Road Trip Redux: Atlantic's Edge, Islamorada

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Atlanticedge beach

It wasn’t until the day after I had checked in to Cheeca Lodge, the waterfront resort in Islamorada, and after I had made reservations to dine at its premier restaurant, Atlantic’s Edge, that a feeling of deja vu came over me. It felt like I’d been there before.

So I fired up the Wayback Machine – it’s a strange thing to Google yourself – and discovered that I had been there before, nearly 19 years ago, on assignment for the Orlando Sentinel.

At one time I wrote a monthly column for Florida magazine called State Fare in which I would review restaurants outside Central Florida. I was driving from Miami on my way to Key West to cover, among other things, the Naked Chef Lobster Dinner. Back then, the British chef Jamie Oliver billed himself as the Naked Chef, though he was always fully clothed. (As I remember, he called himself that because his recipes were “stripped down.” And also, marketing.)

Oliver was not cooking in Key West. Rather, a young man whose day job was as an office manager somewhere in town, would be cooking lobster in the all together. He wore an apron and shoes but nothing else. Did I mention this was Key West?

Anyway, to break up the long drive from Miami, I made an early dinner reservation at Atlantic’s Edge. No, the Sentinel was not going to put me up at Cheeca Lodge; I had dinner and drove on.

But this time I was staying there, in a lovely bungalow overlooking the beach, and having already tried a couple of the divy-er restaurants in town, decided to try Atlantic’s Edge.

As was the case back then, the main attraction of Atlantic’s Edge is where it is situated, which is described perfectly in its name. It’s hard to beat dining on the beach.

That’s not to say the food doesn’t rise to the level of the view. It’s quite good.

Atlanticedge octopus

I enjoyed the appetizer of octopus, listed on the menu as Chef’s Famous Pan-roasted Octopus. (The octopus is apparently more famous than the chef; although the resort’s website says Atlantic Edge’s menu is chef driven, his name is not listed; it's Charles Drexel.) The tentacle was positioned on a bed of greens tossed with edamame and halved heirloom tomatoes and was sitting next to a smear of hummus made of squid ink. The octopus was wonderfully tender and had a nice smoky taste.

Atlanticedge grouper

For my entree I chose the Hand-speared Local Black Grouper (there was also no mention on the menu of who, exactly, did the spearing). The filet was covered in crushed macadamia nuts and balanced on top of a ripe avocado and accompanied by a reduction sauce of golden raisins with tomato confit.

Atlanticedge snapper

My companion chose the Mojito Lime Shallow Reef Snapper, nicely sauteed, served with a timbale of cilantro-seasoned rice and dressed with a citrus emulsion. Of the two fish, I liked the snapper best.

I enjoyed this visit more than the one two decades ago. I didn’t feel rushed, I was able to have an extra glass of wine since I didn’t have anywhere to drive, and I was able to appreciate the setting.

Atlantic’s Edge is at Cheeca Lodge, 81801 Overseas Highway, Islamorada (map). It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 305-664-4651.

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