Every person I’ve talked to about Smuggler’s Wharf in the Czech Village has “heard from a friend” that the fish tacos are great, but I haven’t met a person who’s actually eaten here.
So I decided to see for myself. On a lunch date with my mom recently, I was delighted to walk into a restaurant that took a chance with its decor and didn’t have TVs plastered on the walls.
Smuggler’s Wharf is a seafood restaurant. And it embraces that theme through the decor and menu. There is patio furniture, picnic benches and other seating, blue walls with bamboo wainscoting, ceiling fans with palm leaves and fishermen’s nets and shells.
Co-owners Michael Warta and Al Zindrick wanted to give the Cedar Rapids area an authentic, locally-owned seafood restaurant. The overall effect is something you don’t see often so far from a coast here in Cedar Rapids, but the owners took a chance and set themselves apart. I, personally, enjoy this breath of fresh (albeit fishy) air.
The menu is full of seafood. But there are also options for landlubbers. Appetizers include oysters, crawfish and crayfish, chicken planks, clam strips, calamari strips and deviled eggs. Seafood entrees includes cod fillets, salmon, swordfish, red snapper, shrimp and scallops. “Land Lovers” items include rib-eye and chicken breasts.
Sandwiches and burgers include Italian beef or sausage, grilled curry chicken salad, an array of burgers — like a Bratwurst Burger, Olive Burger or Triple Dunk Burger — and Po’boys, including oyster, shrimp and fish.
Also good to know this time of year, with Lent starting next week, Smuggler’s Wharf has a fish fry on Fridays. It’s all you can eat and comes with slaw or fries and redbeans and rice.
On our lunch visit, we started with Cowboy Dip. The dish looked unappetizing when served, but the mixture of cheese, beans and chili was delicious.
I ordered the shrimp po’boy, and my lunch companions got fish tacos. As expected, the tacos were a big hit. I looked at them longingly as I ate my sandwich, which was good, but the bread to shrimp ratio was a little disproportionate.
My favorite part of the meal had to be the selection of sides. There are not many places that offer traditional choices, plus tater tots, a beer, homemade coleslaw and red beans. Yes, a beer can be your side. It’s genius, really. I’m not sure why more places don’t do things like this.
— Laura Kaiden