By Liz Balmaseda
(Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post)
Schooners Chef Joe Ruddy turned what was once a gas station into a restaurant that prides itself on its fresh seafood.
THE FOOD: Schooners serves some of the freshest local seafood in town. You won’t find swanked up fish here, just delicious, fresh fish that’s filleted in-house and grilled, blackened, broiled, or fried to your liking. Yes, the place offers more complex dishes, like the macadamia-crusted grouper or the sweet potato and crab-crusted snapper, but I’m quite content with an order of crisp grouper fingers ($22.99), perfectly flaky inside and served with a choice of two sides.
THE AMBIANCE: The place has an airy, Old Florida feel to it, offering an ample terrace for alfresco dining. Located on the Jupiter Inlet, in the gaze of the iconic red lighthouse, this is the only landlocked restaurant in the popular dining district. But the vibe here is so relaxed, you can sense the water’s somewhere nearby.
THE BACKSTORY: Schooners opened in 1984 as a fresh seafood market — before that, the place was a gas station — and later morphed into a restaurant, where chef/owner Joe Ruddy delivers consistently fresh dishes to a loyal clientele.
GOOD BITES: Apart from the aforementioned grouper fingers, I loved the New England clam chowder ($4.75). It’s a heady rendition of the classic, thick with potatoes, bacon and onions, as is the fisherman’s stew ($12), which is loaded with fresh seafood and veggies in a creamy broth. And you can’t go wrong with a simple fillet of yellowtail snapper ($24.99), grilled.