Shiver me timbers. Ahoy, matey. Arrrggh!
What else are you supposed to say when youre dining at a place called Pirate Republic Seafood & Grill? From the squawking parrots to the fluttering pirate flags, the theme is in full force at the Fort Lauderdale restaurant. Its like Halloween all year long.
Some may remember this location as Shirttail Charlies, a longtime waterfront destination that closed in 2004. At the helm is Roberto Guerios, who was born in Brazil, grew up in Italy, spent seven years building a 98-foot wooden schooner and circumnavigated the globe three times with his wife, Claudia, Pirate Republics executive chef.
The couple launched the restaurant in 2009 by sailing a replica of a red pirate ship, complete with cannons and costumed passengers, along the New River. If youre not arriving by boat or water taxi, you might need a treasure map to find the place, which is a few blocks west of Andrews Avenue on the south side of the river.
We hadnt gotten past the over-the-top pirate theme until friends raved about the seafood and fresh fish, the stunning view of the Intracoastal and the laid-back atmosphere, including a pool where families are free to relax before or after a meal.
Grab a seat high-tops or wooden benches and linger over appetizers, burgers and sandwiches plus bold seafood feasts inspired by dishes the Guerioses encountered in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the islands.
Items can be pricey, but most are available in smaller portions that we thought were big enough to share.
Start with Bahamian-style conch fritters, crunchy coconut shrimp and especially good crab cakes, thin patties with more lump crab than filler, flavors of the Caribbean, not Baltimore, and just the right crunch.
Pirate Republics signature seafood bowls cast a wide net, incorporating clams, calamari, mussels, shrimp and fish. Our congenial server recommended the Portuguese seafood feijoada, with chunks of andouille sausage, navy beans and malagueta chile peppers that give the tomato-based broth a fiery but not overwhelming kick.
The dish comes with two small baguette slices, but we paid $2 for a bowl of white rice (included with most seafood feasts) to soak up all those wonderful, garlic-scented juices. The cooks know what theyre doing the shrimp and calamari were supple and perfectly cooked, and even chunks of farm-raised catfish were delicious.
Staples include fresh mahi, grouper and swordfish and cod shipped in on ice. Were hooked on the mahi, whether blackened in a sandwich or sautéed in specialties like our dish in the style of Ilhabela, Brazil. The generous medley of shrimp and fish was served on rice in a lovely sauce melding tomatoes, onions and coconut milk and topped with Brazils creamy Catupiry cheese.
Basic fare like shrimp scampi, chicken Parmigiana and rib-eye steak is also available. Our New York strip steak au poivre was overloaded with green and pink peppercorns in a sauce as rich as a pirates booty, served with so-so mashed potatoes and flavorful sautéed spinach.
Desserts, which are made elsewhere, are not the Pirates strong suit, but kids will like the chocolate mousse or bananas Foster (more like a banana mousse on a chocolate cookie).
Get in the Halloween spirit with creamy shrimp and shallots served in a pumpkin with a side of creepy black rice (served Saturday-Sunday). If you want to wear a costume, heres a hint: Pirates rule.