Gulf View Grill is a popular destination for dinner and sunset
As the only Englewood Beach restaurant with a second-floor view of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf View Grill is a popular destination for dinner and a “show.” An hour before sunset, diners claim their tables along the floor-to-ceiling windows in the main dining room or on the 25-seat open-air deck.
The promise of a sunset recently lured us to the popular dining establishment for a recent early dinner. We were seated at a table for two just one row removed from the windows and the sweeping vista across Beach Road to sand, palm trees and a sliver of the gulf. The setting outside — pastel lavenders and pinks reflected on clouds as the sun inched closer to the horizon — just begged for a traditional tropical cocktail. We ordered classic piña coladas with a dark rum floater, welcoming the chance to catch up, catch the sunset and enjoy the restaurant’s fresh catch.
Being practically on the beach, the grill offers a three-page selection of specialty and frozen drinks and martinis, some decadent with caramel and chocolate as their starring ingredients. I’m especially fond of the Manasota Citrus (elderberry liqueur, citrus vodka, and splashes of grapefruit, lemon and lime juices) and the pineapple upside-down cake. A fourth page offers seven spiked coffee drinks.
The restaurant also features a limited but thorough wine list, with by-the-glass sparklings, whites and reds priced from about $8 to $12. House wines are $6 and by-the-bottle selections expand options to 30, most priced in the $30 to $40 range.
Locals and long-time visitors to Manasota Key consider the Gulf View Grill as the more upscale dining option among the handful of restaurants on Englewood Beach. Located in a building reminiscent of an Old Florida stilt home, inside it conveys a beach retreat with nods to the sea at every turn. Sea turtles, dolphins and rays swim in an underwater world come to life on wall murals, starfish and other sea creatures hide among waving seagrass in etched glass partitions dividing the elevated lounge and dining room, and several aquariums showcase the real thing — colorful tropical fish.
The beach vibe is also enhanced by the soft wood tones of bead-board clad ceilings and walls, the latter installed in some areas to mimic waves with murals above. You can visit the grill several times and continue to discover new designer details, such as the painted and glittering flip flops accenting one wall and the soffit above the large bar, embedded with footprints in its ceiling tiles.
Proprietors of the Gulf View Grill are the Elmore family, who have been in the restaurant business in Englewood since 1984. They’ve created a menu that balances the expected seafood and fish entrées of any Florida waterfront establishment with an equal number of steak, veal and chicken selections, including the bone-in 12-ounce grilled pork chop and the pan-seared brandy-glazed steak Diane prepared with mushrooms, Dijon and shallots.
The restaurant offers a nice variety of appetizers, from escargot and crab cakes to artichoke crostini and oysters Rockefeller. We selected the she crab soup, a house specialty, and the seafood crepes.
The crepes had the potential for greatness if not for what we can only surmise was a big squeeze of lemon, which wasn’t mentioned in the menu’s description. Unfortunately, it overwhelmed what would have been great flavors delivered by the combination of sherry cream sauce and seafood. Even the pancake-thickness of the crepe could have been overlooked as it didn’t compete with the delicate flavors of the small chunks of lobster and crab mixed in a mélange of mixed seafood. We were able to find small forkfuls of sauce and crepe untouched by lemon. The sauce was beautiful and creamy but there were no discernable hints of the promised sherry.
Our entrees were accompanied by a choice of Caesar or garden salad and a choice of potato: baked, sweet or garlic mashed. A basket of thick-sliced toasted baguette arrived prior to the salads. The bread was chewy on the outside, moist in the center.
My companion ordered the mahimahi topped by mango and pineapple salsa. The sauce was freshly made and flavorful, good on its own or with the fish. The thick slice of fish presented without unnecessary seasonings. Very nice.
I had every intention of sampling the fresh catch or the menu’s mainstay red snapper, black grouper or seafood Neptune combination of sea scallops, stuffed shrimp and grouper. I even contemplated the rich lobster mac ‘n’ cheese tossed with broccolini and jack cheese. My best-laid plans were abandoned once I saw three servings of prime rib delivered to a neighboring table. The prime rib has a cult-like following on the island.
Perhaps the kitchen had an off night. The meat had a very light beefy flavor, and I wasn’t able to detect the garlic seasoning it’s known for. It was a little tough to cut, too, and the watery jus lacked distinct flavor. However, a small dose of horseradish sauce complemented the prime rib nicely. I paired a house pinot noir with my entrée.
The restaurant also offers a fairly extensive dessert menu that includes tiramisu, Key lime pie and lemon mascarpone cake. We sampled the warm brownie with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce and a second dessert that sounded too interesting to pass up: sweet potato maple cheesecake. The latter was indeed an interesting combination of flavors, pretty in its layering and presentation. We couldn’t quite figure out the flavor profile, debating between carrot or spice cake and pumpkin pie. It was good, nonetheless.
Our server was fairly attentive considering a large crowd had quickly packed the restaurant. We lingered over dinner a little too long and missed the entertainment at the grill’s newish tiki bar along the sidewalk — another venue for sunset cocktails. ¦
In the know
Gulf View Grill
2095 N. Beach Road, Englewood, 475-3500, thegulfviewgrill.com
>> Hours: Lunch served Monday through
Sunday from 11 a.m. 4 p.m.; dinner daily
from 4 p.m. to close
>> Reservations: Recommended
>> Credit cards: Accepted
>> Price range: Appetizers $8 to $15; entrees
$18 to $34
>> Beverages: Full-service bar
>> Parking: On site and in paid beach parking
lot across the street