Crawfish etouffee

Crawfish etouffee is among the Louisiana specialties on the menu at Shuck-n-Dive Cajun Cafe.

ISLAMORADA — Shuck-n-Dive Cajun Café is bringing traditional southern dishes and classic New Orleans cuisine to town.

Shrimp boils on the beach are planned this weekend as part of the grand opening fais do-do, or Cajun dance party pronounced “fay-doe-doe.”

The new Islamorada location joins the flagship Fort Lauderdale restaurant that owner Danny “Staz” Stasi opened in 1999.

On Monday morning, Stasi was on his way to get big burners, pots and tables to serve the weekend-long shrimp boils on the beach at Whale Harbor.

Soon enough, it will be crawfish boils as that signature crustacean’s season could open as early as November and run through the end of June.

A “Bad Moon Rising” full moon party Thursday night kicks off the weekend of swamp funk, blues and zydeco. New Orleans-based musician Rockin’ Jake will play his harmonica through Friday night. Hobo Preservation Society will take the stage on Saturday.

“I’ve been coming to Islamorada my whole life. It’s been my weekend spot for the last several years,” Stasi said in determining the second Shuck-n-Dive location. “I’ve been involved in some other projects with [Whale Harbor owner] Howard Brody and we decided to get together on this location. The banquet room is the best location in the Keys as far as I’m concerned.”

The Shuck-n-Dive Islamorada menu mimics the expansive Fort Lauderdale location and shares the same music, vibe and accreditations of Louisiana Certified Farm to Table, Certified Creole, Certified Cajun and more.

“My butcher and my seafood guys are in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, and we only use Gulf oysters as well as the Key Largo Fisheries,” Stasi said.

“We feature Pilar Rum in all of our specialty drinks. It’s made in Key West and we like to support local businesses. We also carry local craft beers to complement our Abita beer. We will be catering from this location once the pandemic subsides,” Stasi said.

The menu boasts crawdads, burgers, sausage, shrimp po’ boy, etouffees, oysters and more.

With each specialty drink sold, Shuck-n-Dive donates $1 to local hurricane relief funds.

Stasi explained the difference between cajun and creole food in simple terms.

“Cajun is more country dishes with simple ingredients typically made in one pot like a gumbo, and creole is more New Orleans or city food with more ingredients and served separately,” he said.

The Shuck-n-Dive menu is 23 years in the making.

“It’s solid top to bottom, left to right,” Stasi said. “There are no duds.”

Shuck-n-Dive remains a family operation.

“Momma Staz” helped open the original restaurant more than 20 years ago, while Stasi’s wife, Meghan, and children, Ashlee and Keenan, help run day-to-day operations at both locations.

Head Chef Enrique Costa will create daily specials for guests.

Jody Roberts, director of operations at Whale Harbor, is excited to host Shuck-n-Dive.

“Shuck-n-Dive offers something you can’t get around here. It’s a whole different cuisine,” he said. “There’s a good variety on our menu and it’s extremely reasonable.”

Shuck-n-Dive plans to host a Bad Moon Rising party each month, “as long as the weather is right,” Roberts said.

Opening a restaurant during the pandemic has been challenging, Stasi admitted. He’s still looking to fully staff operations ahead of season.

Shuck-n-Dive is located at in the banquet room at Whale Harbor, 83413 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit shuck-n-dive.com, find them on Facebook or call 305-998-4344.

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