By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Maybe the biggest trend right now in local restaurants isn’t so much about being trendy but returning to the way it used to be, back to the days a couple of decades ago, when eating out in Florida really meant one thing: fresh fish, caught locally, served simply and entirely not fussy.
For some reason, fish houses seem to have fallen out of favor in the past decade or so. Now, though, we’ve got a new crop of seafood spots returning to that simple recipe of local catch done well.
Here are a few upstarts we hope will also be around for years to come.
AND Fish Kitchen & Bar
1200 N. Ocean Blvd., Pompano Beach, 954-944-9515, pompanomarriott.com
Chef Eric Kaszubinski filled the menu at this Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort and Spa spot with an overload of seafood dishes, starting with the fried calamari and moving on to the Island seafood stew and a pecan-crusted corvina. In a dining room filled with a nautical theme you’ll remember from fish houses from yesteryears, there’s no doubt about AND’s intentions.
1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-7400, boatyard.restaurant
The folks from YOLO took over the old Bimini Boatyard and injected the massive space with a modern, comfortable look. The menu stays true to the boathouse theme – even keeping the sweet Bimini bread – but with trendier twists on fresh-catch dishes, like the Florida paella and roasted scallops with a brown-butter caper sauce. Walk through the massive 280-seat restaurant to an outside tiki-style bar along the canal and you’ll find a lively happy hour crowd. Or soak in that same view from comfy tables tucked under shade trees right along the water.
600 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-616-8315, bosbeach.com
Dolphins veteran Kim Bokamper is developing something of a dining empire, and his newest spot is a casual seafood-themed restaurant with a stellar location. After a three-year build-out of the old tourist trap where A1A rejoins at the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach, Bo’s Beach can seat 450 people in a décor that’s part sports bar, part seafood restaurant – serving calypso shrimp pizza, crab cake BLT and beer-battered fish tacos.
2200 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 754-900-4059, dunefl.com
The family that owns the Auberge Beach Residences and Spa earned a Michelin star for its restaurant in the Napa Valley. With Dune, the flagship restaurant at The Auberge Resort & Spa, there’s no doubt they are shooting high, with a spacious and luxurious dining room adorned in a color palette that matches the beach sand just feet away. The glass-enclosed wine cellar holds one of the most extensive lists in town, and the menu from Chef Edgar Beas puts an emphasis on charcoal-grilled fresh catch, spiced up with Mexican and Spanish influences.
4100 N. Federal Highway, 954-530-6276, evenkeelfish.com
Much-lauded Chef Dean James Max returned to South Florida when he took over the former space of Cibo Wine Bar and converted it into a stylish seafood spot with a fishing-inspired name. This isn’t a traditional fish house menu: the fish dip comes served in an old caviar tin, the lobster roll gets spiced with a ginger butter and there’s a pizza adorned with fresh-shucked clams.
346 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, 561-939-6600, lochbar.com
The Baltimore-based owners of Ouzo Bay opened a second Mizner Park restaurant in November with Loch Bar. The new seafood spot had a $3 million build-out that adorned it with red leather banquettes and a feel of an old-school fine-dining spot. The raw bar features 16 varieties of oysters, and as you might guess from a Maryland restaurant company, the crab cake takes headlining duties.