Sea Oats

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille

Let me preface this review with a bit of an explanation. I do not have a sophisticated palette. If I eat out when I am working, I usually just grab some standard fast food fair. But every once in a while, I like to treat myself. I don't know much about ingredients. I have actually been accused of burning water, so no chef am I.

The last time I saw saffron, it was a triple word score on a Scrabble board. I wouldn't know a béarnaise sauce if it came up and bit me on the ass, but I do appreciate good food and good service. That is what you can expect at Doc Ford's.

Doc Ford is a marine biologist in a series of great books by author Randy Wayne White. A good read in the vein of Steinbeck's Cannery Row and John McDonald's Travis Mcgee series.

Doc Ford's Front entrance, Ft. Myers
Doc Ford's on San Carlos Bay, at Matanzas Pass just before Ft. Myers Beach is a great spot for lunch or dinner. It sits overlooking the bay and the adjacent marina. Just off in the distance is where the commercial fishing fleet docks. Mostly shrimp boats with their rigs raised in salute as they return with the day's catch.

Large windows face the bay giving diners a great view of the boat traffic. I chose to dine inside because it was 94 degrees outside. Over the years, I've proven my ability to eat under almost any conditions. Such as in the cockpit of a sailboat in ten foot seas on a delivery, where no matter how good and warm the food was in the galley ten minutes ago, in the cockpit it tastes like cold oatmeal made with sea water. If the weather is right, there are several outdoor dining areas, all with a view. Inside the main dining room, there are two levels. I was on the second level as there were no seats empty near the windows.
Outdoor seating for weather where the temps are lower than 110 degrees.
My server, Nicole, a bright and attractive girl, brought me a menu and returned quickly with my big glass of iced tea.

When I eat at a restaurant for the first time, I like to think about what I'd like and then try to match my bright idea with something on the menu. I've had a lot of fish over the years, caught by me, prepared usually by more competent souls and have enjoyed many a good fry up. Fish buried in batter is just that. You quite often don't actually taste the fish itself. You taste the batter. There is nothing wrong with that as there are many fine ways to batter fish that lend a great taste to it. This time I wanted grilled.

The choices were confusing to someone with a drive up mentality.

DEEP WATER MAHI-MAHI - freshly filleted mahi-mahi seared in sweet soy sauce, placed on a jasmine rice stir fry with a prickly pear ginger vinaigrette. $19.95

Or,  BANANA LEAF SNAPPER - snapper wrapped in a banana leaf lined with Masa Harina, Ancho Chili Purée and Pine Island lime juice. Steamed, paired with black beans and rice with a Dynamite Lime Cilantro Roasted Pepper pesto. $21.95

Or, CEDAR PLANK SALMON - freshly cut salmon filet topped with a mango chipotle glaze, served with au gratin potatoes, wilted spinach and caramelized mushrooms. $21.95

Or yet again, ACHOATE GRILLED GROUPER - fresh grilled grouper seasoned with a blend of South American spices, served with saffron rice mixed with broccoli and mushrooms, topped with pineapple salsa. $24.95

I chose the Deep Water Mahi-Mahi. I've never heard of anything else in the description, except for the mahi-mahi. I was amazed. A large two piece slab of Mahi on top of the rice. The rice has veggies in it, like little tops of broccoli, onions and some other things I didn't recognize. I now like sweet soy sauce and prickly pear ginger vinaigrette.

Mahi-Mahi is easy to screw up. Overcook it and it comes out like rubber chicken. Undercook it and it tastes like wallpaper paste. This was done perfectly. There was not a scrap of Mahi or a grain of rice left when I finished.

Nicole kept my iced tea topped up without me asking. And then she pulled a very classy move. I was about half way through with lunch, and since there were no tables left on the lower level, she had to seat a couple near me. I thought, "Oh well, I'm sure they'll be quiet and let me finish in peace." Well, Nicole put them two tables down. When I commented to her that I appreciated that move, she replied, "I don't like have people seated on top of me either." Almost every other restaurant I've visited seated everyone at one table after another, even if there were open seats where everyone could have some space. I know it is easier for the servers, but it makes all the difference in the world to the diners. Nicole's tip went up right there.

Pretty full, but still having small hole in my appetite, I looked at the desert menu. I judge quite harshly seafood restaurants by their Key Lime pie and almost everyone one of them serves some version of it. Some have it brought in from Key West, which is very, very good Key Lime pie and others buy local with mixed results.

Outdoor seating overlooking the waterway.
Doc's makes their own. It came on a chilled plate/bowl about the size of Frisbee. The slice was man sized, not one of those little thin slices that the ladies like to share. ( I appreciate the effort ladies, but I'm a guy.) It had whipped cream to one side with a mint sprig on top Don't eat the mint sprig. It sticks to your teeth and is not as tasty as it sounds. On the other side was, and I'm guessing here, was raspberry sauce. Whatever it was, it was gone with the pie.  

That did it. Pleasantly stuffed, I shuffled towards the door and went to my room to take a nap.

I am not qualified to be a restaurant critic in any way except that I know what I like. My grandmother said I was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Well, Grandma, I like fish too. This was truly one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

You'll be hungry by the time you find the place too. While visible form the bridge going over to Ft. Myers Beach, you going to have rough time finding how to get there. You'll need Capt. Jack Sparrow's compass from Pirates of the Caribbean, "an island that cannot be found, except by those who already know where it is hidden." Captain Sparrow uses his unique compass - rather than pointing north, it points to what its holder wants most, and you'll want this restaurant.

You have to go under the bridge on a little road that is not well marked. There is a sign for Doc's next to a bus bench if you are coming from the east. That's it. Well worth the effort though.

Doc Fords Ft Myers Beach
708 Fisherman's Wharf
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931-2204
(239) 765-9660

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