When husband and wife Mary Kate and Jon Walker, owners of The Tides Seafood Market and Provisions, moved to Florida with their three sons, they knew they wanted to pursue their culinary dreams. The problem they faced, though, was deciding whose dream to follow.
“My husband was in the seafood distributing industry for 17 years,” Mary Kate said, “And he always wanted his own restaurant. I’ve been a lifelong fan of farmers’ markets, so I wanted a place where local purveyors could sell their products. Like a permanent Saturday morning market.”
The thing about markets, however, is that people enjoy them more—and definitely buy more—when they’ve got hot and ready eats for sale. So, the Walkers decided, why choose?
Today, they officially own and operate The Tides Seafood Market and Provisions, which is both a specialty market and fresh seafood eatery. And, if my recent visit to the Safety Harbor spot taught me anything, it’s that the best culinary finds, like the best marriages, are built on compromise.
Visiting the Bay’s “permanent farmers’ market”
When I first walked into The Tides, I was overwhelmed by its nostalgic charm. With polished wooden furniture, country-inspired displays, and walls of local artwork, the space is reminiscent of an old general store or souvenir shop. It’s brought up to date, however, through its contemporary stone flooring and modern food offerings.
“Just about everything we sell here is locally produced,” Mary Kate said as she guided me down towering aisles of breads and grains. She picked up a loaf of sourdough. “This was made in St. Pete.” Her eyes drifted to a nearby refrigerator full of kimchi and hand-churned ice cream. “And all of that is from St. Pete, too.”
I spent a moment marinating in the comforting warmth of the market before Jon wandered out from the kitchen side. His smile was friendly and enthusiastic—very similar to Mary Kate’s. Despite their differing business interests, both of the Walkers seemed to be governed by the same southern hospitality.
Seafood served with hospitality
It was around this time that the focus of my visit shifted from touring to tasting. Following Jon’s lead, I moved from Mary Kate’s market to the dining area outside his kitchen (which is really just about twenty feet away in the same room). Like Mary Kate, he was eager to share his passion. Unlike her, however, he didn’t do it through words.
What unfolded over the next hour was a culinary demonstration that told Jon’s story through food. From one plate to the next, I learned of his history as a chef in New Orleans, as well as the “little old lady” who first taught him to cook.
Most importantly, though, I learned that everything on The Tides’ menu tasted great—and that the humble little spot is definitely worth a visit. So, if you’re a seafood-loving local, grab your friends and head over to Main Street Safety Harbor.
Here are some of the things that await you.
The Tides’ Po’boy features a heaping mound of flash-fried fish on top of New Orleans Leidenheimer bread. Offered in four varieties (Oyster, Clam, Grouper Finger or Meatball), this sandwich is fresh, crispy and delicious—especially with extra remoulade sauce.
The second best-selling item on the menu (after the Po’boy), the Crab Cakes are another dish that The Tides does well. Featuring large pieces of tender crab in perfectly-spiced breading, the cakes are thick, flavorful and never dry.
Even though The Tides has only been open a year, the restaurant’s Grouper Sandwich has already been nominated for the “Best of the Bay.” With a blackened cut of fish juicier than the body of water it came from, however, that nomination doesn’t come as a surprise.
Salmon Cobb Salad
One of Mary Kate’s favorite items on the menu, the Salmon Cobb Salad is equal parts healthy and tasty. From the Brick Street Farms greens on the bottom, to the thick-cut pieces of bacon and tangy house-made vinaigrette on top, each layer of this bowl is both nutrient dense and palate-pleasing.
The Tides’ Lobster Roll is cool, creamy and loaded with massive chunks of claw meat. It has one big problem, though: it’s only offered as a “special.”
If you ever see this stacked, drippy and flavorful sandwich on the menu, therefore, you absolutely need to order it. Like the McRib (but better), there’s no telling when it might be back.
Your new family restaurant and market
With the holidays coming up, I’d highly recommend The Tides Seafood Market and Provisions as a great spot to bring your visiting family.
Whether your relatives are hungry for homecooked comfort food, or need a lesson in the importance of collaboration, Jon’s dining room tables—nestled happily in Mary Kate’s marketplace—have got you covered.
The Tides Seafood Market & Provisions is located at 305 Main Street in Safety Harbor. For hours, menu specials and more, foodies can visit the spot’s official website here, or follow the team on Instagram and Facebook.