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Bar Tab: Tide Tables

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Tide Tables view

View of the Intracoastal Waterway from the bar at Tide Tables in Cortez Village. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

For far too long it remained one of the great blown opportunities in Manatee County. Not anymore. Head west on Cortez Road and make your last left before the bridge and you will find a funky and scenic spot hugging the Intracoastal Waterway. This prime location is Tide Tables, a new restaurant and marina with a tiki bar facing Anna Maria Island. We arrived on a recent Sunday with sky-high expectations.

Beer mug

A frosty mug of Budweiser costs a mere $2 at Tide Tables in Cortez Village. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

The owners are Karen Bell and Bobby and Gwen Woodson. We will dine anywhere associated with Karen Bell. A key player in Cortez, she is the owner of A. P. Bell Fish Co. and the famed dockside restaurant next door, Star Fish Co., which we frequent whenever possible. Her business partner, Bobby Woodson, grew up near Cortez and spent two decades on the north side of Cortez Road as general manager of the Seafood Shack. Considering Tides Tables’ two restaurateurs, we figured super-fresh seafood and superb service should pretty much be guaranteed.

Fish Tacos courtesy WT edit

Fish tacos / COURTESY PHOTO

But it gets better. We walked through the entrance to the indoor dining room and were immediately greeted by Joe McDonald. For nearly two decades, he could be found cooking in the kitchen or pouring beers behind the bar at his restaurant Fisherman Joe’s on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. I lived within walking distance of Fisherman Joe’s for several years before it closed in the spring of 2011. Joe made, among other superb seafood dishes, the best blackened mahi-mahi sandwich in town. I was at his place multiple times a week. He’s now assistant manager at Tide Tables alongside chef Marcus Vega, who produced tasty dishes across the Intracoastal at The Bridgetender Inn for about 15 years.

“We got a club here,” Bobby Woodson says, “these guys rock.”

Grouper Bites courtesy WT edit

Grouper bites / COURTESY PHOTO

My amazing wife Kristin and I sat down at a couple comfy bar stools facing the spectacular waterfront view at the shaded tiki bar and I ordered a Budweiser draft ($2) that came in a mug covered with a fantastic layer of frost. We surveyed the rather small but exciting menu of mostly seafood dishes and barbecue and went with the order of three fish tacos and a side of baked beans for $10.95. Made with wonderfully fresh mahi-mahi, these tacos are taken to another level of flavorful thanks to a killer combination of coleslaw, cheddar jack cheese and, here’s the kicker, sesame ginger sauce.

Bartender Becky Elmore - a marine biology student at the University of South Florida and the daughter of Gwen and step-daughter of Bobby Woodson - didn’t miss a beat, even with a full bar. The second my mug got down to a quarter full she brought me a fresh, full, icy mug. I sipped on my beer, talked with my gorgeous wife and some of the other locals we knew, soaked up the sun and salty breeze and concluded that we really do live in paradise.

Key Lime Pie courtesy WT edit

Key lime pie / COURTESY PHOTO

While relaxing, we spotted several guys on a dock filleting fresh grouper, which, yes, is the same fish on the menu. We ordered the grouper bites ($11.95). Tender and teeming with the kind of taste that only comes from seafood that has never been frozen, the bites are lightly breaded and fried in mild seasoning, served with tartar or remoulade sauce. Both are good but Kristin and I are partial to the tangy orange one invented by the French.
Stomachs full but having too much fun to leave, we finally let our defenses drop and ordered a slice of the homemade key lime pie ($4.50) Joe told us about shortly after we first arrived. A winningly damp, delicate crust made from scratch and a filling of sweet and tart awesomeness, it also comes with a generous topping of whipped cream. We raved about every bite.

“You are going to be seeing a lot of us," Kristin said to our bartender Becky.

We did return, and had an equally exceptional experience, several days later.

Tide Tables
12507 Cortez Road, Cortez; 567-6206; facebook.com/tidetables

Have a suggestion for a place to be featured in Bar Tab? Comment below, email to wade.tatangelo@heraldtribune.com or contact me on Twitter: @wtatangelo.

Tide Tables
12507 Cortez Road, Cortez; 567-6206; facebook.com/tidetables

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: March 18, 2014
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