January 16, 2021


A Treasure Trove

The spirit of survival lives along Florida's Treasure Coast.

Robert W. Tolf | 11/1/2004
I made the last landfall in Stuart a few weeks before Frances stormed ashore, destroying the wonderful Riverwalk along the St. Lucie and disrupting downtown, forcing restaurants to close and distribute their perishables to the hurricane shelters. But the spirits of survival thrived in the not-so-sleepy little town of 15,000 once known as the sailfish capital of the world and before that the chrysanthemum capital of the world. The restaurants, including these favorites, are back in business:

Arthur's Dockside Waterfront Restaurant
131 S.W. Flagler Ave., 772/219-3625
Everything about this restaurant is extraordinary, starting with the Olympic-size parking lot out front, the walls of windows providing panoramas of the St. Lucie River and the soaring new Roosevelt Bridge, the lounge dominated by an incredible oversized jade ship and museum collection of figurines, the multilevel dining rooms with formally appointed tables where guests "Celebrate the Revival of Elegance," in the words of the menu.
The food matches the challenges of the settings, starting with the sushi bar. That's right! A sushi bar with sea eels and sea urchins, salmon roe and tuna tartare, California rolls, miso-glazed black cod, white fish, ceviche and tempura, priced from $5.50 all the way up to $39.95 for Kobe beef tataki with garlic-ginger sauce.

Asian accents are also featured on the regular menu: A pair of $21.95 outstanding rolls, one made with seared center-cut filet mignon, jumbo lump crab and fresh asparagus spears (labeled, appropriately enough, "Oscar"), and another called "Surf and Turf" with the filet paired with fresh Maine lobster in a sushi roll. These are just two of the "exquisite features by Chef Lenh," a Vietnamese of great talent. Her lobster bisque with a splash of Courvoisier is superlative as are the jumbo prawns atop shavings of romaine and mixed greens treated to a fine vinaigrette showered with crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and fresh raspberries ($12.95 to $15.95).

Among her outstanding (albeit expensive) creations are the rare seared tuna dotted with black and white sesame seeds emboldened by ginger, soy sauce and wasabi; jumbo lump crab cakes on a bed of sauteed baby spinach with Dijonaise or poblano pepper sauce for $35.95 and a pound of prime New York strip for $20 more. More mundane fare is her shrimp on grits cake, "scampitizers" and escargot-loaded mushroom caps ($7.95 to $10.95), her trio of $19.95 chicken creations Italian-style, a quartet of veals ($24.95 to $31.95), pasta and seafood selections ($16.95 to $20.95).

To complement all this supercheffing, there's a wine cellar to match, 21 wines by the glass ranging from $6 for a simple Cavit Pinot Grigio or Merlot to $9 for Santa Margarita or Drouhin's Pouilly Fuisse. Serving lunch and dinner daily.

The Ashley
61 S.W. Osceola St., 772/221-9476
Named for the infamous Ashley gang who made a habit of robbing the bank on this 1920s site and now featuring the longest happy hour in town, 2:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, lively entertainment and such early-bird tempters as $12.95 three-course dinners served Monday through Friday 5 to 6:30 p.m. and on Monday with half-price wine. The steaks are reliable, the seafood fresh and the spirit ultracasual. Closed Sundays.

514 N. Dixie Highway,772/692-3662
Swiss-born and trained chef-owner Michel Courtine and his wife, Laura, hold forth handsomely in this little gem, executing a menu of continental classics with Swiss accents and finesse -- grilled pork chops wrapped in spinach and Swiss cheese, dolphin encrusted with cashews and a spirited saffron-spiked lobster sauce, calves liver Lyonnaise, meaning with bacon, caramelized onions finished with port wine; filet mignon filled with gorgonzola and terrific New Zealand rack of lamb. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday with 5 to 6 p.m. three-course budget pleasures for $16.95.

Josef's Downtown
23 S.W. Osceola St., 772/219-4446
A happy refuge with marvelous martinis and such specialties as pan-seared salmon, scallops, duckling and grilled tenderloin of quality, flavorful pork. Best starters are the New Zealand green lip mussels or one of the classic Caesars with chicken, salmon or shrimp. Dinner, with entrees $15 to $25, is served Monday through Saturday.

Riverwalk Cafe & Oyster Bar
201 S.W. St. Lucie Ave., 772/221-1511
A few conch shells from the shoreline and the memory of the blown away riverwalk, this corner classic raw bar invites hunkering elbows and lovers of freshly shucked bivalves and mollusks, some steamed in coconut broth as appetite stimulants for the ginger-glazed sockeye salmon, the fresh hog snapper tempura and the double-cut chargrilled pork chops. Open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner, with $16.95 to $22.95 entrees, Monday through Saturday.

Tags: Dining & Travel, North Central

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