SeaWatch restaurant gets a face-lift in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

SeaWatch photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.
SeaWatch photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.

SeaWatch restaurant in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea has an updated look in an Old Florida-New England style set in a sprawling structure designed by architect Dan Duckham and painted in shades of blue and aquamarine, all surrounded by manicured lawns and palm trees.

The interior has a sophisticated nautical theme. The best tables are on the east side of the upper and lower floors with sweeping views of sea grapes, sand dunes, sea oats and the ocean. 

Lunch is more casual with the same starters as dinner plus sandwiches such as a crab melt and salmon BLT, fried seafood and fish ’n’ chips made with Maine blue cod. Dinner is slightly more pricey, offering meal-size salads, prime rib roast, seafood paella, bouillabaisse, and broiled, seared, roasted or steamed seafood, plus top sirloin and crustacean combos.

Owner James Edmondson lives in Pasadena, California, but in the ’70s he bought the three acres of seafront property where SeaWatch is perched (his son will take it over when he retires). Executive chef Darryl Shuford is from Asheville, North Carolina, and created an updated menu a few years ago when the place was renovated for the first time since its opening in 1974. 

Shuford’s high school guidance counselor suggested that he go to culinary school at Buncombe Technical as he liked working with his hands, and forestry (his first choice) wouldn’t bring much of a paycheck. He went to Detroit to open several restaurants with Stuart Anderson, then worked in hotels as executive chef in San Diego and Los Angeles, where he met Edmondson. He was hired in 1989 and has been here since.

To start, dig into a bowl of Bahamian conch chowder. Or, slide down half a dozen big briny Cockenoe oysters from Connecticut or get them baked with spinach and cayenne-applewood bacon butter. There’s also steamed clams and mussels in saffron-infused white wine and tomato-clam broth; conch fritters with hot mustard and cocktail sauces; and smoked salmon tartine on focaccia toast with crème fraiche and chives. 

Both menus have trout schnitzel with melted chile-lime butter and garlic spinach; seared scallops with roasted red pepper, thyme, coriander and corn relish; Cajun-spiced blackened mahi; and sautéed New Zealand orange roughy in dill chardonnay sauce. 

Dinner specialties include broiled Florida grouper with half a roasted tomato, Kalamata olives, capers, hard-cooked egg, anchovy and Dijon mustard; broiled brochettes of lobster tail, shrimp, scallop, summer squash, mushroom and pineapple; and jerk chicken with basmati. 

For sides choose from grilled corn on the cob with grated Parmesan, mashed potatoes, skillet corn bread or caramelized mushrooms. 

End a day at the beach with peach and berry cobbler, Key lime pie with whipped cream, or the gooey pecan square. Everything old is new again here.