Cortez village is one of the last remaining fishing villages on Florida’s southwest Gulf coast. The area was originally settled In the 1880s by families from the southern edge of the Outer Banks in North Carolina who came to the area known then as Hunter’s Point to escape the Atlantic hurricanes. Records indicate that by 1887, Cortez was a thriving fishing village with a store and school. A hurricane in 1921 destroyed virtually all the buildings, but the residents, in true Florida fashion rebuilt.
Many of the descendants still live in the village. The residents called the eastern shore of Sarasota Bay south of the village “The Kitchen” as its wealth of fish, scallops, and other seafood made it possible for them to feed their families in hard time.
The Village comprises homes, stores, marinas, and restaurants. I have been hearing about the village for decades, but finally decided to explore some of it this year.
My neighbor was celebrating her 87 birthday and I decided we needed to have lunch at the Star Fish Market. We arrived around 11:45 a.m. figuring we were ahead of the lunch crowd – wrong!! I stood in line for 45 minutes to place our order and then waited another 30 for the meal to be delivered in a white box. Nobody complained about the wait because the meal was well worth it.
I had my usual, grilled grouper from the best flat top grill in the area and the birthday girl had crab cakes. This was by far the freshest grouper I have ever had, most likely caught within 24 hours. The meals come with fries, hush puppies and the absolutely very best cole slaw I’ve ever had. They chop the slaw into small pieces and it had a wonderful flavor. I took home a Stone Crab and Corn Chowder and more slaw to have the next evening. There was enough to serve 3 of us.
Seating on the dock watching all the activity was fun. Seems that the waters off the docks are the home to a flock of white pelicans. I have spent years trying to add this bird to my life list, but have never located them in the area. Imagine my surprise when I look out and there they are. While eating a pod o f dolphins also swam by.
So the next time you are visiting the west coast of Florida stop by and grab a bite. Also in February they also have the Cortez Fishing Village Festival which attracted 25,000 attendees this year.