Whether you arrive by land or water, Lake County’s lakeside restaurants have whatever floats your boat.
Story: Theresa Campbell, Victoria Schlabig and James Combs
Photos: Nicole Hamel and Anthony Rao
Lake County’s thriving waterfront dining scene pairs amazing food with gorgeous views.
Sit under an umbrella-shaded table on an outside deck where the sound of water lapping against the shore comes with an ice-cold beer and margarita. Savor the taste of buttery crab legs while enjoying a beautiful sunset worthy of an Instagram or Snapchat story.
Indeed, lakeside dining is something that Lake County serves up right. Here are some waterfront restaurants that should be on everyone’s radar.
What sets them apart: Buster Tubbs on Lake Dora in Tavares’ bustling downtown district is open from breakfast to dinner.
If you can order one item: Biscuits and gravy for breakfast ($5.25), French Quarter Shrimp Po Boy for lunch ($9.95) and the Bourbon Street BLT for dinner ($7.95).
If you splurge: The Gator Griller ($11.95) is the most expensive item on the menu. It comes with two quarter-pound patties on sourdough bread.
110 N. New Hampshire Ave., Tavares // 352.742.7676
Hours: Sunday 7am-6pm, Monday 7am-9pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 7am-2pm, Thursday 7am-9pm, Friday 7am-11:30pm, Saturday 7am-11pm
Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill
What sets them apart: A beach area for swimmers, sunbathers and diners. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 11am-6pm. The restaurant melds Cajun, Creole, Low Country, Barbeque and Spanish cooking styles.
If you can order one item: The Cajun Sweet Fried Chicken ($18.99) includes boneless chicken breasts with mashed potatoes and coleslaw garnish.
If you splurge: The Bronzed Redfish for $25.29 is finished with ham cream sauce and served with Balaya rice.
15790 SE 134th Ave., Weirsdale // 352.259.2444
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm
Gator Bay Marina/Bar & Grill
What sets them apart: Located on beautiful Haynes Creek, hungry boaters can tie up at a covered boat slip and enjoy lunch or dinner on a relaxing outdoor patio.
If you can order one item: The Swamp Season Gator basket – bite-sized pieces of Florida’s most popular reptile for $12.99.
If you splurge: 50 wings in up to five different flavors for $46.
10320 County Road 44, Leesburg // 352.365.2177
Hours: Friday 11am to 10pm, Tuesday to Sunday 11am-8pm. Closed Mondays.
Hurricane Dockside Grill
What sets them apart: A tiki hut provides outdoor seating and a spectacular view of the Dead River. Live music Friday through Sunday. Happy hour Monday through Friday, noon to 6pm.
If you can order one item: A Maryland-style crab cake with Old Bay Aioli sauce for $12.99.
If you splurge: 20 wings made from all-natural chicken for $23.99.
3351 W. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares // 352.508.5137
Hours: Sunday 11am-8pm, Monday through Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm
JB Boondock’s Bar and Grill
What sets them apart: More than 20 boat slips on Little Lake Harris to accommodate boaters, and there’s enough room to accommodate seaplanes.
If you can order one item: The fried shrimp platter for $17.99
If you splurge: The Cajun redfish with rice pilaf and season vegetables for $22.99.
704 S. Lakeshore Blvd., Howey-in-the-Hills // 352.324.3600
Hours: Sunday 11:30 am-8pm, Monday through Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm.
Kalua Beach Bar
What sets them apart: Sit beachside on Lake Dora while listening to live music throughout the week and “reggae Sundays” with
If you can order one item: The Sand Bar Burger with Black Angus beef will give you that cheeseburger-in-paradise taste.
If you splurge: Although you’re not breaking the bank, a brownie sundae for $9.95 is a great way to top your meal.
181 S. Joanna Ave., Tavares // 352.609.5910
Hours: Sunday through Wednesday 11am-10pm, Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-2am
Lake Harris Hideaway
What sets them apart: Stunning sunsets over Lake Eustis and live bands on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
If you can order one item: The Easy Rider Messy Chicken served on a Kaiser roll and topped with Swiss cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms and bacon for $11.99.
If you splurge: The Old Man of the Sea Combo, which includes fried grouper, shrimp, clam strips and crab cakes for $16.99.
11912 Lane Park Rd., Tavares // 352.343.3585
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-9pm
Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille
What sets them apart: One of the few waterfront restaurants in The Villages, Lighthouse offers happy hour every day from 3-6pm.
If you can order one item: The Classic Haddock, a deep-fried, grilled or blackened haddock on a hoagie for $14.99.
If you splurge: Two pounds of steamed snow crab for $38.99.
