Irma washes away a quaint waterfront restaurant

Red Fish Grill at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables years before Hurricane Irma. The restaurant opened on this landmark site in 1996. Miami Herald File

Red Fish Grill, the picturesque waterfront restaurant in Matheson Hammock Park, is among the casualties of Hurricane Irma.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-styled coral rock structure, fashioned out of the park’s original beach bathhouse, was nestled along a lagoon in Coral Gables at 9610 Old Cutler Rd. The distinctive building is all that is left of Red Fish Grill, said Red Fish and Christy’s managing partner Chris Klaic.

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Christy’s, the venerable Coral Gables restaurant on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, and Red Fish Grill share the same ownership.

Christy’s weathered Irma. “We have not been that lucky at Red Fish,” Klaic said. “Red Fish has been completely destroyed. We are dealing with that now. We got like a six-foot storm surge and it destroyed everything. Only the structure is really left.”  

But even the structure didn’t emerge unscathed, Klaic learned Sunday.

As Klaic went over the damages on site with a flood adjustor, they discovered another setback.

“Even the coral rock structure is damaged,” Klaic said. “The water was trying to push it out. One northeast wall is compromised. They say it is unsafe. We thought it was just the content inside but it’s worse than that.”

Rebuilding is on the table but it’s not so simple.

“We want to rebuild but we need to see where we are,” Klaic said.

Red Fish Grill Dining patio
Patrons dine on the patio dining area that overlooks the water at Red Fish Grill in Coral Gables in this March 2008 file photo. CHRIS CUTRO For the Miami Herald


“We’ve already went through this with Andrew. We just got the lease in 1992, and the hurricane hit. So the park was closed for two years. We couldn’t do anything. We opened in 1996 and went through that whole process. So we need some support from the county. We are not some hole in the ground,” he said. “We have been nationally recognized for so many years.”

Red Fish, its creamy walls built in 1938 by members of the Depression era’s Works Progress Administration, opened as a restaurant in 1996. The dining spot, framed by the park’s lush foliage and coconut palms, has been featured on “Emeril’s Florida,” a Cooking Channel show hosted by Emeril Lagasse.

Red Fish drew visiting celebs like “Mad Men” star Jared Harris. And in 2013, photographer Tom Smith’s images of Matheson Hammock and Biscayne Bay were showcased on the interior walls during an exhibition.

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Red Fish Grill exterior 96
The exterior of Red Fish Grill on Oct. 10, 1996, the year the restaurant opened at Matheson Hammock Park, four years after Hurricane Andrew delayed its opening. Carl Juste Miami Herald file


In a glowing 2004 Herald food review, writer Sue Mullin opined “almost everything here has the patina of paradise.”