Lazy eves in Cortez tend to end by 10 p.m., but the Cortez Clam Factory—about a mile outside the Bradenton fishing village—is inevitably still hopping, seven nights a week.
It is where you can get Terra Ceia clams and peel-and-eat shrimp until 2 a.m., watch a band perform at no cover charge, zone out with nine flat-screen TVs, and gulp cheap beer.
I often drop into this Bantam Plaza spot in the San Remo Shores area after a grouper sandwich at Star Fish Co. Sometimes, you just need that mainland nightcap after hours of watching the pelicans bob along Sarasota Bay.
Tonight, bartender Nate Corbett greets me with a glass of zinfandel and a plate of chilled, local stone crabs straight from Cortez (which just came into season on October 15).
“You’re going to love these,” Corbett assures me, as this is my first time sampling the sea creatures.
I indulge while John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” play on the TouchTunes jukebox and patrons fill in the choruses.
A rectangular wooden bar, a raw bar, a stage and a dance floor comprise the Factory’s layout, and nautical signage and boat steering wheels adorn the wood-paneled walls.
From 8 p.m. to midnight on Tuesdays, the joint draws its largest, standing-room-only crowds. Blues guitarist Buster Coles (who formerly played with such greats as Ray Charles and Bo Diddley) runs the “Clam Jam,” which ropes in diverse open mike musicians.
Happy hour is from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with well drinks at $2.75 and draft beers for $1.75 (Bud and Bud Light). Other taps include: Shock Top, Stella Artois, AmberBock, Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra.
“Our happy hour and regular prices are better than anywhere around here,” Sadler says. “You’re not going to come in here and spend all your money.”
On the menu are crabby balls, New England clam chowder, pan-seared mahi mahi sandwiches, blackened fish tacos and beer-battered haddock bits.
Have a dozen Joe Island top neck clams and prime oysters at the raw bar, or a plate of icy blue Prince Edward Island mussels and Gulf easy-peel shrimp from the steamer.
“You can just kick back here and have a good time with really fantastic food until late at night,” Sadler says. “We’ll keep you fed and entertained.”
The Cortez Clam Factory is at10104 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. 798-9898; clamfactory.com.