925 Lake Shore Dr., The Villages // 352.753.7800
Hours: Sunday through Saturday 8am to 8pm
Lilly’s on the Lake
What sets them apart: Great Caribbean food, live music on weekends, a patio overlooking Lake Minneola and a white-sand beach where diners can swim.
If you can order one item: The 6-ounce Island Mahi served with rice and spinach.
If you splurge: The Island Seafood Platter, which comes with 6 grilled and 6 coconut shrimp served on a bed of island rice with sautéed veggies for $21.99.
846 W. Osceola St., Clermont // 352.708.6565
Hours: Sunday 10:30am-10pm, Monday through Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm
Palm Gardens Restaurant and Marina
What sets them apart: Nestled on the Dead River, which connects Lake Eustis and Lake Harris. Receive $1 off all beer and wine during happy hour on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
If you can order one item: The Shrimp Po’-Boy, served on a sub roll, comes with deep-fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato and onion.
If you splurge: On weekends, take advantage of the raw bar with oysters, steamed clams and mussels, shrimp and snow crab legs.
1661 Palm Gardens St., Tavares // 352.343.2024
Hours: Seven days a week 11am-8pm
What sets them apart: Relax on a sunny patio with a view of Lake Dora as you enjoy delights fresh from the farm, craft cocktails with infused liquors, or a Sunday brunch menu.
If you can order one item: A turkey sandwich served on pretzel panini bread for $12.
If you splurge: A 16-ounce ribeye served with two sides for $40.
239 W. 4th Ave., Mount Dora // 352.385.2669
Hours: Sunday 11am-9pm, Monday through Thursday 11:30am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-10pm
Puddle Jumpers Lakeside Grill and Bar
What sets them apart: Great views of sunsets and seaplanes landing on Lake Dora. The two-story restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating and bars on both floors.
If you can order one item: The B’s Knees steak burger, featuring crisp bacon, Chipotle black raspberry sauce and Brie cheese
If you splurge: The Crash Landing platter with two crab cakes, peel-and-eat shrimp and Mahi bites for $28.50.
111 W. Ruby St., Tavares // 352.508.5862
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-8pm
R.J. Gator’s Florida Sea Grill and Bar
1015 Lakeshore Dr., The Villages // 352.751.6935
Hours: 11am-9pm 7 days a week
What sets them apart: Located at Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages, this restaurant serves fresh seafood and tropical drinks. The fun, cheerful vibe makes this a cool place to enjoy tasty American pub grub and happy hour all day long sitting at the inside or outside bars.
If you can order one item: Go for the Florida Gulf shrimp for $15.99. These delicious shrimps are rolled in coconut flakes.
If you splurge: The grilled Cajun Redfish for $17.99 comes with a blend of Cajun spices and is served with Floribbean rice and seasoned black beans.
Ruby Street Grille
What sets them apart: For those who like the night life, Ruby Street Grille stays open until 2am seven nights a week. Enjoy live music and a full-liquor bar.
If you can order one item: The shrimp and scallop fra diablo for $18.95 is served in a spicy tomato sauce over linguini.
If you splurge: Definitely the 8-ounce seared ahi tuna served with soy mignonette and wasabi for $19.95.
221 E. Ruby St., Tavares // 352.742.7829
Hours: Sunday through Saturday 11:30am-2am
The Crazy Gator
What sets them apart: This popular spot for food and drinks offers indoor and outside patio seating overlooking Lake Eustis. A prime rib special on Wednesdays for $15.99 and an all-you-can-eat fish fry on Fridays for $10.99 certainly gives diners extra incentive to visit.
If you can order one item: 10 Crazy Wings fried or grilled for $10.99.
If you splurge: Consider the 12-ounce Black Angus ribeye for $18.99
402 N. Bay St., Eustis // 352.589.5885
Hours: Seven days a week 11am-7pm
The Tiki Bar and Grill
What sets them apart: A beachside vibe featuring outdoor dining at umbrella-covered tables and tiki torches at night. Great views of Lake Minneola.
If you can order one item: Bacon and Swiss cheeseburger for $12.65.
If you splurge: Sushi aficionados will appreciate the sushi-grade tuna sandwich
508 S. Main Ave., Minneola // 352.394.2232
Hours: Seven days a week 11:30am-midnight
Tiki West Raw Bar and Grill
What sets them apart: Breezy indoor and outdoor patio seating keep things cool while your table enjoys a family-style seafood pot consisting of shrimp, andouille sausage, crawfish or snow crab legs.
If you can order one item: Top Neck Cedar Key Clams ($8) from the raw bar.
If you splurge: You can’t miss with the one pound of peel-and-eat shrimp and half-pound of Andouille sausage, corn and potatoes for $26.
Tavares // 352.508.5783
Hours: Sunday 11am-8pm, Monday and Tuesday 4pm-9pm, Wednesday and Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday and