Everyone in Marco Island knows about the Dolphin Tiki Bar and Grill, but, curiously, no one knows how to find it. Even more curiously, even though it’s almost impossible to find, there always seems to be a wait for a table or a seat at the bar. The Google Maps app tells you that you have “arrived at destination” with no restaurant in sight. Nancy and I, intrepid as ever, tracked it down. It’s tucked away behind a large apartment or condo complex, invisible from the road. Perhaps it’s in the Restaurant Protection Program. When you get there, you realize that it overlooks a marina. There was a line, so we hovered behind a couple at the bar until they got so uncomfortable that they left, and we took their seats. Not really. Their sense of satisfaction after a great meal made them want to share the good things in life with the poor waifs nearby. I think this waif had the Famous Tiki Grouper Sandwich, and it was very good, and merited all of the fame of which I previously had been unaware. So we returned with our friends, Joyce Deroy and Willie King (that’s Joyce in the lower right). It was a weeknight early in the season, so there was no line.
As you can see, Dolphin Tiki is a cheery place, with a pleasant buzz of conversation (yes, not so loud that you can’t carry on a conversation). You also will note that there are no walls, which is nice in Florida. In addition to the tiki area itself, there’s an open dining area to the side with umbrellas.
Joyce and I both got the grouper française, which was more or less grouper piccata without the capers. It was a huge hunk of very fresh fish cooked very well. For sides, I got black beans and rice — good — and onion strings, which were exceptional. Eating so much barbecue, I try to stay away from fried foods, but there are times … which makes me think of the fried chicken at Parkers, Parker’s corn sticks, the truly outstanding shrimp burger at the Captain’s Kitchen, and the odd hushpuppy at, say, Wilber’s. Where was I? Oh. That may seem like a lot of exceptions to my rule, but it really isn’t. The exceptions actually are very narrowly targeted to a few specific foods, and occasions when it would be impolite to reject available food. One of that elite group is the crispy and flavorful onion strings at the Dolphin. Try them yourself if you don’t believe me.
I think Nancy had a salad with grouper, and Willie continued his Southwest Florida fried calamari survey. It was a great meal. The service there is prompt and friendly, and it’s a very pleasant environment. I need to go there for lunch some time and take advantage of the view over the marina.
I recommend the Dolphin Tiki Bar. It is now on our regular Marco Island rotation with Stan’s Idle Hour, Little Bar, the Snook Inn, Lee Be Fish, and the Rumba Cafe up in Naples (on the way to and from the airport).
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