After 25 years of serving Gulfport, seafood restaurant Backfin Blue Cafe closes

But owner Harold Russell is saving all of his beloved recipes, and may start a food truck or catering business.

click to enlarge After 25 years of serving Gulfport, seafood restaurant Backfin Blue Cafe closes
Backfin Blue Cafe / Facebook
Gulfport is the small-but-mighty culinary workhorse of Pinellas County, with newer restaurants like Golden Dinosaurs and Sea Dog Cantina bringing new folks to the waterfront town.

But this past week, Gulfport lost one of its longest-running seafood eateries—The Backfin Blue Cafe, located adjacent to Stella’s and Gulfport Brewery + Eatery at 2913 Beach Blvd. S—which marked its last day in operation on July 4.

“After 25 amazing years the time has finally come to the close the doors to the beautiful Backfin Blue Cafe. Over the years we’ve built a family with so many people, and are extremely grateful to have done so,” Carly Russell—daughter of owner Harold Russell—posts online.

Several folks mourned the loss of their favorite crab cakes in the comments section.

Besides its “Marylander-approved” jumbo lump crab cakes, other popular dishes included its lobster ravioli, corn crab chowder, crab-stuffed salmon and macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi.

Like many other restaurants , Backfin Blue had to readjust its prices and operating hours to reflect the ever-changing cost of food—especially the high quality seafood that was the backbone of its menu.

Russell states that because of limits on how often the restaurant could purchase fresh blue crab in a post-pandemic seafood market, the Gulfport eatery was forced to limit its hours.

“At that point we were only be able to operate Thursday through Sunday,” Russell tells Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “In the off seasons, aka summer, it became harder to remain open at all.”

From 2020-2022, the price of its crab cake entree was raised from $25 to $36—but even the drastic increase in prices could not make the restaurant's operations sustainable.

And although Backfin Blue Cafe permanently shut its doors this week, Russell says that her father isn’t done with the restaurant industry just yet. He's saving all of his beloved recipes, and is ruminating the possibility of opening a  food truck or local catering business instead.

The future of its building— which was refurbished from a 1927 Florida-style cottage to an intimate restaurant— is currently unknown, although it was recently purchased and will soon undergo the transition into a new business.

“At the end of the day, a well-deserved offer was made on the building and property that couldn’t have been refused,” Russell states.

Keep an eye out for any new signage or renovations happening at 2913 Beach Blvd. S— but we doubt its replacement will offer crab cakes as beloved as Backfin Blue Cafe’s.

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