Chill at Swordfish Grill
louise bolger | sun
Mark Bartlett is the general manager at Swordfish Grill,
which offers spectacular views of the waters around Cortez.
There's not too much old Florida left in old Florida, but you can still find pockets of authenticity that will remind you of the way it once was. Tucked away along the quiet waters of Sarasota Bay in the iconic fishing village of Cortez you'll find a new restaurant that will restore your faith in old Florida.
The Swordfish Grill is smack dab in the middle of a working fishing village, boat yard and fish houses, surrounded by the bay waters that are home to practically all of Florida's water birds. The location is colorful enough for the most jaded Floridian, even before you step inside.
Inside you'll find a large cozy nautical space with a dynamite water view, walls made of weathered dock planks, tables, large booths a tin ceiling and a bar. The inside opens out to the deck and tiki bar, where high tables hug the railing along the water overlooking available dock space for diners who want to come by boat.
Mark Bartlett, the general manager of Swordfish Grill for owner John Banyas, has worked hard since the restaurant's opening in December to create a casual restaurant where you can have a beer and an appetizer or a rib eye steak dinner and everything in between.
Except for the daily lunch and dinner specials the menu is the same all day giving diners the flexibility of grabbing something quick at the bar or on the deck or relaxing and enjoying some of the entrees.
Some of the menu choices are appetizers like peel and eat shrimp, ahi tuna and ceviche. There is a raw and not so raw bar including stone crab claws and clams and oysters prepared in a variety of ways. Shrimp, chicken and fish baskets with fries and cole slaw are popular, as well as sandwiches like grouper, mahi, fish tacos and the Too Good To Be A Burger burger.
Available entrees include crabmeat stuffed grouper, grilled swordfish and shrimp as well as crab cakes, a couple of choices of steak and chicken. Salads and dessert are also available and there is a full bar at both the inside bar and tiki deck bar with many specialty drinks.
Bartlett says he is always looking for ways to improve the menu while still keeping the affordable pricing with menu items starting at $8. He also tries to keep all of the food choices local, doesn't use any frozen fish and does all the preparation work in house.
And if the views and the food aren't enough to entice you to visit Swordfish Grill, there's always the entertainment. Six nights a week it has live entertainment, usually on the deck.
Bartlett has been in the restaurant business for 40 years, 20 of them in Florida, most recently in the Florida Keys. One of the reasons he was persuaded to give up his retirement plans and relocate to Cortez was the old Florida relaxed feel of the area. He says it's the closest thing to Key West he has seen outside of the Keys and probably even a little more old Florida than today's Key West.
Try making the turn off Cortez Road at 119th Street and step back into the Florida of old where you can kick back with a beer and watch the white pelicans of Cortez at the Swordfish Grill, the Key West of Florida's west coast.
4528 119th St. W., Cortez
11 a.m. - 10 p.m., 7 days
All major credit cards accepted