Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Little Bar - Goodland, FL

Miami Beach is a little more than a 4-hour drive from Tampa. If you head south on I-75, the expressway passes several upscale snowbird communities (Venice, Ft. Myers Beach, Naples, etc.) and eventually takes a left turn towards the wide and empty expanses of the Everglades. Should you be ready for lunch around this time, you'd better hope that you find some old grub under your car seats (many things have defiled the Everglades over the past few decades, but fast-food franchises are not one of them) unless you detour off of the main roads and proceed past Marco Island to the tiny waterside hamlet of Goodland. With a population slightly below 300, Goodland is an enclave of homes, trailers, and bars tucked in among the estuaries of Southwest Florida, literally Land's End until you reach the Keys.

As one might guess, the town is primarily known for its laidback vibe (I'm surprised Jimmy Buffett hasn't immortalized it in song) and fresh seafood offerings. Visitors have lots of dining choices - Mrs. Hackknife and I wandered the main business district (all 2 blocks of it) a bit before settling on the Little Bar, located on the water near the town wharf.

Unbeknownst to me before I later reviewed the webpage, the Little Bar's owners have strong Chicago connections, having been associated with restaurants in both Oak Brook and Downers Grove at one time, and, in many ways, the building is a curio cabinet of Chicago history, allegedly containing artifacts from landmarks such as Henrici's (an elegant Loop supper club that existed from 1868-1962), a Cicero saloon that is said to have had Al Capone as a patron, and the infamous Everleigh Sisters brothel.

Instead of paper menus, the bill of fare is clipped to a stand next to your table. Farsighted people like myself appreciate the large print.

We began with the house smoked fish dip, sized a bit on the paltry side for $6.95, but packed with great flavor, one of the better fish dips we've had. For entrees, Mrs. H. opted for the blue crab cakes with a lobster cream sauce while I had a very tasty fresh grouper sandwich, fries, and Cole slaw (pictured above).

No seaside Florida meal is complete without a slab of Key lime pie - the Little Bar's version is white instead of green (usually a positive sign) and was wispy as woodsmoke, like indulging in a cloud of lime.

Tempting as it was to kick back another Yuengling and spend the afternoon listening to live island party music, we had an appointment with rush hour traffic in Miami to keep, so we bid adieu to Goodland and pressed onward on our journey...

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