If you are a boater or a soon-to-be-boater then you must know how lucky we are in Southwest Florida due to the weather, protected harbors, well-marked channels and the beautiful beaches. Ever since the Calusa Indians dug their first channel and built their first mounds, humans have been good and bad for this area. We newcomers (anyone arriving after 1900) have benefited enormously. I'm not sure if any other region offers so much opportunity to boat safely.
I have received many questions from the 'new to our area boaters' about where to go on their boats for great eats and waterfront views. I've referred them to online sites without really checking those sites personally. A recent reply to my answer accused me -ME of all people- of 'blowing off' the question. Well maybe I did but I'm a busy man, and I expected the Internet to have great resources capable of listing current waterfront restaurants in our area. I was wrong!
Half of the restaurants listed on these sites are out of business. Most of the reviews are bizarre or erroneous or wrong and 90 percent aren't objective. I wish you had to go through a Facebook account to post a review, at least then we could see if it's a rival or an employee? And, a restaurateur could contact the poster and try to rectify the problem and ask the poster to re-post? What a marketing tool!
One post on the Bayside Bar and Grill is from a person who went there when there was a wait for a table, which is normal. And I quote, "When we came in it was packed. I'm not sure if this had anything to do with our experience, but it was not favorable." Service was slow, duh? The vast majority of reviews were very favorable. Looking at this poster's other reviews, they had to be from Sanibel! Must have missed the Sandy Butler and stumbled onto a busy place who didn't have time to kiss their rings!
That is why I have undertaken a listing of the current waterfront restaurants within a 45-minute boat ride from our dead end canal. And yes, I know the Bayside isn't technically a waterfront restaurant according to our parameters because they don't have docks but, hey, they have many other attractions like great food, drink and charming employees. End commercial here!
I am sorry to start this series of columns so late in the season. You snowbirds who don't take the paper up north will have to read it online at www.fortmyersbeachtalk.com/ under columns. Even if I do two restaurants every other week, it will take me well into the fall to finish, but if you follow it closely you will have all the answers about boating to restaurants. Here goes the first one!
n Matanzas Inn and Restaurant is under the Matanzas Sky Bridge (tall bridge) on the Fort Myers Beach side facing the Back Bay and San Carlos Island. It is a very 'boater friendly place' with plenty of seawall to tie up to and a dock master to help you tie up and disembark.
Seating ranges from umbrella covered dockside tables, to marina view inside tables looking through nearly floor to ceiling windows. A large dining room overlooks the boats tied up to the seawall and boardwalk. Upstairs is almost a completely different place with entertainment and a spectacular story and a half view of the entire Matanzas Harbor.
History: The Spanish word Matanzas is loosely translated to mean massacre, referring to the battle between the Calusa Indians and Ponce Deleon's colonizing expedition. Ponce died in Cuba from an arrow wound to the leg.
Lunchtime is crowded, Dinnertime is also busy and, with longer days, is a perfect dinner destination by boat. Getting in and out is a breeze as long as you pay attention to the dock master's directions. Remember to bring fenders and spare lines but of course that is standard operating procedure. Come in slow down the canal beyond your spot and spin around to dock on your port side. Always discourage passengers from trying to grab anything and make sure they keep their hands within the boat. This is one of the easiest approaches on the island.
I'm not a critic, so I'll just tell you what we "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" members like which is very easy because it is 4 p.m.; crunchy grouper or shrimp because almost of all their fish and shrimp are local, right Milt! Inside joke, Milt cuts their fresh fish and was featured on my son's "Boater's Treasure" television show.
Chef Dave's Shrimp Scampi is to die for, as are all of his creations.
Now you can see how these unbiased looks at our bountiful waterfront restaurants work. My fellow club members and I will come up with a description and our personal food favorites of the restaurants. If you have a review, post it on our "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" Facebook page. The answer to another question on the most popular Ohio food is Di Russo's Hot Sausage with peppers and onions! Available at nearly every fair in Ohio and Sam's Club.
Boatguy Ed is a retired marine manufacturer, a lifelong boater and avid eater who has a liquid libation once in a while. Send comments to boatguiEd@aol.com or this publication. Never try to buy him a drink!