How can you satisfy a Keys urge without being in the Keys? Follow the conch fritter, of course. At the Islamorada Fish Company, the food is Keys-ish, if not the surroundings: a Tri-Rail station, I-95 and Fort Lauderdale International Airport right outside the windows. So close your eyes, hum a Jimmy Buffett tune and take a bite.
Six to an order, the Skeeball-sized fritters contain the requisite bits of chewy conch in the typical mystery batter. We also tackled a platter of heavenly coconut shrimp with a sweet pepper dipping sauce, a crab cake nestled in a forest of greens, grease-free cod strips and the best fish dip outside the Blue Marlin at Oleta River State Park. One nit: the smoked wahoo dip could have used a few more crackers.
What really put us in the Margaritaville mood was the huge Islamorada fish sandwich: grilled mahi mahi topped with grilled onions and melted American cheese, with tangy cole slaw, bland potato salad, lettuce, tomato and a pickle alongside the bun.
On the menu but not in the kitchen the day we visited: “Tenderized American Alligator” and grouper nuggets. (The waitress taking our order said the gator hasn’t been available for a while.) Besides sandwiches and appetizers, the Islamorada Fish Company takeout menu features seafood pasta, a grouper Reuben (fish instead of corned beef), sea scallops, calamari, salmon and salads.
We spent our 20-minute wait in the adjoining Bass Pro Shops, wandering aisles of fishing rods and hunting gear. But as a sign warns, you must check and lock your firearm purchases in the store before heading into the restaurant.