To the Lighthouse

Old Florida still exists. It's over there behind those condos.

Talle may protest that the place has lasted 77 years because it's adapted so well to changing times, but my hunch is that it's been around so long for another reason. There's a stubbornness and inflexibility in these couple of patched-together, hulking buildings. It's as solid and immutable as your old grandpa telling the same shaggy-dog story for the 220th time. The place is well past its prime. The memorabilia crowding every wall is real, accumulated over decades. There are original menus, reviews torn from '40s magazines, faded photos of Cap and his makeshift family. And if the hostess and waiters are a little harried, a little grumpy, they're the kind of servers you used to find in diners on every blue highway in America.

Our favorite dishes from the place were the fresh raw oysters ($6.95) and what turned out to be an outrageously expensive but perfectly delicious crab cake appetizer ($14.95) -- one cake, creamy and luscious, almost pure crab meat plus a touch of binder. The clam chowder -- spicy, steaming, and satisfying -- featured chewy clams in a tomato-based broth that seemed just the right precursor to the seafood.

Our entrées were good in the way fresh fish is when you sink a line off your dock and later throw your catch on the grill, with a little salt, pepper, and lemon. The dolphin fillet ($24.95) had a subtle flavor but could have used a minute or two less under the broiler. The special seafood platter ($26.95) was all good: generous helpings of grilled shrimp, small sea scallops, and chunks of grilled dolphin.

A word about the wine: just splurge and order a bottle. We tried three different wines by the glass, and they all tasted like they'd sat open waiting for us to show up for a long, long time. And at $9.25 a glass, this was no bargain.

This food is as pricey as big city fare, but it's unadorned: Take me as I am, or don't take me at all. And those who think a big fresh piece of fish needs to be slathered in some frou-frou sauce, with a bunch of hand-carved vegetable rosettes on the side, can damn well go elsewhere.

At least, that's what I guess Cap would say, if he were still alive. "We used to sit around when we were kids and wonder -- are we really related to all these crazy people? They were a strange, interesting group, Talle says. "They were like a family."

And when Talle and her brothers want to retire? "That word's not in my vocabulary," she says. "If anything, I'll be sitting out there in Cap's rocking chair, barking orders."

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