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Al Durrett opens new Fish-Tale restaurant

December 6, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Local neighbors and curious islanders have been peeking behind Santini Marina Plaza for months in anticipation.

Their wait is over - except, of course, while they wait for their meal: Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining is open and ready for business.

"We've been working on this for two years. Finally it came together," said marina owner, Al Durrett.

Article Photos

This is Chef Christian Potts sampler of the Caprese salad, topped with a grilled peach.

The restaurant, nestled behind the plaza, is drive-up or boat-up fine dining in a relaxed, beachy atmosphere. While the food is fit for a white tablecloth, Durrett and his team wanted it to be an upscale menu with a comfortable setting.

The restaurant features a large, open-air dining area with screens to keep out the mosquitos and another open air tiki bar with high-top tables for a casual drink or two.

Executive Chef Christian Potts has been ironing out the menu for weeks, and it shows. The Naples chef brought a little of the high society flair into his work.

"We're pushing the envelop," Potts said.

While a modern take on seafood dishes is one of the main staples of the menu, there's a plethora of delicious alternatives, such as pasta, steak and vegetarian options.

But what a diner will find in the menu are Potts signature touches: bright colors and a sweet and savory pairing on nearly every plate.

A Caprese salad topped with a grilled peach and balsamic fig reduction; crab and lobster cakes paired with a blood orange sriracha aioli; a 6-ounce filet soaking up a sundried cherry demi glaze. Potts is also big on purees, like the silky coconut-cauliflower puree that sits below pan-seared scallops.

"Here, they let me create," Potts said.

The menu tries to adopt as much as a farm-to-table standard as possible - something not hard with fish and seafood, since fishermen flock next door daily.

It's Durrett's first try at owning a restaurant. Before Waterfront Dining, the space was occupied by The Fish House. When the Fish House's lease was up, it moved to Old San Carlos Boulevard and Durrett decided he'd try his hand as a restauranteur.

"I have never done anything with a restaurant except eat in one," he said. "We're learning daily, and it's something new for me, even at my age."

While it's a new venture, he said it's no different than running the marina. The restaurant guests want to come for a good time and a good meal, and at the marina, customers want to come enjoy boating and water recreation. In both situation, it's up to the employes to be sure the customers are having a good time.

His new venue has hired on about 60 people - a far cry from how Durrett started on the south end of the island. Durrett bought Fish-Tale Marina in 1985, and it's been operating since 1958. He's the third owner, and he was the 12th employee when he took over its operation. Then he took over Santini Plaza and its 30 merchants in 1998.

"There are over 100 families here that support themselves," he said.

Durrett said his first target diner are the neighbors. He said the condo dwellers and homeowners alike were always stopping by to check on the restaurant's progress.

"They expect a lot out of Fish-Tale, and I want to please them first," he said.

And Durrett's favorite menu item?

"I'm from Ohio and grew up with Dave Thomas of Wendy's," he said. "The cheeseburger is my favorite. Love a good cheeseburger."

Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.



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