Southern. Coastal. Approachable. Those are the words driving the experience at Watercolor’s FOOW (Fish Out Of Water).
Matt Moore, Director of Concepts and Development, experienced it firsthand in March when he held his rehearsal dinner here. Oysters, mussels, shrimp cocktail, and tuna poke towered high at each table greeted his family and friends. Along with the iconic warm pimento cheese topped with candied bacon and served in adorable mini mason jars.
The bounty embodied a taste of the coastal South that embraces fresh and from-scratch dishes that are “…30A approachable.”
“In 2019, we transformed from a fine dining restaurant to a casual come-off-the-beach in bathing suit cover-ups and flip flops concept,” Moore said.
“There are tons of restaurants on 30A with limited seating. Most don’t take reservations. We added over 100 seats during renovation so we could welcome the masses with our coastal comfort food. We have everything from hushpuppies to macaroni and cheese to seafood towers and tuna tartare. We kept the integrity of our cuisine—still making 80% of everything in-house—while making the check average more inviting.”
With over 300 seats, you’re never waiting more than 45 minutes for a table.
“When you’re in a house in Watercolor, you probably have three, four, or even five families at a time. We wanted to accommodate those groups, whether it’s eight kids at 10 top and the parents and friends all sitting right behind them. We have seven different tables that fit more than 10 people.”
But it still feels intimate. The light blue walls, blonde woods, exposed beams, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Gulf of Mexico convey a welcoming, coastal vibe.
The kitchen is open concept so nothing is hidden as the crew works harmoniously putting out dish after dish in balletic synchronicity. The gorgeous horseshoe bar merges the space between indoors and outdoors, adding another element of connection.
A table of bridesmaids toasts the bachelorette with flutes of bubbly. A large family still in bathing suits enjoys seafood baskets and burgers on the enormous patio. A couple snuggles into one of the sumptuous blue-leather booths to enjoy a romantic moment. Each vignette fits in the space. And the details from window sheers, to largescale artwork, to hammered stainless steel silverware that finish in curved fishtails, contribute to the story.
“We kept the same integrity of the dishes but simplified them to allow faster preparation. Why use 16 ingredients when six will do? With an average of 10 to 15 people at each house in Watercolor and 70% rented at any given time, our community needed a dining solution. We didn’t want them to have to go home and shower to dine with us. We wanted to offer them a chance to come off the beach, and find quality dining.”
And who wouldn’t want a Niçoise Salad that features a bowl of farm-fresh mixed greens, lightly dressed, with slivered pepperoncini, dainty baby heirloom tomatoes, and perfectly rare-cooked, pepper-crusted tuna after a day in the sunshine and salt air? And the BLT is not-to-be-missed with its crispy bacon, fresh vine tomato slice, ample smoked turkey breast, and creamy avocado spread, all sandwiched between hearty toasted sourdough slices slathered with cajun aioli.
Moore’s family loves the versatility of the new menu. Fish comes grilled, blackened, or fried. Starch can be creamed corn, stone ground grits, quinoa salad, and more. There are three sauce options. And everything comes with a hushpuppy…I mean we are in the South.
Speaking of the South, dessert is a must (IMO) as well. There’s the Jason Aldean namesake Dirt Road Anthem, a Mississippi mud pie with graham cracker and Oreo dirt, chocolate cruller, and roasted pecans (because you’re in the South).
But the shining star is the rotating Take Me To Church weekly special. The recently roasted peach cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream was a taste of summer in the South. Moore was inspired by his own childhood memories when conceptualizing this dish, “I remember for Sunday supper the preacher would always go home with the family who had the best dessert. We wanted an homage to that Southern ritual. We’ve really tried to tap into our roots with the menu.”
Fish Out of Water strives to be the local neighborhood spot in every choice they make. They offer a brunch all-day concept where you can get eggs or a burger anytime. They order their beef from Raines Farm in Louisiana and truck it over twice a week. All fried foods can be gluten-free using rice and potato flour. No matter the price point, the allergy, or what’s ailing you, you can find something. Moore elaborated, “We want to be that relaxation spot. Whether you’re here once a year or year-round, Fish Out of Water can always be a stop.”