Friday, January 11, 2019

Bait and Sip

Good thing we're staying right on the Atlantic because finding places to eat on the ocean isn't as easy as it sounds.

You can't swing a dead cat on the bay side without hitting a place offering fabulous views and island cuisine, but, man, if you want a water view that ends at Africa, you have to work at finding it.

Which we did, naturally.

Wahoo's Bar and Grill was situated over Whale Harbor Marina, a place where fishing boats pull in loaded with the day's catch and locals peel shrimp and drink beer at the long bar. Passing up the bar's scenic view because of smokers, we instead took advantage of a waterside table on the (bird poop-stained) covered deck, mere feet from where the big boats docked.

It was a fascinating perch because the ocean in front of the house is so shallow at low tide that you can walk out twice the distance of the nearby dock and the water is only up to your knees, but the harbor allows these big boats to pull in with no problem. Same ocean, wildly different depths.

But you know what? On vacation, I don't need to understand marine science, I just need a cold drink and a long view.

To that end, we perused the drink menu, eventually letting geography make the call. With Nassau a mere 159 miles away, it was a no-brainer to settle on a couple Bahama Mamas, especially now that we've adopted coconut rum as our official local drink. What Mastika was to us in Athens, coconut rum is to us here: readily available and eminently drinkable.

At least, that's how we rationalize that large bottle of Rhumhaven rum in the freezer, scored after a recommendation by the gent at nearby Green Turtle Spirits because it's made with real coconut water and pure cane sugar.

Let's just say it comes as close to tasting like how this place feels as anything we've had in a glass.

It was while we were sipping our drinks that a fishing boat pulled in and three or four guys bolted from their tables to hang over the railing to assess the day's catch. "Half a dozen good-sized ones," one of them told us. "Not much of a catch." When I asked for his best guess as to why they hadn't caught more, he posited that the water was too cold.

I don't doubt his wisdom, but sitting oceanside in an orange sundress, the late afternoon sun shining down on our backs, it wouldn't have been my first guess.

Trying to decide what to start with before dinner, we resorted to our Islamorada default: smoked fish dip. This time, it was wahoo (duh), smoked in-house and served with tortilla chips, cherry tomato halves, red onion, cuke slices and jalapenos.

Truth: no matter what fish gets smoked and made into dip, we're willing to eat it.

I gave Wahoo's points for marina humor with a menu item called "bucket of bait" because technically, that's exactly what it was: snow crab, green mussels, clams and shrimp. Clever, but still bait.

Instead, I went straight for the wahoo club, a behemoth sandwich because the piece of wahoo was as thick as the Texas toast it sat between - luckily, the Key lime/avocado aioli added no height - and there was no way to open my mouth far enough to accommodate its 5-inch height.

You hate to be that person eating a club sandwich with a fork and knife, but sometimes you have no choice.

On the other hand, we had no problem being those people with an ocean view ordering more Bahama Mamas, to the point that dessert became an impossibility, which for me is saying something.

Don't get me wrong, the bay side is great and all, especially with the right company. But happiness comes in waves.

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