Most people in Miami have never been to Stiltsville, the historic community of houses on stilts that sit a mile off Key Biscayne in Biscayne Bay. Built in the 1930’s, Stiltsville is rumored to have hosted offshore gambling and many a scandalous celebrity party and provided much fodder for the gossip columnists. Damaged extensively in decades of hurricanes, the Stiltsville Trust as part of Biscayne National Park was established in 2003 and protects the remaining 7 structures.
Lucky for us, Miami Beach has its own Stiltsville, the casual fish bar created by celeb chef couple, Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth. Opened in early Fall in the food-centric Sunset Harbor, Stiltsville Fish Bar offers a bright, driftwood and seashell décor, and a fresh “right off the boat” seafood menu that brings a much needed local seafood focus to Miami.
No Chilean sea bass, or Alaskan salmon flown in here. Instead, the Daily Catch may include locally caught Tilefish, a flaky mild white fish, and Tripletail, a grilled firm, slightly sweet fish (also called poor man’s lobster). Each comes with a choice of sauces and sides.
On the evening we were there, the above fish were available as was a fresh 35 lb. Black Grouper, caught that day and proudly dissected before our eyes by Chef McInnis.
Starters are not to be missed. We selected the Instagram favorite, “Green Eggs & Ham”, creamy green deviled eggs, topped with crispy bacon and pickled cucumber,
the Crispy Coconut Shrimp, skinny threads of kataifi wrapped large shrimp with a key lime dipping sauce, Seared Scallops with "mofongo", and a Smoked local fish dip with herbed saltines.
Both the deviled eggs and the smoked fish dip are also available at Stiltsville’s popular Happy Hour Monday-Friday 5-7 pm along with $5 beers, $6 wines and $7 cocktails.
All were delicious, and a perfect complement to our Caribbean influenced cocktails and crisp white wine.
We opted to try both of the local fish specials,( which BTW are not listed on the online menu, but you can call to inquire ) and they arrived perfectly prepared and our knowledgeable server suggested both the appropriate sauces and the sides.
The Tilefish came with a lemon butter sauce and the charred broccoli,
the Tripletail had a cilantro salsa verde as dipping and smashed potato tostones.
The fish was so fresh and delicious with just a squeeze of lemon, that the side sauces were uniformly ignored by our group.
We felt we could not only order fish, since Stiltsville also offers landlubber items including a creamy Gnudi pasta and melted heirloom tomatoes, and Gremolata and Bone Marrow crusted NY Strip. There is even a decadent Surf N Turf Burger, featuring butter poached lobster on top of a grilled beef burger.
But, knowing the background of the chefs, we all agreed that we had to order the Whole Fried Chicken. And it was everything we hoped it would be. Both crispy on the outside and tender inside it was topped with bay leaf and citrus seasoning, and came with an ample portion of a refreshing watermelon pickle salad. And mini hand towels for our inevitable greasy fingers.
Special note is made of a child-friendly menu, as we were with a 16-month-old who enjoyed chicken fingers and Goldfish crackers along with an order of Mac & Cheese. Crayons and a special menu for coloring were included.
Our meal ended with a vibrant and tart Key Lime pie topped with shredded coconut, which was obligingly packed "To Go".
Stiltsville Fish Bar captures that Miami vibe providing a casual, relaxed, and welcoming neighborhood setting and delicious and creative food to match. Stop by for Happy Hour and catch a Miami sunset over Biscayne Bay and you may find yourself lingering into dinner.
1787 Purdy Ave.
Miami Beach, FL
786 353 0477
Photo Credit: Stiltsville National Park image by Brian Call Photography