SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Well-known angler Tom Garbacz is back
in the business of serving seafood with a large trailer/kitchen
he will take to fairs and other events around the state.
ANNA MARIA – When long-time commercial fisherman Tom Garbacz closed his Crabber Tom’s restaurant in 2006, it was a blow to his plans to stay in the business without having to go out fishing.
Faced with a faithful clientele, just not enough business to keep going, Garbacz salvaged his secret recipe tartar sauce and started bottling it, using the facilities of the Sign of the Mermaid. That’s when he decided to take a different route toward becoming a chef, not an angler.
Garbacz recently purchased a large trailer that had served as a mobile kitchen and he wants to take his business on the road.
"I’d like to do fairs for five years or so until I find a location where I could set up the trailer and start a business," he said. "If the location is good, I could then build a restaurant there."
Garbacz said he is making some sacrifices to start this venture.
"I had to sell my beautiful gray pickup to buy this bigger truck," he said. "It was a perfectly good pickup and this one rides really rough when it isn’t loaded down with the trailer."
Garbacz will also have to change his address.
"I’m moving off the Island for the first time in years to a location where I can keep the trailer," he said, "I’m going to miss living here a lot, but I have to do it."
Garbacz said he will keep the menu items that were successful when he owned Crabber Tom’s. Those dishes include grilled shrimp on a stick with chipotle, crab rolls on a stick, fish tacos, shrimp tacos, fried shrimp on a stick and boiled shrimp. And, of course, he will have his special tartar sauce to spice up the food. He had to stop selling it when Sign of the Mermaid was unable to provide him with a place to prepare it, but he will resume production now Garbacz is fully licensed and since his trailer has been approved as a commercial kitchen, he is making the sauce there. Meanwhile, two establishments are selling it: Sweet Peas at 5350 Gulf Drive, next to the Holmes Beach contract post office, and Ginny’s and Jane E’s at 9807 Gulf Drive in Anna Maria.
Being a fisherman for years has given Garbacz a background for making sure he serves the best, freshest seafood, he said, even when he’s at a fair away from the water.
"Before I opened my restaurant, I took the time to learn all about purchasing and preserving seafood to the point where I never had to throw out anything due to spoilage," he said. "I always served the freshest tasting seafood around."
Garbacz is anxious to get on the road and he thinks he will make a go of it. He said he wants to serve food at Bayfest in Anna Maria in the fall.
"I want to see my old customers again," he said. "I’ll make my famous grouper sandwiches with my tartar sauce as a way of saying thanks to everyone I served when the restaurant was open."
For information on his tartar sauce or his mobile kitchen, call Tom at 518-6089.