Restaurant Reviews

Natural-Born Geezers

If you've been wondering where all the 80-somethings party on a Sunday afternoon or you're living on a fixed income 'cause Mr. Bossman won't give you the raise you rightfully deserve, check out the early-bird special at Old Florida Seafood House (1414 NE 26th St., Wilton Manors, 954-566-1044). Show up between 4:30 and 5:30, which should just about give you time to roll out of bed and dab some gel in your hair, for a three-course meal that includes some variation on the theme of conch chowder, an entrée of fried oysters or sautéed snapper, key lime pie, and coffee for $19.95 ($17.95 Monday through Thursday).

In some quarters, it's considered treasonous to diss OFSH; it has more fans among local seafood lovers than Menudo had teenaged girls gone gaga. And one thing you can really count on here is a big, fat, fresh, juicy piece of fish. Even the hoity-toityest restaurants don't serve a better hunk of broiled dolphin. But Old Florida's muffins likely come from a mix, the vegetables probably have seen better days, and the twice-baked potatoes may have sat in the refrigerator for some while. And the "homemade" key lime pie, packed into a preformed graham cracker crust, tastes of bottled lime juice. Your middle-aged waitress would rather die than introduce herself -- she may even visibly tap her foot while you dither over your choice of soup or salad.

So why go? Well, you have to see OFSH at least once for the kitschy stuffed sharks in the bar, the downright ugly black ceiling tiles, the terrible '60s rental-unit carpeting worn through by generations of walkers and canes. If this sounds ghastly, it isn't. Somehow it all comes together, presided over by a jolly maitre d' who is unfailingly polite, even after the 100th geezer of the night has gotten his wheelchair wedged in the front door.

There's something comforting about the extended families bickering over who's gonna order the shrimp Florentine or the fried scallops or the sautéed frog legs and who gets the creamed spinach and the au gratin potatoes. You'll recall a dozen road trips and 101 family restaurant meals where, at age 7, you ate your way through a basket of blueberry muffins with whipped butter, a plate of broiled scrod, and a mountain of French fries. And you loved every bite of it.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd