IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The Wharf, Summerland

Sustainable’s the word at eatery on Summerland Key

October 7, 2009 

Melodye Reger’s vision for a sustainable restaurant is coming to fruition with the Sept. 18 opening of The Wharf Bar & Grill at 25163 Overseas Highway on Summerland Key.

The once-shuttered fish house and restaurant on the island’s bayside has been transformed into a clean and bright lunch and dinner spot featuring fresh seafood, organic wines and what several signs insist is “the best margarita in town.”

Reger, the former owner of the Hickory House on Stock Island, bought the large Summerland property in December, and has been working steadily since then to update and upgrade the place.

The Wharf is still a work in progress, Reger acknowledges, with plans under way for Sunday brunch, a seafood counter and a small daily selection of grab-and-go meals.

Last month’s restaurant opening was just the first phase in a project that will eventually include outdoor barbecues and other special events, kayak rentals and tours and biodiesel.

It’s a process that Reger’s undertaken before, both at the Hickory House and at an earlier Key West project, Gringo’s Cantina, but this time she’s incorporating even more of the sustainable practices she takes for granted in her daily life.

“We’re where we want to be,” she said. “We knew this was going to be a multi-phase project.”

The menu is simple but creative, with a focus on local seafood and tropical touches. Appetizers include smoked fish dip with Cuban crackers and lime, $5.75; housemade hummus with flatbread and olives, $8.95; and bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp with smoked gouda, $9.95.

Sandwiches run the gamut, from a $7.95 house burger to a $14.95 bacon, lobster and tomato sandwich. Each comes with veggie chips and mango coleslaw on the side.

Chicken, shrimp, fish and lobster — fried or coconut fried with jalapeno chutney — are also served in baskets for $13.95 and $14.95.

Fish entrees (with three sides) include dolphin for $14.95, grouper and snapper for $16.95 and tuna for $17.95. Cobia and wahoo will be available in season.

There are soups and salads as well, including a generous crab bisque for $4.95 and a fresh mixed green house salad for $5.25.

If there’s still room, key lime pie, guava flan or the dessert of the day beckon at the bottom of the menu.

The complete menu is available on the restaurant’s Web site.

Reger said The Wharf will soon offer eight organic beers in addition to its lineup of domestic and import beers in bottles and draft pints. The house wine isn’t organic, Reger says, but it does come in a compostable container.

Packaging is important to Reger, who makes sure that all the take-home containers and utensils are biodegradable or compostable.

There’s extensive recycling on site, including a large Earth Tub composter, which can process 500 pounds, including yard waste, and produce compost every three weeks.

The organic gardens planted on restaurant property across the canal were torn up by a big storm a few weeks ago, so they’re being replanted.

The Wharf will start serving Sunday brunch this week, Reger says. That menu’s still in the works, but it will definitely feature lobster benedict, mimosas and bloody Marys.

There’s seating inside and out, under cover and not, with waterfront picnic tables and even a hammock. There’s dock space available for diners who arrive by boat.

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