Crooked Bass a Magnet for Food and Fun
Last updated 4/9/2019 at 3:12pm
Good food and fun are drawing crowds into the popular Crooked Bass Grill and Tavern, but there's also a fascinating bit of Babson Park history behind the success.
Featuring a large and diverse menu and a full bar, the Crooked Bass is already a familiar dinner-time destination for folks in Babson Park and Frostproof, but as its reputation grows, people are making the drive from Lake Wales, Avon Park, Winter Haven, Haines City, and surrounding towns.
The project of Tammy and Tim Bracewell, the restaurant is housed in a familiar red-brick structure at 1010 Scenic Highway that was known for years as the location of McCallister's Grocery. That's where the history comes in. During a recent review, Tammy revealed that, as far back as the 1970's, she was designing window posters and graphics for the store while working at their wholesale supplier in the Tampa area.
"I knew about the store, and knew the McCallisters from our weekly phone calls," Tammy admitted. "They recently asked me if, in my wildest dreams, I ever thought I would own the building and work here. I had to say no!"
A weekend visitor to Crooked Lake for 37 years, the Bracewells bought a home here 17 years ago, and became full-time residents in 2015. Tim worked in the phosphate industry, and Tammy ran the Brandon Chamber of Commerce for 14 years before making the move.
So how did they end up in the restaurant business? "Tim loves to cook," Tammy said, laying the reason at her husband's feet. It's a family affair, though, and both their daughters, Tristen and Tyler, also work with them part time. Working with family is great, Tammy said.
Whatever the reason, residents around the big lake are glad they came to town. Locals flock in to enjoy platters of seafood, burgers, and a wide array of fresh vegetables. "I love veggies, and I wanted to serve what we like when we go out. Too many places you ask about the vegetables, and its just corn, or 'mixed vegetables,'" Tammy said. "That's not really vegetables. We buy all ours fresh, even shred our own cabbage for cole slaw."
The sides list proved her right, offering more than a dozen veggies, including steamed spinach with fresh garlic, olive oil, and chardonnay. It's just one of the flavorful treats a recent visit offered.
Appetizers including shrimp cocktail, raw oysters, calamari, and traditional conch fritters were all delicious, and were served with a choice of sauces. Smoked fish dip was created using high-end Mahi, rather than a less-expensive fish, and served with fresh diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, carrots, and celery, accompanied by crackers.
The popular Combo Platter at the Crooked Bass offers a choice of two or three different seafoods from a list including shrimp, oysters, scallops, flounder, and clam strips. The delightfully tender, large broiled scallops were a highlight.
For those who prefer to stay ashore, the menu also features steaks, including ribeye and filet mignon, as well as pork chops, chicken breast, chicken wings, and pasta. Caesar and tossed dinner salads may be topped with shrimp, scallops, or chicken if preferred.
Seafood platter entrees come fried, blackened, or "on the bed," which indicates a bed of the delicious chardonnay-steamed spinach. For lighter appetites many choices can be ordered in baskets, which include cole slaw, French fries, and tasty hush puppies.
For the "minnows" a children's selection of sandwiches and pastas is topped off with a dessert of "worm dirt pudding," a concoction of chocolate or vanilla pudding, crumbled Oreos, and gummy worms.
For the grownup crowd, Crooked Bass also offers a full list of cocktails, and no less than 10 different draft beers, plus a wide array of bottled brews and wines. Their full lunch and dinner menus may be seen at CrookedBass.com
Special weekly events are popular, including Friday's karaoke night. A variety of live bands perform on Saturdays. Weeknight "all you can eat" specials are also offered, including Wednesday night's shrimp and Thursday's snow crab legs.
Tammy also serves as the president of the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals and is committed to community involvement. "We sponsor a Little League team and are very involved with 'Students in Transition' at Lake Wales High School," Tammy said, explaining that the program assists students who are left without homes for a variety of reasons.
"Some students have to live in motels, some have no parents," she added. Each year they fill a Christmas tree with gift requests, and customers choose cards from the tree to help make their dreams come true. "This year we helped 11 seniors who were college-bound get new notebook computers for their studies."
For a variety of reasons Crooked Bass is worth a taste, and the short drive to Babson Park. Reservations are accepted, and recommended for large parties. Be sure to tell them if you have a birthday or anniversary to celebrate.