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HOGFISH FILETS AND GRILLS RIGHT OFF THE BOAT

It’s fresh as can be at relaxed waterside eatery…
There’s a good chance most people haven’t happened upon the Hogfish Bar and Grill for their latest lunch or dinner excursion, as downtown Stock Island isn’t the first place you think of when it comes to dining out.
But if you want some of the freshest seafood around, coupled with completely authentic Keys-maritime dining, consider this establishment imperative to your next eating experience.
Tucked away amid Safe Harbor Marina, the Hogfish Bar and Grill provides instant atmosphere even before you enter: shrimp boats dock with hauled- in catch, artists create in studios nearby, sailors work fastidiously on their fixer-upper dream boats, and those who provide the restaurant with its daily catch saunter in and out in rubber boots and sun-wrinkled smiles.
This alone will feed your soul.
Most of the choices in feeding your body, however, seem at first to be of standard bar fare: chili cheese fries, conch fritters, fried calamari, shrimp or fish and chips. Even so, you can be sure the fish did not get thawed that day from some back-room freezer. The bottom line, however, is that the Hogfish is, after all, a bar and a grill, not the other way around.
With a newly expanded kitchen, though, the menu is and will be growing right along with it.
The way I see it, a can of Bud goes better with three-way wings, a game of pool and Jack Johnson on the jukebox than a salad served on plastic (which they do serve, if you are in need of some leafy greens). To give the jukebox an occasional rest, live music plays 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.
For those who want to sit down to enjoy their meal, the picnic-style tables out on the deck provide you with seating and salt air all in one. There you can order a Cuban mix ($5.25), slow-smoked pork barbecue sandwich ($6.95), a set of chili dogs ($5.25) or a Caesar salad topped with chicken ($7.25) or hogfish ($8.95).
But the big winner and must-try at the Hogfish is its namesake sandwich ($8.95): a 6- to 7-ounce filet grilled, blackened or fried (if you must) served on a Cuban hoagie with the accompanying lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce with jalapeno spiced fries on the side.
I had my hogfish blackened. It was light, slightly spicy, buttery tasting and overall the most mammoth fish sandwich I’ve ever eaten. And so fresh, if it were served sushi style, it would still be wiggling in the basket.
My fellow epicurean adventurer chose the steak and cheese sandwich ($7.25). (What can I say? He’s from Philly.) Now I’m not from Philly, but the tastes I took reminded me of my more carnivorous days back in New England, and I gladly let this juicy morsel drip down my chin and fingers. Loaded with cheese, green and red peppers and onions, my friend deemed this as good as it gets back home.
And that’s just the way they want you to feel at the Hogfish Bar and Grill.
With the Beatles streaming through the jukebox, harbor views dotted with local work boats, friendly, laid-back service and absolutely no pretension to be found for at least 2 miles around, you’ll want to make regular visits. Sit back, relax and recall what it might have been like in the Lower Keys long before Disney started docking its cruise ships at the other harbors nearby.

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