Saturday, February 19, 2011

Florida Dreamin’ On Such A Winter’s Day

Our Deck Down Under
78 Dunlawton Ave.
Port Orange, FL

Nothing says “Welcome to Florida” like a big old fish sandwich served in a plastic basket on a sundrenched picnic table right over the water.

This is the stuff you dream about while you’re shoveling your driveway for the third time in a week.

That perfect Florida seafood shack of your dreams?

It’s right here in Port Orange tucked “under” the Dunlawton Bridge.

Our Deck Down Under is the quintessential Sunshine State hangout where you drink cheap pitchers of beer in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops and listen to the waves lap against the pylons holding up the deck under your feet.

No “suits” allowed. Strictly enforced.

This is the kind of place you don’t even have to bother to ask if the seafood is fresh and local, as evidenced by the neighboring shrimp boats tied up to the pilings next door.

The laid back vibe is enhanced by the open air layout. A handful of old people, sunphobes and Obama supporters can sit inside. Normal people head for one of the coveted tables outside in the bright Florida sunshine next to the water.

But there really is no “inside”. The sliding doors are always open allowing the entire restaurant to appreciate the cool breezes coming off the Intercoastal and negating the need for air conditioning.

At Our Deck Down Under, you not only don’t get any air conditioning, you don’t get a full service waitress either.

Nope. You have to stand in line to place your order.

A really, really long line.

Efficient? Heck no.

If you want efficient, save your airfare money, stay in Buffalo and go buy a snow blower.

Florida – and the Deck Down Under, in particular – are not about efficiency.

When the line stretches out the door – like it did today – the wait can be up to a half an hour just to get your order placed.

But it’s worth it. Trust me.

By the time I told the girl what I wanted, paid my tab, grabbed a pitcher and found a seat by the water, I had nearly reached nirvana.


Actually, I was starving.

Just then, a girl miraculously appeared tableside with a tray full of good food. How did she find me, as big as this place is?

No idea.

But I’m glad she did.

First up were my cherished conch fritters, crispy fried on the outside and soft and succulent in the conch and batter-filled inside. Accompanied by a perfect remoulade dipping sauce, my only regret came when I polished off my last one.

These babies are addictive – kind of like hush puppies, but with a seafood prize inside.

But no trip to Florida is complete without at least one fish sandwich.

Such a simple concept, yet so hard to find north of I-10.

Fish, a leaf of lettuce and two pieces of bread.

The beauty of a good fish sandwich lies in its simplicity. It personifies the perfect fish-camp-bare-foot-lazy-afternoon-no-frills lunch.

But simplicity can be deceiving.

A truly great fish sandwich, like the one served at Deck Down Under, requires those simple ingredients to be done right.

Only fresh caught fish. Crisp lettuce. And good quality buns lovingly toasted and buttered.

That’s how they do a fish sandwich at Our Deck Down Under.

Of course there is one major dilemma all connoisseurs of Florida fish sandwiches face.

Fried, grilled or blackened?

Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Seasoned right, grilled is hard to beat. And as a flavor addict, blackened is always a good choice.

Grilled or blackened, you are getting a moist, tender piece of fish that will pack a delicious flavor punch in every bite.

Fried, on the other hand, can be dry and devoid of seasoning, by contrast.

But we’re talking about fried, here.

Have you been paying attention to this blog?

My Suit757 mantra is that anything good becomes great after being dragged through beer batter and a bubbling cauldron of grease.

And if there really was any doubt to begin with, Our Deck Down Under puts it to rest when you consider two important facts about their fried fish sandwich.

Quantity. And “Island Grove Caribbean Green Hot Sauce”.

Unlike the grilled or blackened sandwiches that come with one generous sized fillet of fish, the fried version comes with a whole mess of fillets all piled on top of each other.

Can you say carb and protein overload?

Oh, yeah.

I could barely wrap my hands around the thing, let alone my mouth. Now THAT’S a fish sandwich worth dreaming about.

And the Deck solves the whole “fried doesn’t have as much flavor as blackened” dilemma by providing little bottles of tropical green hot sauce to spread onto my toasted bun.

You get a whole school of fresh fried fish on a sandwich – with a nice flavor kick.

As if single-handedly causing a world-wide fish depletion crisis wasn’t enough, my sandwich mistakenly came as “a basket”, which means hush puppies and onion rings to boot.

I didn’t order it that way. I figured the conch fritters would suffice. But the girl who brought them out said they were on the house.


Both the rings and the pups were perfectly fried. And, yes, I ate every last bite.

Florida sunshine. Cool breezes off the water. Cold beer. And lots of good fried food.

Stop dreaming and put that damn snow shovel away. Come on down to Our Deck Down Under. I’ll save a table for you by the water.

Rating: Bought the shirt!

Our Deck Down Under on Urbanspoon

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