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Melanie's Seafood Company Offers a Special Dining Experience

Small Downtown Establishment Features Open Kitchen, Tasty Meal

A favorite of knowledgeable Lake Wales diners and a popular spot for lunch and dinner remains a bit of a hidden gem to many newcomers.

Melanie's Seafood Company offers a rare opportunity to watch their food being prepared in a spotless open kitchen in this intimate spot on Park Avenue in downtown. A varied menu of seafood specialties, along with a few options like a famous 'Cajun burger, assures that every taste is satisfied.

Owner Steve Manwell and his wife, Ali opened Melanie's "on the very day that Governor DeSantis ordered a lockdown" due to the Covid pandemic, according to staff. While many other restaurateurs would have given up, Manwell persisted, and found a parade of customers arriving to get their take-out meals.

In the three years since, Melanie's has developed a large and loyal following, and most weeknights will find the small dining room overflowing onto a pair of sidewalk tables.

Popular dishes that we tried included tasty fried shrimp, with just the lightest of crusts making certain that the perfectly-cooked shrimp weren't overpowered. A lobster roll was an authentic New England-style roll filled with fresh lobster.

A fresh pompano was blackened and served whole, and the seared skin was as tasty as the rest of the fish. Carefully separating the bones released a generous portion of tender flesh.

Most fish dishes are available fried, grilled, or blackened. All are cooked to order. The fried fish we tried likely shared the same light batter as the shrimp, just enough to encase the fish and keep it moist during the cooking process.

Manhattan-style clam chowder and crab cakes were both delicious treats.

Other than the northern lobster and New Zealand mussels, most fish dishes, like the ever-popular grouper, are delivered fresh. Oysters are flown in from New Orleans.

Most dinners, aside from the delicious al dente linguine with clam sauce, come with a choice of two sides from a long list that includes fried spinach, green beans, mixed vegetables, redskin potatoes, potato salad, cole slaw, French fries, sweet potato fries, and rice.

Other delights, including the popular lobster macaroni and cheese and coconut shrimp, are available to round out the menu. Their remarkable shrimp and cheese grits are only available at special times.

Melanie's dessert list includes a delicious and authentic Key lime pie, served with a dollop of sweet whipped cream to offset the appropriate tartness of the pie.

For those with a sweet tooth, Manwell's daughter recently opened Maggie Mae's ice cream shop just across the street, where the staff will make your dessert fresh to order using an entertaining process involving liquid nitrogen, which freezes the fresh milk and flavors instantly. The process produces a healthy and tasty treat free of any preservatives.

Melanie's is open Monday 12:00 to 3:00, and Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 until 8:00 pm.

Melanie's is located at 120 East Park Avenue, downtown Lake Wales. Maggie Mae's is just across the street at 125 East Park. Together they form a real treat for locals and visitors alike.


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