Season is over but the streets are still stifling. It’s not the traffic—it’s the asphalt itself. It’s the stop signs and traffic lights, the hard-edged curbs and painted lines all telling you when to move and when to stand still, where you’re allowed to go and where you are not. Deadlocked feels like landlocked and the freedom of the open ocean beckons. Twenty feet ahead, horns blare as an incident of road rage erupts into a roadside brawl of suits and cell phones and your mind is made up. You’re departing terra firma for more solid spiritual ground and you’re only coming back for food. 

The Adventurer  |  DRY DOCK RESTAURANT

On the open ocean, there are no speed limits. Crank the motor and crest the waves with a wicked thump, pushing the machine and your daring—or tug a friend behind on water-skis and test theirs. Between surfing off Lido Beach, paddleboarding through the mangroves, diving the reefs and parasailing the coasts, there are plenty of activities to burn off a week’s stress and work up a day’s appetite with friends. Cutting under the Ringling Bridge and heading north past Long Bar and the nesting birds on the barrier islands, slip into Zwick’s Channel and look for Marker 6 and dedicated docks for Dry Dock customers. Freshness is the name of the game and seafood is delivered at least every other day, with inventories kept small so nothing sits too long. And for 25 years, says General Manager Wil Stutson, Dry Dock has dealt with the same fisherman up in St. Pete, who catches, fillets and delivers domestic red grouper in the same day. “This is what works for us,” says Executive Chef Hector Torres, who will take the fillets and turn them into Dry Dock’s famous grouper sandwiches. “We’ve tried imported grouper, and it just doesn’t do it for us.” Served on a brioche bun, seared grouper is marinated in a house concoction of white wine, Worcestershire and margarine, while the grilled variant receives a hearty dose of Cajun seasoning. Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, 412 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key, 941-383-0102.

Photo 1


Cut the motor, cast a line and kick back with a full cooler and the gentle rocking of the waves. Glide through the biting seatrout at Stephen’s Point, trawl the shallow flats for Spanish mackerel and pompano or sail south of Blackburn Bay, where locals dub the rich waters “Snook Alley.” Perhaps search for your own private getaway. It’s a day of sun and solitude and the catch comes second to the soul’s serenity. What better remedy to the hustle and bustle of terrestrial life either does not exist or is roundly illegal. For a no-frills lunch with none of the to-do but all the satisfaction, the New Pass Grill and Bait Shop lures all those rustic sea-types with memories of a slower and simpler time. The shop opens at 7am for the early risers, but the lunch rush starts at 10:30am, after which late arrivals may jockey for a mooring on the dock. A straightforward grill, everything comes with fries and easy to transport for those looking to get back on the water. The grouper sandwich, grilled or blackened and served with tartar sauce, is a regular favorite, but it’s the New Pass Burger that earns the most accolades. A simple 5.2-ounce all-beef burger served on a Costanzo bun with the usual fixings, the devotion can be hard to understand at first. “It’s the view, dummy,” laughs New Pass Manager Debra Haithcock. New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, 1505 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota, 941-388-3050.

Photo 2

The Pleasure Cruiser OPHELIA’S ON THE BAY

Sometimes it’s just about getting away. With no particular destination or planned activity, luxury meets liberty with the bow pointed at the horizon and no end—or responsibility—in sight. Unfurl the sails and uncork the wine while snapping photographs with old friends, or lay back on the deck to watch the sunset with that special someone. When it comes time to leave this watery paradise for sustenance, make it a fair trade and head up the Intracoastal Waterway to Marker 48, where Ophelia’s on the Bay waits. With a boat slip and 80 feet of dock, mooring shouldn’t be an issue, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to move quickly (or make a reservation). “The first thing,” says Owner and Executive Chef Daniel Olson, “is you have to get a table outside on the patio.” Settled comfortably, Olson always recommends the local catch first—for freshness and Florida pride—like the East Coast sea bass. Olson sautés fresh Point Judith calamari with Key West Shrimp in a bouillabaisse-style broth perfected over the years for just the right blend of saffron, white wine, shellfish broth and herbs. Tossing with potato gnocchi, Olson tops it off with a seared sea bass fillet and recommends pairing with a buttery Chardonnay. But for those looking for more global flavor after a day on international waters, the scampi made with Asian black tiger shrimp, spring onions and fresh garlic fits the bill. Ophelia’s on the Bay, 9105 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota, 941-349-2212.