Florida has always teetered between being a northern beach resort and an old southern town. It is true when they say, that in Florida the more south you go, the more northern it gets. Maybe because Florida doesn’t follow any southern standards or northern rules, but seems to make them up as they go. But whatever it is, it works because Florida has a one of a kind tourist destination that can even satisfy even the most seasonal travel curiosity.
It was bound to happen, someone would think to take what everyone loves about the beach in Florida and bring it inland. And in 1924, it did happen when Jay Eaton, a New Jersey resident, traveled to Florida looking for a place of land to buy. His hope was to build the next Coney Island. After years of many owners, more memories made, and a unique history involving a swim marathon, a pool table and a love affair between the lake and the residents, Eaton Beach Sandbar and Grill came to be.
Sitting on Lake Weir, in Weirsdale, Eaton Beach, puts the southern small town and northern beach living into a three-story fun in the sun shindig.
My parents were the first to discover it, through friends. My dad couldn’t stop talking about it. So we had to check it out. The first time wasn’t with my parents, but on an overcast day People were there, and the place was still partying. The food is delicious; there always seems to be a party, and not many places in Florida can you have Shrimp n’ Grits and then go jet skiing.
On the top level is the restaurant where it serves Southern Low Country food mixed in with a hint of Florida Spanish Community. Think gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, anything served with grits and add the seasoning that makes Latin food amazing and you get what head chief David Del Rio has christened “Florisiana.” Del Rio explains it as a mixed of Louisiana French food (the Southern Low Country Food) and Florida Latin comfort food. The food is tasty, but does have a little bit of a kick to it. If you are wondering about the drink selection, this restaurant’s goal is to make you feel like you are sitting on a beach, so needless to say, they have a vast array of sugar boat drinks with umbrellas
On a trip, last year, both OJ and I splurged on drinks served in coconuts. Nothing feels like watching the sunset and sipping rum and coconut flavored alcohol from a coconut cup carved to look like a pirate.
The second level is another restaurant, known as the Steam Shack. Serving steam and boiled seafood, sandwiches and snacks, this part of Eaton Beach turned itself into a northern seafood shack. You order the food at the counter, find a seat, and they bring it to you. And you watch the sea plane aviators and boaters out on the lake.
There is usually either live music or Jimmy Buffet song playing in the background, telling you how he lost his flip flop and now is enjoying life with a margarita.
The last level, you are on the beach. Eaton sandy beaches offer the vacation sun and sand without the fear of sharks or sea lice. Here you can rent kayaks, Paddleboards, pontoons, and other watercrafts, or just sit on the beach and watch the seaplanes come in.
Eaton Beach Sandbar and Grill offers a unique mixture of Southern hospitality with a Northern Beach party. In some ways, it is what Florida is.