Monday, May 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: High Tide Harry's, Airport area, Orlando, FL

This weekend, we took Grandma M (Hubby's mom) to a pre-Mother's Day dinner at one of our favorite family restaurants - High Tide Harry's at the NE corner of Hwy 50 and Semoran/436. Hubby likes it because it is good, inexpensive seafood, and we never have to wait for a table. I honestly don't know how that latter part happens, though. We've come on weekday nights, weekend nights, and weekend lunches, and the parking lot is almost always full, as well as the restaurant. But, they always seem to have one more table for any folks coming in the door. The decor is cute, kitschy ocean motifs like crab-trap light fixtures and aluminum fish cut-outs on the walls. There's a bar along one side of the restaurant and a batch of arcade games on the other. Oh, and pay close attention when you walk in the front door. Taped to the door and along the walls of the entrance are the "specials" for the day. Don't miss them! That's where I've found some great, surprisingly delicious dishes like "crab fingers" (more on that later). After we were seated, our server Joan (about 8 times out of 10, we get Joan; it's happened so much that now she knows us) arrived and got our drink orders. It was a round of sweet teas for all, except for Little Boy (LB) who wanted lemonade. Then, Joan came back with our drinks and yummy hush puppies with cinnamon butter, loaded up in a bowl. These are complimentary and are pretty much unlimited, but watch your kids or that'll be all they eat (and you, too)! They are always hot and fresh and taste great dipped in the butter. The kids' menu is simply a paper placemat with the entrees listed at the top and the rest of the paper for drawing. Crayons come already on the table which is nice, although the boys have complained about the color availability in the past. Today was fine, though, lots of nice colors to choose from. The kids' entrees are seafood such as fried fish or shrimp, as well as non-seafood entrees like grilled cheese, hot dog, or chicken fingers. Most are about $3-$5, with the shrimp on the high end and the spaghetti at a total bargain at $1.99. All except the pasta come with fries or a veggie side, as well as a package of Goldfish cookies. This time, LB ordered the grilled cheese and Big Boy (BB) ordered the hot dog. Both like the corn on the cob on the side. The adult menu is HUGE. Pretty much any seafood you can think of, they probably have. Think simple, though, no fancy preparations here, just fried, grilled, broiled, or blackened. They even have a delicacy called "crab fingers" that I tried last time. They are like the little forearms of the Blue crabs, shelled except for the very tip of the claw, served fried or sauteed. It's served as an appetizer for $6.49 and they don't always have them so try them if they got them. I thought they were great and had them as my entree as I wasn't very hungry last time I came. This time, though, I got one of my favorites, a pound of Dungeness crab, today going for $15.99. Adult entrees get either two sides or one large house salad or a cup of soup. I've learned if you're going to do crab and have your hands all greasy and buttery, it's better to get the cup of soup to start instead of having to deal with two sides as well. High Tide Harry's signature Blu Stu (stew, get it?) is really unique and tasty with blue crab meat and veggies and spices. But, I was in the mood for the clam chowder so I went for that. Grandma M also went for the 1 lb. Dungeness too and added the green beans and steamed veggies on the side. Don't bother asking for the rice pilaf - they don't have it anymore - even though it's been listed on the menu for at least the past year or two. My soup arrived, along with crackers that the boys promptly grabbed and started devouring. I like High Tide Harry's version of New England clam chowder - it's creamy but still light with big pieces of crab and potatoes. After I finished, I knew I was going to have leftovers of the crab - but that would make a good dinner for Hubby who had been too sick with a cold to come out with us. He's also a big fan of the steamed clams, but that would have to wait until the next time he comes. Our meals arrived and pretty much filled the table with all the bowls and utensils for the crabs. BB started digging into his hot dog and corn; LB seemed content with just the corn, I suspect he had eaten too many hush puppies. One pound of Dungeness equals one whole big honking crab. I find Dungeness a bit easier to eat than other crabs as you don't have to work as hard. A few cracks with the nutcracker and the shell usually comes off leaving a big piece of crab meat. Half a crab later, I was done. Grandma M kept going and did really good, only leaving two little claws - more for Hubby with the other half of my crab. Grandma M also still had a lot of her side dishes left (heed my words - get the soup or salad!) because she had been so busy with the crab so she tried to eat some of those now. We had timed it just right as the boys were just starting to get antsy, having just finished their Goldfish cookies. Definitely check out Harry's as it is a great place to take your family for seafood.

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