Having grown up in Jacksonville, Florida, I have the occasion to return to visit my mom and sister who still reside in the area. Too darn hot for me these days for fulltime. Once again though, I just returned from a semiannual visit. This time for my mother’s 90th surprise birthday celebration. It was a grand time.
Regardless of the occasion, anytime I return I always have to make a pilgrimage to an old favorite restaurant, Singleton’s Seafood Shack. Singleton’s was once featured in Food Network’s Guy Fieri Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I would say it fondly falls in the category of Dives. Singleton’s is located near the mouth of the St. John’s River in the village of Mayport, Florida. It is truly aptly named, as you can feel the creaky plywood floor give slightly as you walk by the display of fresh oysters, shrimp, crab, and various local fish selections that have likely come off the boats that day. I’m usually quick to check out the fresh oysters before proceeding across the sagging floor directly to the bar. After being served one of their ice-cold beers, I might briefly wander to the back room to gaze at the vast display of the late Capt. Ray’s models as I await my lunch order.
Captain Ray Singleton and his wife opened this unique restaurant in 1969. He had built scale models of shrimp boats for decades and come to display them in a cement block annex of the restaurant. Captain Singleton died in 1996 but the restaurant is still owned and run by other members of the family and they have preserved the finely detailed boat models, which remain on display today.
Some of the images you see here I captured a few years ago during one of my back home visits. While taking pictures of the restaurant and its surroundings, a gentleman approached me and wanted to engage in conversation. He appeared to be a local, probably in his late 50’s, and I quickly realized he was deaf and he communicated with a combination of sign, gestures, and oral sounds. Nonetheless, we were able to communicate fairly well. He was telling me about the shrimp boat models and referred to another model of a light house, which either he had done or maybe that he had at his home. He pulled out his driver’s license to show that he was a Singleton, I believe maybe a son of Ray’s. After a few minutes he said his good-bye and went on his way. He was clearly proud of his family’s restaurant. I was so fascinated by his story that I never thought to ask permission to take a few pictures of him to go with the other images I captured at Singleton’s. Maybe another time.
If you are ever in the area and want to experience some great seafood with a unique out-of-the-way experience, give it a try. I would love to hear what you think.