Authenticity is something of a rare find nowadays along the commercially blighted overbuild coast of Florida. It’s easy to duplicate the look of Old Florida, but nearly impossible to capture its spirit. That is exactly what one local eatery has done. Tide Tables in Cortez simply is authentic old Florida.
It’s not a huge surprise how they were able to pull it off, Proprietors Bobby Woodson and Karen Bell are both native Floridians, with deep roots in both the restaurant and commercial fishing industries. Bobby began his restaurant career across the street at the Seafood Shack in the 70’s, back when the building that now houses Tide Tables was a bait shop and home of the Miss Cortez Fishing Fleet. Karen’s family owned AP Bell Fish Company, with its fleet of commercial shrimpers and long-liners. Bobby went on to open Woodson Brothers on Manatee Avenue and Karen took over the family business and acquired Star Fish Company in the mid 90’s, opening the small dockside restaurant by the same name there, just a few blocks away. In 2014 they teamed up to create one of the best little restaurants around, Tide Tables of Cortez.
What makes it so authentic? In one word: Simplicity. The combination of fresh seafood, a small menu that fits the small kitchen, and the no-frills atmosphere are the perfect combination to enjoy the best of what Florida is on a sunny afternoon overlooking the intracoastal waterway. The menu was kept simple on purpose, and embodies a simpler way of life. You can start your meal with a choice of fresh homemade soups or nice variety of appetizers ranging from peel and eat shrimp to comforters to fresh smoked group or spread. Tide Tables’ sandwiches have a little something for everyone, whether you’re in the mood for fresh grouper or a big juicy burger, you won’t walk away hungry. My favorite is the Shrimp Po Boy that is topped with a fresh homemade remoulade sauce.
Fresh Gulf grouper is always on the menu, but you may choose to go with any other delectable offerings from the surrounding waters like fresh scallops or shrimp. The award-winning fish tacos are to die for, topped with homemade coleslaw and a secret recipe sesame ginger sauce that truly take them over the top.
No great meal can end without dessert, and if you’ve never had one of Chef Marcus’ dessert creations, well then you just haven’t truly lived. You can taste his key lime pie any day the week but every day he comes up with some new fantastic creation that will make your taste buds sing.
With so much uncertainty as to the exploding growth of the area, I talked with Bobby a little bit about things like the new developments surrounding Cortez and the possibility of a new 65’ fixed span bridge that has been proposed to replace the existing Cortez bridge. His answer surprised me. “You would not believe how many people show up here with their luggage in tow and tell us they just arrived or are on their way to the airport and this is the first place they wanted to go or the last meal before they leave. It’s amazing. Obviously, we’re doing something right and we have no plans on changing anything, no matter what happens around us.” The other thing that makes them so unique is the fact they still retain all the original staff since they opened in February 2014. That is an astounding feat and that family atmosphere extends beyond the staff and includes the residents of the neighboring Cortez Trailer Park, and it is certainly something diners can feel as well, making your entire experience there not only delicious, but authentic old Florida hospitality at its finest.
So next time you’re in Cortez or visiting Anna Maria Island, make sure to take the time to enjoy not only one of the most fantastic views the area has to offer but some of the best food and service to go along with it. Tide Tables is located at 12507 Cortez Road, right at the foot of the Cortez Bridge. Call ahead for their fresh daily specials at (941) 567-6206 or visit their website www.tidetablescortez.com
Make sure to tell them that Rosie sent ya!
photos from Tide Tables