Beach eats with Chicago attitude. New restaurant serves up food with Midwest tradition

Joe and Laurie Sabath are on to something.

“Come in and get something to eat and then cruise the island on a scooter or bike,” said Joe Sabath, owner of the recently opened Turtle Shack restaurant at 314 Pine Ave.

Turtle Shack, whose slogan is “beach eats with Chicago attitude” is a lunch counter, take-out operation next to Lazy Turtle Beach Rentals, also owned by the Sabaths.

The take-out menu includes favorites such as Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches, chicken wings, fried Twinkies, fried pickles, ice cream sandwiches made with two over-sized chocolate chip cookies and more.

Some of this may require explanation.

A Chicago-style hot dog is built around an all-beef or veggie frank served on a steamed poppy seed bun. Toppings include mustard, pickle, neon green relish, onion, sport peppers, tomato and celery salt for $5.

Don’t look for ketchup on this hot dog because there won’t be any, Sabath said.

However, he does make an exception to strict Chicago tradition by offering veggie dogs. Back home that would be just as frowned upon as ketchup.

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Turtle Shack recently opened at 314 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, offering beach eats with a Chicago attitude. The staff includes, from left, Finn Lebore, Robert Martinez, Joe Sabath, and Chase Woollen. James A. Jones Jr.

The main ingredient in an Italian Beef sandwich is a generous helping of shredded beef served with mild peppers or hot giradiniera on a warm hoagie bun for $8. Patrons can top all that beef with mozzarella for 50 cents.

Danny Caffrey dropped by Turtle Shack for the first time Wednesday and had one of the Chicago-style hot dogs.

“It was awesome, and served with a smile,” said Caffrey, before going back for more, a Polish sausage with sauteed onions.

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James A. Jones Jr.

Turtle Shack’s menus includes hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, salads, drinks and snacks such as fries, chili and mac and cheese.

“Our wings are really good. The sauce is amazing,” Joe Sabath said.

Patrons can enjoy their food at a counter inside the business, on chairs outside, or take their food with them as they explore the island.

“Rent a bike, peddle off a buffalo shrimp po boy, and then come back for a sunset paddle and an ice cream sandwich or fried Twinkie,” Laurie Sabath said.

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James A. Jones Jr.

The Sabaths originally planned to start their Anna Maria operation by opening a sit-down family-style restaurant at their location on Pine Avenue.

But those plans have been delayed for probably about a year while they sell their restaurant in Chicago.

In the meantime, they opened Lazy Turtle Beach Rentals, after buying Island Scooter Rentals and Surf and Paddle.

Joe Sabath, a hands-on restaurateur with 20 years experience in the Chicago area, is also a craftsman, and he repurposed some of the items in the restaurant and decorated the businesses himself.

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James A. Jones Jr.

Turtle Shack is open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week. The owners expect to introduce a breakfast menu in the future.

Still to come is soft serve ice cream.

For more information about Turtle Shack, visit

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