We’ve actually heard some cruisers complain that they can’t get a decent bite to eat along the Intracoastal Waterway. Of course, no such absolute claim could ever be true, especially with a dining capital such as Charleston along the way. PMM decided to push back against the naysayers by asking our cruising friends to name some good eats. We were really surprised at the number and variety of fine eateries they recommended, as well as the fact some are found in out-of-the-way locales.
From Capt. Jerry and Wendy Taylor
Aurora, Grand Banks 36
Homeport: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Marker 32 is the high point of our annual north-south migration between Ft. Lauderdale and Oxford, Maryland. The menu always includes locally sourced seafood and the freshest locally grown seasonal vegetables. Our favorite dishes include the featured local seafood—asleep in the ocean the night before—and the calamari appetizer. All dishes are served with homemade bread, with a choice of butter or seasoned olive oil.
The staff is extremely knowledgeable, cheerful, and happy to make suggestions.
Did I mention their two-for-one happy hour between 5 and 7 p.m. and an additional 10-percent coupon provided by Palm Cove Marina. Considering the quality and care that goes into every meal, the prices are moderate.
Signature dish: Sautéed Florida Pompano with sage brown butter, pine nuts, jasmine rice, and seasonal vegetables.
(Marker 32 is a three- to five-minute walk from the docks at Palm Cove Marina.)
Kagura Japanese Restaurant
From Mark and Diana Doyle
Semi-Local, PDQ 34 Power Cat
Homeport: Minneapolis, Minnesota
We recommend a restaurant and dining experience that is a bit different—a frugal and fun option for the popular stop at Great Bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia. Passing by the stalwart cruisers’ favorite of El Toro Loco (Mexican), walk another block to Kagura Japanese Restaurant near the Food Lion supermarket (and shop while you’re there). Kagura has a lunch and dinner all-you-can-eat sampler buffet. Pick item after item off their regular menu and each course is made fresh and brought to your table. You order individually and receive sampler portions of soup, salads, noodles, shrimp, rolls, sushi, tempura, and desserts. And the price nearly rivals fast food. It’s a fun way to try new dishes and spend time with newfound cruising friends.
Signature dishes: Shrimp tempura, vegetable tempura, authentic Japanese noodles (hot and cold).
(Kagura is a 1/2-mile from Great Bridge’s courtesy wall and new courtesy docks, as well as Atlantic Yacht Basin marina.)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
From Milt and Judy Baker
Bluewater, Nordhavn 47
Homeport: Newport, Rhode Island
Chef James Clark’s elegant Waterscapes Restaurant is a place for serious foodies and it’s where we had the finest meal of our trip aboard Bluewater from Maine to Charleston—true five-star dining with superb fresh-caught local fish, aged beef, and sustainable produce, and friendly caring service, all in a relaxing white tablecloth setting. One of our favorites was a seared Caesar salad with Asiago cheese, a salad we’ve learned to duplicate onboard. And—get this—there’s a 20-percent discount from menu prices for guests of the Marina at Grand Dunes, a total bill of less than we’d have paid at the nearby Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Don’t be put off by the location inside the Marina Inn; this is definitely not hotel food!
Signature dishes: If it’s local, fresh, sustainable, and in season, you’ll find it at Waterscapes.
(Waterscapes is less than a five-minute walk from the Marina at Grand Dunes, Myrtle Beach.)
T.W. Graham & Company
(also known as Pete & Claudia’s)
McClellanville, South Carolina
From Peter Swanson and Joanne Blake
Rio, Morgan Out Island 41
Homeport: Green Cove Springs, Florida
Pete & Claudia’s is the social center of this sleepy little Spanish moss-draped village, specializing in Cajun, Creole, and Low Country dishes, with more than a few surprises thrown in. The restaurant is also part store, specializing in goofy (often pirate-themed) merchandise, and it’s the closest thing within miles to a tavern. Here you can enjoy a night out with fellow cruisers and an eclectic collection of local folks.
Signature dishes: Crabcake sandwiches, crab soup, coconut pie.
(T.W. Graham & Company is a shady and pleasant 1/2-mile stroll from McClellanville Marina, your best and probably only choice for dockage.)
Riverwalk Café & Oyster Bar
Bill & Laurene Parlatore
Spitfire, PDQ 41 Power Catamaran
Homeport: Annapolis, MD
We travel through Stuart just about every year, and always make a point of stopping at The Riverwalk Café & Oyster Bar for lunch or dinner. With so many specials using the fresh local fish, there is always something to fit a variety of “Taste du Jour.” (What is consistent across the menu is that everything is made with the freshest ingredients.) It is not touristy, yet not formal. We best describe it as casual in an understated elegant way. And it is consistently good whenever we go there. It is a charming and romantic setting in the evening, and close to all that is going on in historic downtown Stuart.
