Mar 23, 2020

A commoner dines at the Southport Raw Bar, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Traditionally, when I thought of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., two things came to mind:  spring break and cruise ships.  Frankly, I didn’t do spring break in college, and I had never gone on a cruise before November 2018, so I never considered Ft. Lauderdale as much of a destination of its own.  Nonetheless, once Punky and I knew we’d have a one-night layover in Ft. Lauderdale prior to our cruise’s departure, we intended to make the most of it.      

We checked in to our hotel by mid-day and, restless souls that we are, soon set off wandering the area looking for a late lunch.  Fortunately for us, a little research and a good nose led us to …

the Southport Raw Bar.  Located on Cordova Road, barely a block north of a busy stretch of the famous Fla. Hwy A1A, Southport Raw Bar seemingly had everything I would want and expect from a South Florida raw bar and restaurant.  And with a history going back to the 1970s, they’ve had plenty of time and experience (and a little “dive-y” feel around the edges) to become a Ft. Lauderdale institution attracting locals and tourists alike. 

The prime spot for dining at the Southport Raw Bar, unless weather intervenes, is the back deck.  It’s easy to see why a seat is so hard to find, even in the hours between the lunch and dinner crowds.    

After all, with Southport’s location at the end of a canal, the view looking out toward the harbor is pretty sweet.  Stay here long enough, and you’re sure to see people docking their boats to dine here. 

Once we struck out with the open-air dining, we figured why not try the oyster bar?  It always works for us in New Orleans. 

Again, not a chance.  I get it though.  There’s something about the joy of watching your oysters being shucked while you enjoy a cold beer.  And this bar has a nice view of the dock through the windows behind the oyster bar.  

So, we settled for booth seating in the main restaurant area.  Between the ads plastering the ceiling, the dated feel of the wooden booths with the plastic upholstery and the newsprint menu, we were definitely getting into the 1970s fish shack vibe by this point.    

We even had a partial view of the bar seating that surrounded the open kitchen.  Wave after wave of fried food, boiled and grilled seafood increased our hunger.  I walked around to study the chalkboards at various places along the wall which detailed the day’s specials in addition to Southport’s regular menu items.   

When it came time to decide lunch, the specials largely won out. Punky had a blackened mahi mahi with fries, and I recall the fish being prepared excellently, flaky to the touch of the fork. I had mahi mahi as well, but in taco form.  And Southport’s tacos were a delicious combination of flaky blackened fish, crunchy slaw and a nice wedge of soft avocado.

But I wasn’t going to leave Southport Raw Bar without trying one of its staple menu items – the conch chowder.  And as I had hoped, it stole the show.  This soup was wonderfully flavorful, savory and plenty of chewy conch to taste it in every bite.  It made me want to try their conch fritters on a future visit.  And the oysters.  And the clams.  And … well, you get the idea. 

I certainly got my share of seafood on our cruise and its ports of call, but few experiences were as memorable as the one we had at the Southport Raw Bar. And now, I have a regular stop whenever I’m in Ft. Lauderdale. 

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