There are a lot of great restaurants on St. George Island, and elsewhere along the Forgotten Coast. But visitors and locals alike love the challenges of preparing their own gourmet meals, and when it’s time to choose from the best area seafood, they usually have two names in mind: Dail’s and Doug’s.
The two seafood trailers have been staples on the island for more than two decades, and offer a wide variety of the fresh bounty harvested from local waters daily. They are usually parked within a couple of blocks from one another in the central business district, near the two grocery stores that sell the items every chef needs to complete the perfect recipe.
Most days you’ll find Doug McKinney sitting in his red chair under the awning of his Doug’s Seafood trailer. Around him are usually several coolers filled with the day’s catch, which often includes local oysters, shrimp, scallops, snapper, and grouper, among others.
“I try to be the best I can be and offer the best seafood money can buy, seven days a week,” McKinney says. The former millwright went into the seafood business more than 25 years ago, and said his seafood is “known around the world” because of the vast diversity of visitors who come to St. George Island each year.
“I have people who have been buying from me for 25 years,” he says. “They’re like one big extension of my family.”
Family, and the connection with their customers, is something that’s cherished across the way at Dail’s Seafood as well. There, Anna and PeeWee Carmichael man what they like to call “the Wagon,” and dish out as many stories as they do pounds of shrimp and oysters.
“We have quite a tremendous, loyal customer base,” Anna says. She loves to talk with the folks who walk up to the trailer, which was originally opened in the 1990s by PeeWee’s parents, Dail and Betty Carmichael.
Anna’s journey began away from St. George Island, but she remembers her family vacationing here when she was a child. Eventually those regular trips turned into something even more lasting when she “married a shrimp man.”
Dail’s Seafood offers many of the same staples you’ll find at Doug’s, with the addition of yellowfin tuna and scallops, which aren’t commercially caught in local waters. And Anna also makes several gallons of her now-famous fish dip each week, which has become a favorite item for visitors and locals alike.
“We do everything but catch the fish,” she says. Her dip is made of mullet or mackerel which they smoke at their fish smoker at home, and she mixes up the rest of the secret recipe herself. Dail’s also offers crab cakes made by another local fishing family, the Amisons from Apalachicola. That family operates a seafood warehouse across the bay and partners with the Carmichaels.
For Anna and PeeWee, success is all about connection. They get lots of customers from social media and web advertising, but it’s the stories they share with one another that breed loyalty and fellowship between retailer and customer, they said.
“We love our customers, they’re the ones who support us year in and year out,” PeeWee says. To which Anna adds, “Engaging our customers is one of the most important things we do. In this new age of interaction through technology, human interaction is absolutely necessary.”