By LOGAN NEILL, Times Correspondent
Water's Edge is a welcome addition to the exciting dining places simmering west of U.S. 19.
WEEKI WACHEE - For the past couple of years, the tiny westside communities of Hernando Beach, Bayport and Weeki Wachee have become magnets for restaurateurs with a penchant for culinary independence.
Places such as Bare Bones Steakhouse, Lady L's Supper and Blues Club, Brian's Place and The Chef's Table have created something of an "alternative restaurant row" west of U.S. 19 that beckons diners with discerning palates.
For that reason alone, Kelly and Debbie Foley's new restaurant, Water's Edge, which opened in early December, is a perfect fit for the neighborhood.
The Foleys, who spent 41/2 years as the chef-manager team at Bare Bones, put their expertise as well as their hearts into fixing up the former Backwaters Bar & Grille on Cortez Boulevard and turning it into a first-rate eating establishment.
While the term "fine dining" has become something of a cliche in the restaurant world, this is a place that graciously lives up to such billing. Guests are honored with comfortable, inviting surroundings, friendly, companionable service and a reasonably priced menu that caters to adventurous tastes without abandoning the notion of good old home-style cooking.
My recent visit found Water's Edge humming with holiday traffic. Despite the rush, we were warmly greeted by our server, who never left us waiting or wondering during our visit. Plus, it's always nice to have someone knowledgeable to steer you around an unfamiliar menu.
Kelly Foley's mastery of the kitchen allows him to effortlessly wed distinctive tastes that make his dishes both inviting and memorable.
Caribbean spices, fruit and wines are blended to create tantalizing sauces and toppings. Pastas and vegetables are done with a respect for their delicacy. And Foley is a stickler for quality ingredients.
Our calamari appetizer was prepared using thin strips of meat taken from the body of the squid as opposed to the tentacles. Lightly battered and fried and served with a tangy tomato-based pepper and wasabi sauce, it was delicious - and filling. Our single order would have satisfied at least three people.
My entree, baked chicken breast and andouille sausage ($15) served over bow-tie pasta and topped with a tasty cream sauce, was a crafty specimen. My dining partner was equally thrilled with her choice of pan-seared sashimi-style ahi tuna ($21), topped with raspberry wasabi and thoughtfully garnished with pickled ginger and Japanese seaweed.
This isn't the kind of place for a hurried meal.
In fact, the laid-back atmosphere beckons just the opposite. From its respectable selection of wines to its ample dessert tray, to the nice little touches such as plates decorated with fresh pansies and homegrown herbs, Water's Edge will make diners feel special.
Do yourself a favor and reserve a table next to one of the three huge saltwater fish tanks.
The underwater drama, as well as the food, will keep you entertained for hours.At a glance
Water's Edge is at 6024 Cortez Blvd., Weeki Wachee (just west of Shoal Line Boulevard). Hours are 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations recommended. 597-3545.