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Image: Chad Spencer

What’s better than a great restaurant? For boaters, that’s easy—a restaurant with a dock. To tie up and soon be eating something warm and drinking something cold while admiring a tropical water view is one of the joys of boating here. There are dozens of waterfront restaurants to choose from; here’s a short list of some of my favorites, from north to south.

Annie’s Bait and Tackle 

Tie up along the no-nonsense dock just north of the landside start of the Cortez Road Bridge. Tiny and painted pink, Annie’s probably looks much as it did decades ago. It sells bait and tackle on one side and good seafood on the other, including frog’s legs, grouper sandwiches and garlic mussels. My favorite is the “Bad Fish Sandwich” with French fries and coleslaw ($11.50). 

New Pass Grill & Bait Shop

Tie up at the big dock southeast of the New Pass drawbridge. This Old Florida-funky little spot with a simple menu is famous for its cheeseburgers. I like to grab the bacon-egg-and cheese breakfast sandwich ($4.19) early on spring mornings when I’m heading out to the Gulf to go tarpon fishing. 

Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar 

At the south end of Roberts Bay, turn east into Phillippi Creek and navigate up the narrow channel and under the U.S. 41 bridge; turn left and you’ll see the docks to the restaurant. This popular spot offers great seafood—and my favorite, fried gator. 

Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar 

The T-shaped dock is directly across Bay Drive South from the restaurant, which offers a full menu from apps to dinners of pasta, steak, duck and more. But I keep coming back for the ribeye steak sandwich with caramelized onions and provolone cheese ($10.95). 

Casey Key Fish House 

You’ll see the restaurant dock just southwest of Blackburn Point Road swing bridge. With a varied menu that includes baskets of crab cakes, battered shrimp and fresh fish sandwiches, this place is usually packed, especially during tourist season, but it’s worth the wait. I’m a fan of the char-broiled burger with bacon, sautéed onions and lettuce ($8.99). 

Pop’s Sunset Grill 

The dock runs along the bar and restaurant on the mainland side of the ICW several hundred yards north of Venice Inlet. The menu is flush with burgers, sandwiches and seafood dishes. It’s typically busy, but at laid-back Pop’s, somebody always makes room for you to scootch in somewhere. My favorite: the wood-grilled rack of pork ribs with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, with fries and more fries ($21.95). 

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