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Opening Arguments

Something fishy

Remember the great Fort Wayne fake-fish story I made fun of? Apparently, I was a little too quick to judge what may be a developing nationwide scandal:

TAMPA, Fla. - At many restaurants around Florida, the specialty of the house is a slab of grouper, blackened, grilled, stuffed or encrusted with pecans, sometimes on a roll, maybe with a slice of Bermuda onion. But not at Richard Gonzmart's place.

Gonzmart, whose family has owned the Columbia restaurant in Tampa's Cuban-American Ybor City section for four generations, won't serve grouper, because he can't be sure he is getting the real thing from his suppliers.

Many restaurants in Florida have been caught passing off Asian catfish, tilapia or other cheaper species as grouper. Fake grouper is by far the biggest food-misrepresentation problem Florida inspectors handle, and it has turned up in all corners of the state — even at the Capitol cafeteria.

Better play it safe next time out and just order a plain old slab of beef. Of course, they might try to fool you with a buffalo steak instead, in which case -- lucky you. The best steak I ever had, bar none, was a buffalo ribeye in a restaurant in St. Paul, Minn., so flavorful I had to take tiny little bites just to keep my taste buds from being overwhelmed. And I used to seek out the buffalo burgers -- no longer available, I think -- at the Three Rivers Festival food court.