Whether you have out-of-town visitors or just want to feel a bit like a tourist yourself, there’s nothing like fresh seafood and a water view.
A months-old sister restaurant to Fort Lauderdale’s Coconut’s, G&B Oyster Bar focuses on small plates with creative preparations. The single room with its minimalist-industrial decor and large bar is an appealing gathering spot, though all the tables are high-tops with small, uncomfortable metal stools. Next-door Coconut’s gets the water view, but it’s projected onto flat-screen monitors here. Fresh oysters arrive daily from as far away as Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay for the raw bar, with market price averaging $2-$3 each. (Specimens from Apalachicola and other warm-water sources are only served cooked for safety reasons.) The small plates offer seafood classics plus inventive options like lobster corn dogs, alligator ribs and Portuguese sardines. Pick a mix for sharing, or go traditional with one of the half-dozen entrees. We settled on ceviche, crispy oysters, crab empanadas and our favorite, Philly lobster cheese steak, great for splitting between two people or enough for one indulgent meal. The plate comes with two mini lobster sandwiches, each with abundant claw and knuckle meat, topped with a cheese sauce and fresh peppers, plus a side of fries. Fried oysters were another winner with a light breading and spicy rémoulade sauce. “Ceviche” of the day was really thin slices of seared, sesame-crusted tuna, tasty but not what we had in mind. Crab empanadas were the disappointment, not hot enough and with an odd-tasting creamy sauce that overpowered the crab.
A classic that’s still going strong after more than three decades, Southport Raw Bar is a super-casual place for good seafood and affordable drinks. The key to enjoying it is not to expect anything fancy. You can come in cut-off shorts and an old T-shirt and not feel underdressed. Get there early on a nice night to snag an outside table overlooking the water and the boats. The raw bar offers fresh clams, oysters and shrimp, most available both raw and steamed. There are also fried seafood baskets, fresh fish sandwiches, platters and mussels. Daily specials often include items like soft shell crab. Just remember that not everything comes with sides. The steamed clams and Old Bay shrimp are among our favorites, but this time we experimented with a combination to share: conch fritters, fried seafood basket (shrimp, clams and scallops), dolphin platter and mussels marinara. The fritters were doughy and sparse on the conch, but the rest were solid executions. Next time we’d get the dolphin blackened instead of grilled, which was bland.
It had been so long since I’d visited Bahia Cabana at the Days Inn Bahia Cabana Beach Resort that I’d forgotten about the great Intracoastal view. Seated dockside, it’s easy to pretend you’re on vacation. The restaurant is known for its tropical cocktails, and the menu is a straightforward mix of seafood and bar food plus a handful of specialties like barbecued ribs, Key lime chicken and fish tacos. As long as your expectations are modest, you’re unlikely to leave disappointed. We kept it simple with a half order of conch fritters and some fish sandwiches. The fritters got a thumbs up with plenty of large chunks of conch plus a pleasing texture from added corn kernels. Both the Salmon BLT and blackened dolphin Reuben came with nice-size pieces of fresh fish cooked just right. The $1.95 charge for fries or onion rings with a sandwich seemed a little steep, but I guess that’s the price you pay for the view in the land of tourists.