If The Fish House in Bonita Springs had radio ads, they would no doubt feature a Commodores “Brick House” rip-off jingle that would go something like “she’s a fish…house.” At least that was my brilliant revelation as three visiting friends and I pulled up for dinner at the waterfront restaurant on Bonita Beach Road.
The Fish House, we discovered, is a restaurant with a bit of an identity crisis. Outside, it is an adorably quaint pastel-colored stop that looks like it would fit in easily on a Caribbean island if only reggae music or Jimmy Buffet tunes were playing over the sound system. Inside, it is an über-casual bar complete with painted wooden booths, a large ice tub stocked with bottled beers and pictures of seafaring men and women on the bathroom doors. Above the bar, large banners display happy hour drink specials and contrast nicely with crayon-drawn children’s pictures hung along the walls. Were the kids here during happy hour? But I digress.
We decided to have our dinner on the outdoor patio overlooking a narrow canal-like inlet where patrons can dock their boats on a sunny afternoon and stop by for a brew and a basket of flash-fried lobster nuggets.
On the patio, a number of large round tables and plastic chairs look out over the water and brush up along a fence draped with white Christmas lights and dotted with tiki torches that up the fancy factor and provide a bit of romantic lighting as well. But The Fish House’s menu largely stays true to its simple restaurant/bar roots, offering up a wide array of seafood-heavy appetizers, entrees, and sandwiches with borderline $15-and-under prices. As we poured over the bright yellow menus, my friends and I considered tempting options like seafood marinara pasta, a fried shrimp basket with French fries and coleslaw and the pan-seared tuna melt served on whole wheat bread and topped with provolone cheese and roasted garlic mayo.
When all was said and done, we decided on four of the restaurant’s specialties: barbecued mango salmon ($13.99), island style jerk mahi ($13.99), broiled stuffed Gulf grouper ($18.99), and the 12-ounce New York strip steak ($16.99). All the specialties come with the choice of two sides, and when you’re as hungry as we were, such details can be a major factor in your decision.
All four of us opted to start with tossed salads as one of our side dishes, which arrived almost immediately and were devoured just as promptly. The salads were simple, but fine, though they didn’t quite fill the small bowls they were served in.
After we’d eaten every scrap of lettuce and licked the last drops of salad dressing from our plastic (!?) silverware, our main courses arrived from the kitchen, resting attractively on blue and white porcelain fish shaped plates. Once again, The Fish House had exhibited its multiple personality disorder, matching pretty, fancy even, dishware with plastic utensils and plastic glasses reminiscent of a college dining hall.
And the inconsistencies continued with the food. My jerk mahi was a tasty, though extremely thin filet, heavily spiced with the criss-crossing black grill marks that make restaurant food look so damn good. For a second side, I went with the parsley potatoes, which turned out to be a small clump of sautéed red potato cubes that came with a tub of mysteriously tangy tartarish sauce. Although I couldn’t pinpoint the exact ingredients, the creamy condiment easily made up for the bland potatoes.
My partner in $15-and-under dining, Shaina, had opted for the barbecued mango salmon and a side of fries. While her slice of fish was, like mine, a skinny little thing, Shaina reported thoroughly enjoying the sweet coating on her salmon, though the mango flavor was more of an afterthought than a clear contributor to the dish. Oddly enough, the side of French fries, was the true shining star in her meal. The fries were of the long, semi-thick variety with a lightly browned crispy outside and a soft inside, which elicited contented “mmmms” from various members of our party.
When our plates had been cleaned and the bill arrived, my friends and I were only somewhat stuffed, and Shaina and I came in just barely under the $30 limit even without having ordered drinks. I might visit The Fish House again, but probably just to hit up happy hour, chow down on fried delights and sing, “she’s a fish…house” in my head.