes the salmon in house for two hours before it is served over mixed greens, roasted bell peppers, feta cheese, walnuts and onions with a mandarin ginger dressing drizzle. While it’s served at a low price point, this salad is huge and very filling.
You may also find whole cooked lobster on special, or you can go for one of the everyday menu items and take this delicacy home with you to prepare for dinner. If you’re taking it home pre-cooked all you have to do is drop it in boiling water for two minutes to bring it back up to the proper temperature.
The draw at Bar Harbor Seafood is the ambiance and price. Once you find it, you know you’re at a neighborhood favorite. It is small yet welcoming. Not to mention, at this price point, it makes for the perfect picnic lunch.
Bar Harbor Seafood’s wholesale market is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.