At first glance, Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille has a cheesy familiarity. The decor has a plasticized newness that lacks any style or soul.
But there’s much more substance here than meets the eye. It’s a busy restaurant and bar with a laid-back demeanor that suits its New Smyrna Beach locale. And it’s very serious about both its cocktails and its food.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to sample as many of the classic and creative cocktails as I would have liked. I was invited to visit Outriggers and drove over from Orlando just for the evening (after an ill-advised side trip to the heart of Bike Week in Daytona Beach). The cocktail menu itself is a fun read, and I could have tried several if I had been within walking distance of a place to crash. I was especially interested in the Trader Vic Mai Tai, which we were cautioned was the original Mai Tai and not the syrupy sweet concoctions that bear that name today in most bars.
Outriggers has the good fortune to be fronted by Ian Carrey, director of operations, who has a genuine zeal for his menus, both imbibable and edible. His exuberance when talking about his restaurant was as intoxicating as anything on the drinks menu.
My guest and I began with appetizers of fried green tomato stack and yellowfin ceviche. The tomatoes were well jacketed in a crispy coating and topped with tangy goat cheese. I could have done without the (now overdone to death) dribbling of balsamic syrup (on this and several other dishes), but I enjoyed the fried tomatoes very much.
I liked the ceviche even more. The large hunks of fish were not overly citrusy, and the flavors popped with a bit of cilantro.
Fish tacos, served in soft, flour tortillas, were nice snacks that could be stretched into an entree. They included crunchy slaw and herbed dressing. There is a pulled pork taco option that’s perfect for the nonseafood lover.
I wasn’t as enamored with the fish and waffles entree, the seafood standing in for the currently popular fried chicken, but then I’m not a fan of the latter, either. Still, the fish itself, a tile, had a sweet flavor that didn’t need the syrup served on the side.
The triggerfish was also nicely done. It was grilled and had firm, white flesh with a mild flavor. It was served with a cheese sauce that I thought would be overbearing but which was instead a very nice complement.
For dessert there was a not-too-sweet Mediterranean cheesecake served with toasted walnuts.
The main dining area is bar-centric. There is a large outdoor dining area that fronts the marina -- it was too chilly to sit out there the night I visited, even with the heat lamps and the gas fire pit.
I couldn’t quite figure out if the housing around the restaurant consists of condominiums or offers transient housing. If the latter, next time I’ll get a room for the night and have a Mai Tai or two.
Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille is at the New Smyrna Marina, 200 Boatyard Street. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 386-428-6888.