In a past review, I waxed rhapsodic after dining at the original location of Even Keel on Federal. And, although it was too pricey for me to enjoy on a regular basis, it was a wonderful spot for special occasions.
Apparently, that was the case for many, because the high-end restaurant closed a few months ago.
However, a sister restaurant, Even Keel Fish Shack in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, appears to be doing great business, if a recent visit on a recent Friday night is any indication. Even as early as 6:30 there was an hour-and-a-half wait for a table. (Here’s a little trick; call the restaurant about an hour before and ask to be put on the waitlist. We did so and got a text our table was ready just as we arrived).
There are a few inside tables, but the majority of the tables line the sidewalks at the intersection of A1A and Commercial.
Even Keel Fish Shack is a laidback seafood spot and raw bar. The restaurant’s name is a nod to its overall approach — constant, steady, smooth sailing. The menu reflects a modern take on coastal Floridian cuisine — with fish, shellfish, and a raw bar taking center stage, alongside reinterpretations of classic American comfort dishes. Crafted cocktails, boozy frozen drinks, and an expansive wine list encourage discovery through several interesting by-the-glass offerings, and an edited collection of bottled, tap, and local beers round out the selections.
You can sit and pick on one of the three seafood “towers” (a combination of raw oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp and smoked fish dip, plus other add-ons) offered from the raw bar selections. Although it’s often cheaper to order the components individually. If you’re in the mood for a light meal, any of the appetizers; house-smoked local fish dip, crab guacamole, grilled oysters, bang bang shrimp, shrimp and conch beignets, or charred octopus will satisfy. Baby kale salad, Thai shrimp ceviche, and Hamachi poke are other light alternatives. All are in the $10-$20 range.
For those seeking a heartier meal, there are a variety of sandwiches, priced similarly to the apps. The adult grilled cheese features brie, truffle, blue crab, pear marmalade, and sriracha on thick brioche bread. A blackened Mahi sandwich or a hot lobster roll with Fresno chili and ginger-infused butter and lemon aioli are the seafood offerings. Most seafood sandwiches are served with served a side of fresh-made Old Bay-seasoned chips (the highlight of the evening, they are addictive).
Carnivores have a couple of options; the Nashville hot chicken breast is topped with cabbage and apple slaw, chive oil, and house-made ranch dressing, while the double Smashburger is adorned with artisan cheddar, Benton's bacon, onion jam, and a house sauce. Both are served with house fries (if you like your fries crispy ask for them well done). Entrée options include spicy coconut curry mussels (with lemongrass, ginger, sambal, and cilantro), garlicky clams linguine nestling a poached egg, and fish and chips, which while tasty, dished up a surprisingly small portion of fish. All in all, the food is well-prepared and attractively presented.
That being said, it is missing some of the charm, service, and intimacy that made the original Even Keel so outstanding. That’s not to say there’s anything “wrong” with Even Keel; the staff is friendly and attentive, and the food is delicious, but there’s nothing special about it now. It’s just another good casual seafood place, like hundreds of others in the area. Its location in the touristy core of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea will assure its success. It’s a great place to take visitors for a true South Florida experience.
Even Keel Fish Shack
112 Commercial, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Isn’t That Special?
Even Keel Fish Shack offers some specials that add to the allure. Monday’s it’s “mussel madness” with all you can’t eat spicy mussels for $19. “Two Buck Tuesday” features chilled oysters, Miller, and “Cham-bongs” (sparkling wine in a champagne bong) for $2 each. Cocktail hour specials are available daily from 5-7 p.m., but while drink specials are available throughout the restaurant, food specials are only available at the bar.