June 17, 2012

Conch Republic Grill

Last Memorial Day, on a beach trip to Indian Shores, we kept hearing about the famous Conch Republic. We decided to stop by one day for lunch to check it out. We shared a seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, and grouper. We loved it so much, we went back the same night for dinner, and we have been going back ever since.

The Conch Republic Grill is located at 16699 Gulf Boulevard on North Redington Beach. If you visit during peak hours, the parking lot will be full, but street parking is available. There is a small outside bar with a few outside tables. If you want the full Key West effect, venture inside.

Conch Republic has a fun and casual atmosphere. Key West pictures and fun memorable surround you as island crooners like Jimmy Buffett serenade you through the overhead speakers. Grab a strawberry daiquiri or pina colada from the bar, and embark on your temporary island vacation.

The stars of the menu at Conch are obviously the fresh seafood. Near the hostess stand you will see a cooler proudly displaying fresh fish on ice. You will also see a chalkboard filled with the daily specials. While seafood draws the people in, the menu is abundant for those who prefer their protein to come from land (or no meat at all). Enjoy a greek salad, a Cuban sandwich, a hamburger, or a juicy steak.

I am a "carbivore", so I judge a place highly on the bread served before a meal. The rolls at Conch are always fresh out of the oven, and served with real butter packets on the side. Order an appetizer of conch fritters, fish spread, cracker shrimp (think "Bang Bang"), calamari, or oysters, and you are off to a fabulous start! We typically opt for the potato skins since they are harder and harder to find at restaurants. Thick cut potatoes, fried and topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and scallions. Need I say more?

On my most recent visit, we tried the fried group sandwich and ribeye steak. The grouper was fresh and crispy. This is served on an onion roll, and I got the "secret sauce" on the side. I always pick the black beans and rice for my side item at Conch - this is topped with fresh diced tomatoes and white onions. The ribeye was grilled well, and served with a loaded baked potato.

As you are eating, I am sure you will smell the aroma of cinnamon at some point, wafting from the Bananas Foster preparation at a nearby table. If you have any room left for dessert, try the Bananas Foster, daily cheesecake special (Butterfinger on this visit), or Key Lime Pie.

Conch Republic also has a wide variety of rums available. Flights are available at a reasonable price. Hey, you're on vacation, or at least pretending to be!

On your way out, pick up some Mussels Diablo sauce and a souvenir t-shirt. When you're reminiscing about your beach vacation, put on your shirt and recreate your visit to Conch Republic.

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