When Tropical Acres Steakhouse first opened in 1949, a green palm tree festooned its simple menu of seven steaks, chops, and sandwiches. Today, the Studiale family tops tables with a vast menu of T-bones, porterhouses, strip steaks, and filet mignon seared in a bustling kitchen alongside pork chops and veal cutlets. Chefs ladle sauces whisked with horseradish and dill or lemon and capers over shrimp, scallops, and fillets of fish such as snapper and wild-caught salmon. Dark wood columns and beams encircle the dining room's tufted booths and wall-inlaid tanks filled with colorful fish and treasure chests billowing bubbles of steak sauce. Tropical Acres also caters events from luncheons to weddings with light or formal meals, and it hosts celebrations for up to 250 guests in a refined banquet room.
Lulu's Bait Shop serves an eclectic menu of Cajun and southern-style dishes in a laidback environment. Warm up hot sauce hatches with a bowl of homemade shrimp gumbo ($4.95) before adventuring into a plate piled with golden-fried bites of prime alligator tail ($8.95). Raw bar repasts feature half-pounds of peel-and-eat shrimp steamed in a house blend of spices ($9.95) or ice-cold oysters (market price). Freshly caught salmon, snapper, tilapia, and mahi filets sate Ahabian appetites with a customizable collection of toppings and rubs. Creole transplants looking for a taste of New Orleans can nostalgically nosh on a fried shrimp po' boy ($8.95) or crawfish étouffée made with a spicy roux and seasoned rice ($9.95).
Since 1998, the family-owned-and-operated Sunfish Grill has been loading its white-draped tables with new American cuisine crafted from seasonal ingredients. Though the focus is on seafood, which the restaurant brings in fresh daily, their chefs prepare a selection of pastas, salads and flatbread. In addition to searing diver scallops and other catches, chefs also craft a selection of pasta dishes. For a lighter fare, diners can opt for the tapas menu, highlighted by plates such as carpaccio of beef and blackened tuna sliders, or indulge on homemade comfort food like fried chicken on Monday nights. Whether diners are in for a weekday dinner or a special occasion, they should save room for dessert from the pastry chef, such as the "Not the Usual" key lime pie with plumes of meringue and housemade sorbet.
Flickering candles illuminate the warm-colored dining space, and airy white ceiling drapes billow overhead as diners sip espresso or clink glasses of handpicked wines over their lavish desserts. The elegant ambiance and fresh, imaginative food have earned the spot a good reputation: City & Shore Magazine praised Sunfish Grill for "the sheer simplicity of ingredients, served in an unpretentious atmosphere that is so rare, yet so delicious."
Though you can always drive up to the Historic Downtowner Saloon, that's not the recommended way to arrive. Instead, customers might want to take the water taxi right up to the downtown stop to get a preview of the river views granted by the restaurant's riverfront patio. Here, guests can enhance their waterside experience with expertly prepared American fare and 20 new craft beers waiting to quench to the most discerning drinker.
While new owners now helm Historic Downtowner Saloon, its chefs tend to their culinary labors, be it slow-roasting prime rib or turning out seafood specials, sandwiches, and appetizers. In the kitchen, they grill slabs of sizzling sirloins and pair them crab cakes drizzled in a Cajun remoulade. Once delivered to guests, ancho shrimp tacos do flavorful dances across palates, while a raw bar, stocked with bowls of littleneck clams and Caribbean jerk shrimp, puts appetites on ice. Most nights of the week, a live band serenades guests with tunes as relaxing as surfing on a waterbed—unless there are sharks inside the waterbed.
For nearly 30 years, guests have filled The SeaWatch's dining room for the fresh seafood and serene views from a bluff just 50 yards away from the ocean. Massive windows tilt open to let in the sound of waves crashing on the beach and gentle breezes that blow through the palm trees and shake coconuts loose to knock out loud passersby. A recently renovated interior enhances the timeless setting with bright red booths around wooden tables and oak beams overhead in the dining areas, special-event spaces, and on the patio.
The menus reflect the seaside location and modern aesthetic, with dry ice billowing out of the king crab, shrimp, oysters, and clams that make up the chilled seafood tower. Chefs sculpt crab cakes with jumbo lump crabmeat and bake yorkshire puddings to absorb the juices of slow-roasted prime rib. The SeaWatch's wine list collects bottles from France, Argentina, California, and Italy.
The ambience at Spice Room is romantic and intimate, thanks to the exposed brick walls, the gauzy draperies that hang from the ceiling, and the soft light that gently falls from globe fixtures overhead. The only thing warmer than the ambiance might be the food, though, thankfully, the spice level of the curries and noodles dishes can be adjusted to match the heat of diners’ passions or left mild to calm nerves during first dates or IRS audits.