A recent trip down to Fort Lauderdale to visit family resulted in a restaurant find that’s off the main drag, out of the way and completely unexpected.
All the more reason to visit Fishtales on 33rd next time you head south.
It’s a restaurant most of the time, a nightclub part of the time; a place where fine dining and sports bar co-exist. The outside is plain and unassuming. A small outdoor bar, two TVs and a few tables make it indistinguishable from any other sidewalk café. Inside, there are a dozen tables, a bar on one side of the room, a bandstand on the other, more TVs and really large fish sculptures on the walls. On the tables, there are white tablecloths, black napkins, gold chargers and candles. Confused yet?
Look at the menu; it won’t take long. It’s all of two pages of appetizers, soups, salads and entrees. That’s the first clue that it’s fine dining. The menu isn’t extensive: just a selection of dishes that the kitchen does well. Salads and appetizers include classics like iceberg lettuce wedge and Caesar salad, and modern offerings such as BBQ duck quesadillas and a goat cheese and pesto flatbread. Entrees are mostly seafood: their famous beach bucket (which includes shrimp, dolphin, mussels and clams in either marinara or a white wine sauce), shrimp risotto, lobster ravioli, fish and chips, dolphin tacos and Florida grouper. There’s chicken and red meat if you must in the form of burgers, steaks and chicken piccata.
Here’s what’s amazing about Fishtales on 33rd:
- The fish in the fish and chips is a whole cod fillet, including the bone. Serving it this way, you know you’re getting the real thing, not pieced-together fish “fillet”.
- The coleslaw is unlike any other: tart almost to the point of bitter, with a tang of caraway and vinegar, yet it still has a creamy, almost deli-like consistency. You may not like the first bite of it, but you’ll think about it and keep going back for more.
- The beach bucket of seafood: served with thick slices of rough country-style bread, it’s the single best reason to come here. And if there is any white wine sauce left in the bucket when you’re done, either use a straw to finish it, or just take it home (yes, the restaurant will pack it to go).
- The French fries are done right: twice-cooked and seasoned in the kitchen. And same for the risotto; not an easy dish to get right when you’re not only doing it to order, but trying to make sure each order comes out with everything else the table orders.
- Prices are beyond reasonable: soups, salads and appetizers are $6 to $15, sandwiches $10-$13 and entrees $10 to $23.
The dessert and wine lists are small but worth consideration, and yes, the deep-fried Oreos with raspberry sauce and powdered sugar really do taste like a jelly doughnut, as promised by our server. And speaking of the service: it was informal and friendly, but fast, attentive and highly knowledgeable.
A few things to note:
- Fishtales on 33rd is also a nightclub, with live music nightly. The music varies from rock to blues to dance fusion and start times can be as early at 6 p.m. Keep this in mind when making a dinner reservation.
- There is ample parking along 33rd Street and the other side streets, but it is metered, enforced 24/7 and no credit cards are accepted at these meters, so bring change.
- Except for the candlelight, the restaurant is somewhat dark.
If you’re going to Fort Lauderdale, and want a little bit rock and roll and a lot of good seafood, Fishtales makes for a good combination.
Fishtales on 33rd, 3355 NE 33rd St. (a block north of Oakland Park Boulevard along the Galt Ocean Mile), Fort Lauderdale, FL. Phone (954) 689-2344. Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Sunday, noon to 2 a.m.