By Liza Morrow
sun staff writer
Fish and fishing are the decorating motif at Sportfish
Grill, a welcoming, unpretentious restaurant in Holmes
Beach Shopping Center. Covering the walls are enormous
swordfish, tarpon, tuna and dolphin hanging with photos
of friends, family, charter captains and customers in
their proudest fishing moments.
The place has a funky weather-beaten look, enhanced by
the quirky aesthetic of corrugated metal walls and mismatched
furniture. Bar stools and bar tables are steel and distressed
Mexican tin top cantina tables, purchased at Sand Dollar
Gift Shop just a few doors away, are different colors
and with different logos.
Young people, dressed in T-shirts with the Sportfish Grill
logo, delivered friendly, caring and casual service. In
fact, before we had even ordered, the waitress, waiter
and the owner, Jeff Cummins, had all introduced themselves
to us. Soda glasses were filled before it was needed;
additional napkins arrived without our asking and complimentary
pinball games were given to my daughter while she waited
for her meal to arrive. You can sit outside at picnic
tables and catch a good breeze, or sit at the bar and
have a choice of catching a game or a cooking show on
the large, flat-screen televisions. Regulars tell me the
restaurant is a hangout for fishing captains, who are
presumably drawn to the seductively-cold, imported beer
selections and reasonably priced fresh and tasty food.
In truth, one of the things I like best about Sportfish
Grill is the homemade hot sauces: smoky toasted abol and
chile verde made from chilies and tomatillos. Jeffs
wife, Marcela, makes them from scratch, and unfortunately
her recipes are a secret. But the food that goes along
with these condiments would have to make this one of the
best Island hangouts youre likely to eat at. Its
party food big portions, festive, spicy, very fresh
and attractively presented. Since Jeff took over the restaurant
from Crabber Tom last May, the menu has changed to accommodate
local clients desires and now Sportfish Grill offers
choices of authentic Mexican, Tex-Mex, local coastal and
even French inspired original dishes.
Menu choices are fairly straightforward and are the same
from lunch through dinner. Frog legs, fried crab claws
and mussels or clams in a buttery, garlicky white wine
broth are a perfect way to start. Other menu possibilities
include salads, sandwiches and five fresh Tex Mex choices:
seafood burrito, quesadilla, taco, tostada or chile verde.
The bigger entrees also proved very good. New York strip
steak is grilled and served with Creole rice pilaf and
grilled asparagus. An excellent dish called Sunset Skewers
consisted of two skewers loaded with shrimp, scallops,
fish and veggies and baked with a sweet and spicy glaze.
One of the best choices is the Tortilla-Encrusted Dorado
served with Pico de Gallo and cumin-scented black beans.
Dorado is Spanish for mahi mahi, which is Hawaiian for
what Americans call dolphin fish. The mahi mahi covered
with this crunchy and unusual coating is something I would
like to make for a simple dinner or for my guests at a
dinner party. Of course the desserts at Sportfish Grill
are sweet and appealing. Among the best are the bread
pudding with bourbon sauce, crème brûlée
and a classic key lime pie.
Sportfish Grills Tortilla-Encrusted Dorado
2 eight-ounce filets of mahi mahi
1/3 c. flour
2 eggs whisked with a Tbs. of water
2/3 c. crushed tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350°F
Place flour in pie dish. Whisk eggs to blend in medium
bowl. Crush unsalted tortilla chips and place in a second
pie pan. Sprinkle the mahi mahi filets with pepper. Dip
both sides of each fish fillet into flour; shake off excess.
Dip fish into eggs, then into crushed tortillas, coating
completely. Press to adhere.
Melt 2 Tbs. butter with 1 Tbs. oil in a heavy large skillet
over medium-high heat. Add the fish fillets to each skillet
and cook just until coating is golden brown, taking care
not to burn the crust. about 3 minutes per side. Place
fish in the hot oven and bake until fish is just cooked
through, 10 to 11 minutes.
Pico de Gallo
(prepare as the fish bakes)
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and
pepper. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
1/2 c. diced sweet Vidalia onion
2 medium diced ripe red tomatoes
1 finely chopped jalapeño
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt