Tanned fishermen dock their boats, ready for a cold brew and golden conch fritters; a guitarist covers Dave Matthews and Tom Petty tunes, and we feel transported. Who knew the Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe in Lighthouse Point would take us to Key West?
Don’t let the name fool you. It’s “nauti,” not “naughty,” a play on the nautical theme and co-owner Debbie Edwards’ frisky yellow lab, Tucker (his face is on the T-shirts sold here). Edwards and her siblings, Maureen Canada and Christian Spieker, also own the marina and the pastel Tillotson Square townhouses across the street. They were raised in the marina business, taking over from their parents in 1997, but the cafe is a new venture. They expanded and refurbished the old restaurant space, reopening in October with a focus on local fish and fresh produce in a laid-back atmosphere. Another plus: Prices are reasonable, especially the three-course sunset menu for $12.
Though it’s hard to find ( the marina is in a residential neighborhood), the place was packed on a Sunday night and had a good crowd on a weekday. Patrons often bring their pooches, and there are plenty of water bowls around. The friendly staff makes newcomers feel welcome. Just about everything here is house-made, from soups to scrumptious Key lime cheesecake. The menu changes often, with specials based on what looks good — or even the weather.
- Nauti Dawg’s hook-and-cook service – bring cleaned, fresh catch and, for $10, the kitchen will prepare it to order and serve it with two sides
- Delicious tuna wontons – four crispy squares topped with seaweed salad, tuna tartare, roasted pepper, wasabi aioli and a dab of sriracha hot sauce
- Delicious conch fritters are delicious made with lots of house-ground conch and served with a spicy Key lime sauce
- Blue Point oysters – available freshly shucked or sprinkled with blackened seasoning & melted blue cheese
- Blue cultured mussel special with a delicate broth
- A signature salad made with Bibb lettuce, goat cheese, croutons, tart apple slices, spiced pecans, slivers of endive & a wonderful poppy seed dressing with a hint of sweetness
- Fat burgers
- A popular lobster roll with five ounces of Maine lobster & a toasted and buttered long roll
- Skirt steak
- Chicken piccata
- Shrimp Capellini – a generous serving of large sautéed shrimp, tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs tossed with angel hair pasta
- The fresh catch, usually mahi mahi, hog tail snapper or grouper
- A huge, mild and meaty portion of wahoo topped with olive tapenade
- Perfectly cooked, moist and flaky grilled grouper
- Flavorful roasted asparagus, quartered potatoes, rice pilaf and green beans
- Cucumber salad
- Excellent onion rings
- Garlic spinach
- Key lime cheesecake with Key lime glaze
- Warm, bourbon-sauced bread pudding with white and dark chocolate