By Laura J. Cummings
Islamorada is Spanish for “purple island,” so named by the earliest explorers of the Florida Keys. But here on the Gulf Coast, the name is associated with top-notch seafood dinners.
If you’ve ever been tooling around Bass Pro Shops at Gulf Coast Town Center, perhaps looking for some new fishing lures or camping gear, you may have noticed the attached restaurant. While Islamorada relies heavily on foot traffic from the retail store, it’s worth considering for your next dinner out.
There’s a separate entrance for the restaurant with an expansive patio dining area which now features festive string lights, new roller shades and lush landscaping. If you’re looking for a casual atmosphere to enjoy some great seafood with friends, this is the place.
Inside, diners will be enchanted by a massive, 11,500-gallon saltwater aquarium filled with many, colorful species of fish. It’s like a slice of the ocean, table side, for “under the sea” ambience. If you have children, there’s no better entertainment while waiting for dinner: “Find Nemo and Dory!”
“It’s an attraction in itself,” says General Manager Shaun Bittner. “We bring the ocean right to you.”
For literary types, there’s the Hemingway Room, filled with relics and trivia about the iconic 20th Century writer and adventurer. The best views of the aquarium — the largest in South Florida, according to Bittner — is from the Hemingway Room or the bar, which extends the full length of the saltwater tank.
For large parties (up to 100), the “lodge” offers a cozy cabin feel: masonry fireplace, wood-paneled walls, historic “best catch” photos and a giant, mounted shark and swordfish.
As you might expect in such a relaxed atmosphere, cocktails choices are plentiful at Islamorada, including the “Angler’s Bloody Mary,” “Sunset Sangria” and “The Fishbowl” — made for two — with vodka, gin, rum, DeKuyper Blue Curacao and Sprite. Happy hour runs from 3-6 p.m. every day, except Saturdays.
For lunch, the seafood sandwich menu offers the World Famous Islamorada Sandwich, featuring the catch of the day, and a Grouper Reuben. For landlubbers, there’s Jerk Chicken and the hunter’s favorite: Wild Boar Burger.
Starters are equally as exciting. This is the place to venture out and try something new: Alligator bites, Conch Fritters, Clam Strips, Old Bay Peel & Eat Steamed Shrimp and more. The “main event” should certainly include a finely prepared seafood dinner selection featuring Mahi Mahi, Ahi Tuna, Scallops, Cobia, Grouper or the “catch of the day.”
While the food is top-notch, there’s no need to dress up to dine at this casual, angler-themed restaurant.
“It’s a little known gem with a laidback atmosphere,” says Bittner.
Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant
Bass Pro Shops at Gulf Coast Town Center
A unique starter, the fried American Alligator is tender and bears no “swampy” flavor. Its slightly spicy, hand-breaded coating provides flavor, as does the sweet jalapeño cream sauce for dipping — a perfect combo.
This colorful salad is as tasty as it looks. Tropical flavors like mango, cucumber, toasted coconut and sliced almonds set the tone for casual dining in the subtropics. Its finished with a creamy coconut poppyseed dressing.
Fresh-caught red snapper sits atop a bed of Morada rice, tastily topped with three blackened jumbo shrimps and finished with a lovely lobster cream sauce. Its served with fresh broccoli for a healthy meal that’s full of flavor.
Blackened Shrimp & Scallop Pasta
If you like lobster mac, then you’ll love this seafood pasta specialty. Cavatappi noodles are coated in creamy lobster sauce, with the succulent addition of tender, blackened scallops and jumbo shrimp. House-roasted tomatoes add flavor and color.
Fish and Chips
The classic, fried Fish & Chips platter is Islamorada’s No. 1 seller. Flaky cod is beer battered and served with tartar sauce and french fries. Pleasing for adults and children alike!
Key Lime Pie
With a recipe straight from the Florida Keys, this “old Florida” dessert specialty is made in-house. Breaking from tradition, Islamorada serves its Key Lime Pie in a mug — convenient for scooping out the creamy tart filling, graham cracker crust and whipped cream. Nothing says “Florida” like a great Key Lime Pie.