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Starting a Waterfront Eatery? Take Inspiration From These 7 Restaurants

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Are you looking to launch a waterfront eatery? Unlike regular restaurants, dining with a view offers something extra to customers. There are several ways to take your establishment to the next level — but where do you begin? Here are elements to include in your waterfront restaurant and places to emulate as inspiration. 

Things to Consider When Planning a Waterfront Restaurant

Starting a waterfront eatery is as exciting as it is challenging. Restaurant owners have much to consider to foster a positive reputation and build a loyal clientele. Here are some items to factor into the planning process of opening an establishment near the water.

  • Location: Breathtaking views of the water — ocean or lake — are essential for the ultimate waterfront dining experience.
  • Fresh catch: Patrons will want fresh, local seafood to accompany their waterfront views. 
  • Menu: Deliver unique menu selections tailored to a particular cuisine and reflective of the local area.
  • Ambiance: Decide whether you want patio seating or to keep patrons indoors. Also, choose between casual or more formal decor. 
  • Cost: Price your menu according to your menu offerings and overhead costs.

7 Restaurants to Inspire Your Waterfront Eatery

The best way to open a fabulous waterfront restaurant is to examine how others have done so successfully before you. Here are seven coast-to-coast places you may feel inspired by. 

  1. Harbor House Inn

Harbor House Inn in Elk, California, delivers a stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a Michelin-starred establishment with enough seating for 20 people, maintaining a more intimate atmosphere. 

Although the Harbor House Inn allows a more casual dress code, it is sophisticated waterfront dining at its finest. As such, the restaurant requires all patrons to be 15 or older. Also, due to its predominantly seafood menu, it notes it cannot accommodate fish and shellfish, wheat, soy and vegan dietary restrictions.

  1. The Original Shrimp Dock Bar and Grill 

Florida has plenty of waterfront eateries, thanks to its white-sand beaches and turquoise water. However, few compare to The Original Shrimp Dock Bar and Grill in Fort Myers. What draws patrons to this casual waterfront restaurant? It’s likely the establishment’s live music events and car shows throughout the year.

Additionally, boaters can dock their boats right in front, with a dockmaster helping them navigate safely.

  1. Pirate Republic

Pirate Republic Seafood Restaurant is another one of Florida’s popular waterfront dining experiences in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to its pirate theme, the Caribbean-Mediterranean menu is greatly influenced by its owners’ 30 years of sailing adventures. 

Customers can sink their teeth into the most unique flavors using only the freshest ingredients and global spices. Gold Coast Magazine even named it one of the best waterfront restaurants in the state. Captains may also dock their boats at the restaurant for free, while its patio seating is dog-friendly. 

  1. Anable Basin Sailing

Living in New York City takes a certain type of person, but Anable Basin Sailing is for everyone. It’s located on Long Island at the end of 44th Drive, and patrons can enjoy casual fare with postcard-worthy views of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. Its picnic tables are ideal for parties of 10, while first-time customers should note its cash-only rule.

Anable Basin Sailing’s menu is simple — a selection of burgers, hot dogs and beer — making it a popular spot for friends to gather for drinks. Of course, this aligns with NYC’s connection to hot dogs when German immigrant Charles Feltman introduced them to America in the 1860s.  

  1. Island Way Restaurant

Oak Island, North Carolina, may have a laid-back, family-friendly vibe, but Island Way Restaurant at the Ocean Crest Pier offers upscale seafood dining to hungry beachgoers. Unlike other nearby establishments, Island Way is open year-round for winter vacationers and locals.

Restaurant owners planning waterfront dining might feel inspired by Island Way’s white tablecloths and generous wine list. Although a cozier dig, it makes the perfect date night or celebratory dinner location.

  1. 1 Pico Restaurant

1 Pico Restaurant is situated in the Shutters on the Beach hotel in Santa Monica, California — a bright and airy establishment with stunning Pacific views through expansive, open windows. Although the restaurant has no dress code, patrons know to dress smartly. 

Its menu comprises the freshest ingredients and wide-ranging selections, from seafood to steak and pasta. Lunchtime plates include tuna Niçoise, grilled shrimp salads, a lobster club and grilled salmon. For dinner, 1 Pico offers quality rib-eye, strip steaks, braised lamb shank and seafood filets. To top it off, patrons can choose from unique side dishes and heirloom vegetables.

  1. Sierra Mar

It doesn’t matter where customers sit when dining at Michelin-starred Sierra Mar in Big Sur, California — Pacific views are everywhere due to its floor-to-ceiling windows and tiered structure. 

The establishment is atop a seaside cliff inside the Post Ranch Inn, where diners may spot whales breaching the water. Despite its rustic decor, Sierra Mar couples comfort with sophistication, with guests typically dressing in business casual. 

Like Sierra Mar, you can incorporate locally grown produce into your dinner menu at your waterfront restaurant. For instance, this eatery has an on-site chef’s garden for seasonal tastings, such as housemade cavatelli with broccolini and Monterey black cod with baby turnips. Additionally, the eatery has a separate vegan menu to accommodate plant-based diets.

Create the Ultimate Waterfront Dining Experience

Restaurant owners can devise several ways to make their waterfront eateries successful. The possibilities are endless, whether creating sophisticated seafood menus with local ingredients, hosting live music or offering dockside parking for boaters. Take inspiration from these popular establishments and watch your restaurant flourish.

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