By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
Although living on the Beach is fun, it's a relief to get away occasionally during high season, especially the part of season that coincides with South Florida's annual two weeks of cold weather. When we shivering goose-down-bundled Beach dwellers are even further chilled to the bone by the sight of tourists in T-shirts. Are they nuts? It couldn't be much more than 70 degrees out there!
Fortunately I've been commuting for computer-repair reasons to the mainland suburbs, populated not by tourists but by locals who understand the cold. For instance as I was passing one repair hour by reading a menu in the window of a Kendall mall seafood market called Jay's Market & Eatery, I couldn't help but notice a grinning guy inside who looked just like an elf, only bigger, gesticulating madly for me to come in.
Naturally I ignored him.
The big elf rushed outside, looked around as though he were about to offer illegal drugs, and whispered, "We have chowder -- two kinds, white clam and tomato-based seafood. Homemade. Hot. Just the thing for this weather."
Naturally I went in, immediately.
The red chowder was indeed both steaming and slightly hot in its spicing. Additionally, though a server had described it as "mostly vegetables" (carrots, celery, potatoes, and scallions), it was packed with big chunks of fresh fish -- basic, but a nice change from fancy-schmancy SoBe stuff. As was the rest of Jay's, a family-run place whose proprietors are Jay and Patty Scher. It's part fish store -- featuring exotica such as $25-per-pound Pacific rock lobster, plus local fish bargains like a pound of medium stone-crab claws for $12.95 -- and part casual country café with booths, a homey hideaway partitioned off from the market with checkered tablecloths and accommodating service.
There actually is some fancy food here, like Française-style fish fillets, but the rustic atmosphere almost commands concentrating on old-fashioned fish-house classics. A fisherman's platter featured two pieces of mahi-mahi, five bright red shrimp, and eight sea scallops, all dusted with a cayenne coating and broiled just till done but not dried out, plus pleasantly sweet cornmeal hush puppies dotted with whole corn kernels. A fried sampler included three jumbo shrimp, half-a-dozen conch fritters containing both sweet red and hot green peppers and sizeable pieces of conch, and a heap of breaded clams -- strips, sadly, not the superior Ipswitch whole "belly clams" craved by fried-clam fanatics but tender nonetheless. This plate also cried out for something crunchy to cut the starch and oil; a small side of Jay's caraway-flecked coleslaw would've been perfect.
An especially good meal deal, served Sunday through Thursday, is the $29.88 sweetheart for two: chowder or salad and cornbread plus choice of entrée, side, sauce, and full bottle of wine. I'd recommend choosing broiled rock-lobster tails with wonderful nutmeg-spiked creamed spinach as the side, delectably tart tarragon-spiced citrus butter as the sauce, and, unless you're childhood sweethearts, anything but white Zin as the wine. (For couples past their Kool-Aid years, merlot, chardonnay, and pinot grigio are available.)
A dessert of homemade key lime pie was far too sweet for me. But the bouquet of three roses that the elf -- whom I assume was Jay -- handed me with a flourish (and for no reason I could think of) on my way out was a spectacular ending to a delightfully down-home dinner.