In the continuing waterfront dining series, I ironically start this column with the Waterfront Restaurant in St. James City. Located on the south end of Pine Island in the original St. James City library, this is a very location with plenty of deep water (18) docks. They still answer VHF channel 16 (if they aren't too busy) and answer their phone almost always at 283-0592.
This end of the island is well marked but loaded with bars, so go to their website and see the map. No GPS location is listed but if you visit Google Earth and zoom in on St. James City, you will see a photo icon and hovering the cursor there you will see the Lat/Lon for the location. I can't give it to you here because if y'all copy the numbers incorrectly into your GPS, y'all will want a new prop from me.
Going to St. James City from the Dead End Canal is a nice little day excursion for several of our boats. Run-aground Ralph and Cap'n Crunch skipper their own boats and are encouraged to stay close to our lead boat but the inevitable usually happens.
After going out the Bowditch Point pass, we usually head for the Sanibel Causeway's third bridge, the one closest to the island. After we go under the bridge at idle speed, we deliberately rooster tail our wake in an effort to invite the Dolphin to come along. We've never had one jump into the boat but you would swear it could happen at any moment.
Depending on the time of day, you might want to try a little fishing in the 'Long Cut' or 'Short Cut' just beyond the numerous canals that constitute the town. These are manmade or more correctly, Calusa Indian-made channels that were dug to make it easier for their canoes to travel the bays during tide changes. The overhanging mangrove branches make perfect habitat for predatory fish. Do not disturb anything hanging from the branches.
We always catch fish and then head directly to the Waterfront Restaurant in St. James City where we can have the chef grill our catch. There is a fish-cleaning station on the docks or, if the outside deck is crowded, you might clean them on your boat.
Docking is a breeze for most of us, and fellow boaters are always willing to help. After our boat is tied up, we scurry into the restaurant so as not to be associated with the Chinese fire drill going on as our companions try to dock. Not to worry, the crooked piling will settle back into the bottom, and Cap'n Crunch is why they make replaceable rub rail.
If we have a big group we sit inside at a large table but I prefer the deck seating overlooking the boats and the water. The interior decorations are indescribable waterfront, so I won't try to describe it except to say "old Florida cute" and homey! You'll rub elbows with real fishing guides and anything overheard is sacrosanct but can be acted upon in secret. It is bad form to ask directly, "Where are the fish biting," like Run-aground Ralph always does.
The menu is simply great in it's simplicity. All the food is good to great and is heavily weighted towards seafood but not exclusively. There is plenty on the menu for the 'lubber' among you. Cap'n Crunch always tries to order from the 'Little Pirates' menu but it never works. Take this hint to heart: avoid weekend lunches because they are jammed packed and try to go by boat because it's an hour (38 miles) by car.
On our return trip, we always stop at a close-by favorite, Nervous Nellie's Crazy Waterfront Eatery and Ugly's Waterside Bar. Nervous Nellie's is a casual, family-fun restaurant that boasts a large selection of appetizers, fresh seafood, over-stuffed sandwiches and entres. Dine in air-conditioned comfort or outside on Nellie's expansive waterfront patio. Free parking for car and boat. Live music. Happy hour all day. Grab a bite to eat or drink and swing to the beats of live reggae, rock and island music from the area's premier musical talent.
Just upstairs from Nellie's is Ugly's Waterside Bar, the place where everyone gets prettier, and happy hour is all day, every day. Check our music and events pages for band schedules, special events and more! Great food, good times and live music are always on the menu at Nellie's and Ugly's!
That description has been lifted from their homepage, www.nervousnellies.net. I agree with everything they said, and I especially love their grouper rueben, fresh fish and handmade burgers. A real attention to detail makes Nellie's a real stand out!
Nellie's has a great waterfront view from everywhere, and the boat traffic and the construction across the water adds to the enjoyment. You can watch the bridge traffic from Ugly's, so there is something for everyone. Easy docking help by the dockmaster! Once at your table, don't be in a rush because reading the menu may take a while. It's worth it, believe me! A YouTube video may help you with directions, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8niOP871PU4.
Boatguy Ed is a avid boater and a retired marine manufacturer and television producer. He is also very active in the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" so check them out on their Facebook page.