If you enjoy your experience at Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House,  one of the newest additions to the South Sarasota County dining scene, know that it is the reflection of the family that built it. Naples-based Phelan Family Brands opened its fourth Deep Lagoon location just east of the Blackburn Point swing bridge that takes you from Osprey to Casey Key. It joins predecessors in Naples, Fort Myers and Marco Island. Locals will be familiar with another Phelan Family Brands spot, Pincher’s, which has locations in Venice and Lakewood Ranch.  Those who love the laid-back Pincher’s approach to perfectly prepared, Gulf-caught seafood will find a fancier, elevated experience at Deep Lagoon. “We’ve always wanted to open an upscale casual restaurant,” says Phelan Family Brands CEO Grant Phelan.


Wait. Did he say upscale and casual? “Yep,” Phelan says. “And Deep Lagoon is our invention of that. It’s still casual enough that you can come in wearing shorts and flip flops, but it’s a little bit higher. You’ll find a nicer wine list, nicer plate presentations, better buildout, more signature cocktails, and it can be an upscale casual experience in Southwest Florida.”

You get the sense of upscale immediately when you walk in. It’s nautical but modern with shiplap throughout and art on the walls from renowned Florida photographer Alan S. Maltz. It’s hitting that Florida sweet spot somewhere between stilettos and Salt Life. 

 . . .  but how does it taste? 

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

If you’re a fan of a seafood tower, buckle up, friend. The Big Chill Seafood Tower is a thing of beauty. So epic, so glorious, so mountainous is this concoction that it looks like it was pulled straight from the Ghost of Christmas Present’s props list. A whole Maine lobster sits on the tower’s top tier like a sentinel. Joining it are eight cocktail shrimp, eight peel-and-eat shrimp, two large stone crab claws, a 4 oz. serving of tuna tataki, a dozen oysters — adorned with a side of horseradish cream & caviar), six each of pickled clams and mussels that have been chilled to perfection. The only problem with it is that it isn’t served with a John Williams score. It should be noted that this item is on the appetizer list, and sure, it could absolutely serve as an appetizer  . . . for the Buccaneers’ team meal. The Big Chill Seafood Tower has a younger sibling, the Little Chill Seafood Tower, which basically halves the portions. 


While you can find Floridian seafood standards like a grouper sandwich, fish and chips (using local tripletail or hogfish here), fish tacos, and coconut fried shrimp, it’s in the chef selections where you’ll find the real gems. 

The hogfish “lagoon style” comes in a white wine sauce with garlic, pine nuts, tomato and basil. Like grouper, hogfish feed on crustaceans, which makes for a sweeter meat, almost reminiscent of lobster itself. Combined with the white wine sauce, it’s one of those simple dishes that becomes more complex as the flavors unfold and complement one another. 

 . . .  but how do they keep it so fresh? 

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

Phelan Family Brands (which employs 1,400 Floridians from Tampa to Marco Island) prides itself on the freshness of its seafood. When you order the chili rub tripletail, for example, there’s a strong likelihood that it was caught within the last 24 hours, thanks largely to another family brand, Island Crab Company. Located on Pine Island 80 miles south of Sarasota, this wholesale fish house serves as the main supplier of locally caught seafood. “We have our own boats that go out and fish for stone crabs, blue crabs, grouper, shrimp — different items that the Gulf has to offer on an everyday basis,” Phelan says. “And we try to bring in the best, freshest seafood possible, and then we distribute it out to all of our restaurants from there.” 


Phelan knows exactly how long the seafood he’s selling in his family’s restaurants has been out of the water, which you don’t always get when working with commercial distributors. He and his chefs know how each fish was caught and handled from the boat to the wholesaler, and from the wholesaler to the restaurant. 

There are already plans to open another waterfront Deep Lagoon at Lakewood Ranch’s new Waterside village. That location is expected to serve its first diner some time in late 2023 or early 2024, according to Phelan.  “We’ve had some phenomenal luck in the Sarasota-Manatee area,” Phelan says, “and our goal is to stay right here in Southwest Florida. We find the customers to be the best.” Judging by the happy crowds, the feeling’s mutual.