By Diana Colson
Waterfront dining has a charm all its own. The scent of saltwater permeates the air. Manatees lumber through sea grass while seagulls caw their raucous song. Pelicans plunge beneath the water’s surface, hunting for seafood delight. An osprey devours its catch on the uppermost branch of a tree, while—in the waters below— you see the gunmetal glint of dolphins. Margaritas taste salty and crisp, and the rumble of power boats is punctuated by the sound of slapping sails.
It’s a setting where memories are made. Mother Nature is seated at your table, and her mesmerizing waters dissolve the troubles of the day.
Among the dozen or so waterside dining establishments located between Sarasota and Venice, two are particular favorites. The first is the Boatyard Waterfront Bar & Grill located on the mainland side of Stickney Point Bridge, the southern bridge to Siesta Key. Located at Mile Marker # 62, the restaurant can be reached by land or water, and docking is available. Its outdoor patio, covered deck and inside dining room sit higher than most other waterfront restaurants, giving patrons a bird’s eye view of the Intercoastal Waterway. Guests might sip their beverages of choice and savor the view while schools of dolphins swim gracefully just a few feet away. During the summer months manatees are regular visitors.
The Boatyard Waterfront Bar & Grill boasts an air conditioned dining room, a covered patio and an outdoor dining deck. The “Reef Bar” has both outdoor and indoor seating, and is a local favorite, celebrating Happy Hour from 2 to 6 pm every day. The outside patio features umbrella-covered tables, while the covered deck has cooling overhead mist-fans.
The Boatyard welcomes romance as well as families year round. It is open for Lunch and Dinner daily and will accept reservations. It also offers amazing waterfront banquet and wedding facilities, and can cater to groups of every size up to 300 people. Its experienced staff is happy to tailor special events to meet a client’s individual needs.
A wide selection of menu items includes everything from seafood to fresh salads, sandwiches, steaks, chicken and pasta. “Extreme Oysters” are a house specialty: Rockefeller, Millionaire, Key West, Stuffed and more. With delicious entrees such as Jambalaya, Grouper Oscar and Rib Eye Steak, there is something at the Boatyard for everyone looking for delicious, reasonably priced food in a casual waterfront atmosphere.
The restaurantis located at 1500 Stickney Point Rd. in Sarasota. (941) 921-6200 www.boatyardwaterfrontgrill.com
Casey Key Fish House offers great food and a Million Dollar View. It’s located right on the water at Mile Marker #32 by the Blackburn Point Marina. This tropical waterfront spot has an Old Florida ambiance.
Diners arrive by boat or by car. Those coming by land turn west off of Highway 41 onto Blackburn Point Road, cross the “flying bridge” (one of the last remaining rotating bridges!) and pull into the parking lot. Near the restaurant is the famed Casey Key Fish House Tiki Bar, known the world over as Sarasota’s answer to Margaritaville.
At the Tiki Bar you and your friends will see boats passing by and yachts bobbing at the dock. On weekends and holidays, the Tiki Bar is energized by live music. Splashes are heard as mullet jump in the water, and the tropical flavors of a Mai Tai taste cool against your tongue. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a heron or a snowy egret.
It’s a boater’s world of “No shoes, No shirts, No problem!” The lyrics of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” come to mind.
The wooden restaurant itself has been painted a gaudy aquamarine blue. The building is low and rambling, and, like most boating establishments, serves a mix of ages and all walks of life. Casey Key Fish House extends through several dining areas, with the choicest spots being down near the dock. No uppity attitude here: daily specials are scribbled on the blackboard, and much of the food is served on plastic and Styrofoam.
Don’t let that fool you! Some very tasty dishes are created in that kitchen. Sure, the lunch menu reads simply enough: fish sandwiches, ½ pound hamburgers, clam chowder, battered shrimp, and the like. But after 4pm, an eclectic blend of Asian and American cuisine also emerges, drenched in the flavors of Maui and Thailand. Sesame Crusted Pan Seared Tuna is a personal favorite, to say nothing of Sautéed Chilean Sea Bass. There’s a full bar and wine list that is sure to brighten any meal. Chef Willie Tia’s “Best Bouillabaisse” is downright spectacular!
At Casey Key Fish House, proprietor Jimmy Von Huberz and his Master Chef offer a casual way to feast by the waterside. They provide visitors with a relaxed, laid-back setting, and do it all at a reasonable price. The Fish House is open 7 days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., except for most of September. Talk with Jimmy about arranging special parties, meetings, or large events.
Both restaurant and Tiki Bar are located at 801 Blackburn Pt. Rd in Osprey, FL. (941) 966-5737 www.caseykeyfishhouse.com,