People in the Panhandle know sunsets.
Our sunsets are famous. In fact, you can even see one at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when the heroes ride off into the you-know-what.
Let's face it. When you can see almost all the way to California, you're in a prime area for sunset watching.
But as beautiful as our sunsets are, there's a big difference between the sun setting into the dust of a western feedlot and the sun setting into the ocean.
There's something sublime about seeing that reddish-orange orb gradually "sink" into the sea, and you almost expect to hear the sizzle as it appears to make contact with the water. If you watch closely, you can even see how surprisingly fast it seems to slip beneath the surface.
That experience is made all the more special when you're watching from the deck of a nice restaurant sipping on an icy frozen drink.
It's tough work doing the research for this blog. Don't think it's all fun and games. I hope those reading will appreciate the sacrifices I make.
When I dined at Sharky's on the Pier in Venice, Fla., recently, it wasn't exactly warm. While the temperature was listed at a reasonable 53 degrees, the 15-20 mph winds made sitting out on the deck uncomfortable in the light jacket and khakis I was wearing. Of course, drinking a Bait Bucket Margarita, right, didn't really help warm me up.
In the summer, Sharky's deck is a happening place, and age doesn't seem to be a deciding factor. You'll find young and older adults rubbing shoulders as they sample Sharky's selection of frozen drinks, which includes the aforementioned Bait Bucket Margarita made with blue curacao, a traditional Piña Colada, the Bushwacker, Deck Runner, Mango Bango and Miami Vice (half Piña Colada, half Deck Runner).
In an effort to bring you the most complete review, I sampled several of the frozen concoctions (OK, I had three). Besides the margarita, I also tried the Mango Bango, left, and the Miami Vice, right.
Despite the inclusion of blue curacao, which is more of a gimmick than an enhancement, the Bait Bucket Margarita rates pretty highly. Those who know me know that I'm kind of a margarita connoisseur, so for me to like their offering says a lot. I can't give the same recommendation, though, to the Mango Bango or Miami Vice. Both are rum-based drinks, and both left the same bitter aftertaste. Other than coconut and pineapple juices, the only ingredients they share are rum, but regardless of the cause, I think I'll stick with the margarita in the future.
I could only take the cold temperatures for so long before I moved into the plastic-enclosed dining deck, where space heaters make the outdoor dining tolerable. Of course, Sharky's also has an interior dining room, but who wants to eat inside when you're sitting on the beach?
For dinner, I ordered the Seafood Aruba, which is Gulf shrimp, North Atlantic sea scallops and lobster meat in a garlic parmesan sauce with mushrooms and red peppers served on a bed of fettuccine.
Yes, it was as good as it sounds.
While there was no trouble getting a table last week, we waited three hours for one earlier in the year when the weather was a little more agreeable. That was outrageous and well beyond what the staff estimated. The food is good, but it's not that good. If you go during nice weather, you'll want to call ahead for reservations.
Sharky's is definitely worth visiting if you find yourself between Tampa and Fort Myers. Try to arrive in time to enjoy a Bait Bucket Margarita (or three) and watch the sunset.