Signature dishes: Fresh mahimahi tacos, the Riverwalk salad, or even a burger. The buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and grilled shrimp skewer salad is one of Laurene’s favorites. There is also the standard (and delicious) dishes of crab cakes, shrimp, scallops, locally caught fresh fish, duck, chicken, beef, and pork. And of course, the wonderful oyster bar is always a treat for those who love shellfish.
(It is a leisurely 4- or 5-block walk from Sunset Bay Marina, Stuart’s municipal marina.)
From Bill and Sue Jacobs
Susan Lee, Mainship 390
Homeport: Sarasota, Florida
Founded in 1976 and located on Venice Inlet (the only deep water inlet to the ICW between Boca Grande and Tampa Bay), the Crow’s Nest offers great seafood and fresh oysters, and has won an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Under the continuous ownership of Steve Harner, it has become a favorite among locals, cruisers, and other seasonal visitors. The downstairs bar features fresh oysters on the half shell at half price from 4 to 6 p.m. every day.
Signature dishes: Grouper Key Largo and Guenther Gebel-Williams Filet Mignon.
(Step off the docks of the Crow’s Nest Marina and you are there.)
Port Orange, Florida
From Bob & Nicky Schotman
Ataraxy, Ocean Alexander 423 Classico
Homeport: Welaka, Florida
During our summer 2012 trip to the Abacos, we took our time to enjoy the ICW portion of the trip, and experienced many good dining experiences, but the one we enjoyed the most was Boondocks. It has a casual, busy, and authentic local flavor, an impressive menu (lots of seafood) and reasonable prices. Our meals (yes, we also stopped by on the way back home) were excellent, the service was prompt and friendly, and the overall experience was exactly what we needed after a long summer day on the ICW. Boondocks was recommended by our good friends Charlie and Sheryl Roach (new owners of Adventure Yacht Harbor), and in combination with a friendly, clean marina, made for a memorable experience.
Signature dishes: Fresh seafood and homemade soups.
(Boondocks is on the grounds of Adventure Yacht Harbor Marina property and on the water.)
Georgie’s Sport and Oyster Bar
Belhaven, North Carolina
From Gary & Vicki Whiting
Southern Spirit, 34 Mariner Orient Sedan
Homeport: Ortega Landing, Florida
When cruising, we like to eat and shop in locally owned establishments whenever possible. Georgie’s can only be described as a homespun East Carolina favorite. Order your oysters by the bushel or peck, and they shuck them for you while you watch. It’s fun to sit at the oyster bar and chat about football or fishing with Georgie and his friendly staff or the local townsfolk. They serve excellent steamed oysters, cold beer, and sliced cheese appetizers with a special spicy sauce for flavor. Be sure to try the Hatteras Style chowder. It’s creamy, full of clam chunks, and is simply outstanding. This unique place is worth the stop and the little town is fun to explore.
Signature dishes: Steamed oysters, Hatteras clam chowder, and cheese appetizer.
(Georgie’s is 3 blocks from Belhaven Waterway Marina, four blocks from the free town dock.)
Coinjock Marina & Restaurant
Coinjock, North Carolina at ICW Marker 50
From Gene and Katie Hamilton
Early Bird, Blue Seas 31 Downeast cruiser
Homeport: St. Michaels, Maryland
When we cruise the ICW we like to stop at Coinjock Marina and Restaurant.
Its location, seasoned dockhands, and great restaurant make it a longtime favorite. In October, we made our 13th ICW trip and it’s still on our must-stop list.
Over the years we’ve found it has consistently served a hearty lunch and dinner menu with a combination of loyal local customers and transient boaters like us who know a good meal when we have one. Large portions are standard; we’ve never left empty-handed, so plan on a take-home box. A waterfront patio faces the dock so you can enjoy dining al fresco—all this in a clean and comfortable down-home atmosphere.
Signature dishes: Prime rib and steak.
(From the face dock tie-up, you’re just a few steps away from your prime rib.)
Meg O’Malley’s Restaurant and Irish Pub
From Capts. Helen and Bob Kovach
Allez! Marine Trader 50 Wide Body
Homeport: Wilmington, Delaware
Meg O’Malley’s is just a few blocks from the Melbourne Harbor Marina located in historic downtown Melbourne. The ambiance of the Old Irish Pub is very friendly and warm. It is a trip back to old Ireland. The variety of the drink menu is the largest we have ever seen and you will be tempted to experience a host of them. The Irish blessings will make you feel Irish even if you’re not. The selections on their menu are savory, excellently prepared, and reasonably priced. Our personal favorite is “Meg’s Threesome,” creamy potato-bacon-leek soup for starters, followed by corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, or beef and Guinness pie. The wait staff and the service have always been excellent. Leaving Meg O’Malley’s you will feel content and satisfied, and will have the luck of the Irish with you.
