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Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs stands out in this foodie paradise by catching its own seafood

The hot spot serves 500 pounds of grouper a day
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Posted at 4:29 AM, May 24, 2021

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs is unique and then some.

First of all, the beloved hot spot on the Sponge Docks isn't Greek.

That's a big deal in this Epiphany town.

"I'm from a family of Portugese and Italians," smiles Julie Russell, who owns the restaurant with her husband Jack. "This is a little Greek town. But they have embraced us."

But what makes Rusty Bellies really stand out in the foodie paradise of Tarpon Springs is its insistence on keeping things fresh.

Like, really fresh.

Like, caught today fresh.

"We catch our own shrimp. We catch our own grouper. We catch our own stone crabs. We catch our own mackerel," says Julie, surveying her fleet of fishing boats that haul in seafood every day.

Not a lot of restaurants catch their own food, but Rusty Bellies is famous for it, and has been for awhile.

Julie's parents first became seafood purveyors in Tarpon Springs in the 1970s. And Rusty Bellies is still very much a family operation, with four generations of Julie's crew currently working there.

"From day to day, the menu will change based on what we catch," says Julie, adding they put their reputation on the line every meal. "We sometimes feed one thousand to 1,500 people in a day."

And they serve about 500 pounds of freshly caught grouper every day, too.