Signature dishes: Irish pub fare and, for dessert, “mom’s bread pudding” loaded with Irish whiskey and drunken raisin sauce.
(Meg O’Malley’s is an easy 4-block walk from the Marina or Front Street Boat Ramp. Along the way, there are many interesting shops to visit.)
Charleston, South Carolina
From Brooke and Dee Williams
East Passage, Mirage Great Harbour 47
Homeport: Green Cove Springs, Florida
Husk has received numerous awards, including Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in September of 2011. Specializing in cuisine of the South, the restaurant focuses on local produce and products, especially heirloom grains and vegetables. Much of the produce is grown under the guidance of James Beard award-winning executive chef Sean Brock at Thornhill Farm in McClellanville. The menu is posted daily online changing frequently as it takes advantage of seasonal products. Traditional favorites like shrimp and grits or cornbread will appear alongside more exotic offerings. Prices are reasonable for a celebrated restaurant. Advanced reservations are a must for dinner. Luncheon reservations are more flexible, so do some planning. Enjoy Husk’s understated elegance and its superb dishes.
Signature dishes: Blue Ridge Bison short ribs with smoked apple and celeriac puree served with fennel and carrots, North Carolina rabbit stew with dumplings.
(Husk is a 25-minute walk from the Charleston City Marina.)
Morehead City, North Carolina
From Nick Morgan and Sherri Smith
Sweet Time, Krogen 39
Homeport: Sarasota, Florida
Focusing on local products, the owner is a talented chef, who prepares entree specials that are seasonal (even weekly). Service is outstanding. Many places serve shrimp and grits, none can match Floyd’s.
Signature dishes: Flash fried oysters, “Happy Stick” shrimp, and Andouille sausage skewers, served with buttered rum sweet potatoes and Worcestershire onions.
(1/10-mile from the Morehead City Yacht Basin.)
Cabbage Key Island,
Florida on the Gulf ICW
From Bob and Pam Shircliff
Mint Julep, 43 Jefferson Marlago Sundeck
Homeport: Louisville, Kentucky
Cabbage Key is a cruiser’s delight: low key, laid back, and fun! Located at the Green 61 day mark on the GICW, just south of Charlotte Harbor’s Boca Grande pass, Cabbage Key is easily accessible in boats with up to a 5-foot draft. They have a harbor master directing you in on Channel 16 on the VHF—the dock master will help you tie in. The restaurant has wonderful outdoor seating, or you can eat inside in the screened dining rooms. They have a full bar, and serve great lunches and dinners. Hike the island’s trails, or relax with a cold beverage in their water tower overlooking the Pelican Bay anchorage and the GICW. Be sure to visit their outstanding gift shop and have someone take a photo of you at their “Shower with a Friend” sign.
Signature dishes: Cheeseburgers, top-shelf margaritas, and fresh fish sandwiches.
(Cabbage Key is at the docks.)
Caps On The Water
St. Augustine, Florida
Mark & Teresa Clapp
Current Affair, Tiara Open
Homeport: Wilmington, North Carolina
Spanish moss hangs from massive oak trees tastefully integrated on their large waterfront deck. The magnificent location offers sunset views with few planes landing at a small airport across the wide water view—quite possibly the best waterfront location in Northeast Florida with above-average food, moderate pricing, and one of the best wine lists in the state. Time your dinner to start before and finish after sunset. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but a tiki bar is provided along with an inside bar to accommodate your wait. This one is not to be missed on your northern or southern migration.
Signature dishes: Excellent seafood. Vanilla grouper is a local favorite. The vanilla sauce wasn’t too sweet, applied judiciously and accompanied by baked spinach leaves.
(A free loaner car provided by Camachee Cove Marina, about 1/2-mile north of the inlet, is our preferred method of travel after securing the boat for the night. Left out of the marina over the high-rise bridge across the ICW—with excellent views of St. Augustine inlet—then left on A1A for 4 miles. Free docking is located steps away from the restaurant deck.)
Have we left anyone out?
If you’ve got a favorite eatery on the way south, write it up in the same format as the list here and email it to email@example.com and we’ll post it as a web extra. Think of this as a way of rewarding the hard-working restaurant people.