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Cap’s Place: S. Florida restaurant is time travel


Kitten at Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

The rustic bar looks identical to historic photos, though the kitten is an addition to the scene.

Part of the charm of visiting Cap’s Place is winding through a Lighthouse Point neighborhood in your car, parking at the dock and then taking the five-minute boat ride over to the restaurant. You feel like you’re on an expedition, and you are — into the past.

Forty years ago, the local newspaper did a big feature story on Cap’s Place, founded in 1928 and Broward County’s oldest still operating restaurant. The yellowing clip, heralding Cap’s as a vestige of Old Florida, is one of many such articles decorating the place.

The funny thing is: You could write the same story today. And take the same photos. And interview the bartender who has the same last name as the person quoted in that story — the daughter of the founder.

Old photo, Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

The walls of the rustic bar are lined with photos that capture Cap's history.

View from the boat: Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

The view from the boat landing at the dock

The bar at Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

Behind the bar is a carved piece from a Spanish galleon that washed ashore.

The dock at Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

The dock at Cap's Place

Sunset, Cap's Place, Broward County's oldest restaurant, Lighthouse Point

Sunset over the dock at Cap's Place.

Inside Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

Cap's is a small, shotgun-shack building with windows overlooking the Intracoastal.

Shoreline at Cap's Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point

Sandy shore means kayaks can land easily.

Somehow, Cap’s hasn’t changed.

Everything else has.

When Winston Churchill ate here in 1942, the wooden floor boards in the Dade-County-pine shack that serves as a bar were already warped and sloping.  But Churchill didn’t pass mansions and multimillion-dollar yachts when he arrived.

Cap’s was an outpost amidst the mangroves. Today, Cap’s is still an outpost. But now it’s an outpost of the gritty old surrounded by the glittering new.

Cap’s original name was Club Unique, and, for once, unique isn’t an exaggeration. That’s why it’s worth visiting — there’s no place else like it left anywhere near here. Dining here is like getting to eat and drink in one of those historic houses where docents glare at you if you get too close to the furniture. The food, while expensive, is good, but it’s the atmosphere that makes it worthwhile. Before coming, read the fabulous history full of hurricanes, lighthouse keepers, rum running, mobsters, illegal turtle-egg pancakes and celebrities from Joe DiMaggio to George Harrison. Then you’ll be in the right mood.

Cap’s Place calls itself an island restaurant, although technically it is not. It’s located on a peninsula in Lighthouse Point in the middle of an expensive residential neighborhood. To keep cars and traffic out of the area, you must arrive at Cap’s by boat.

As you approach Cap’s, you barely see the buildings. They are low-slung and small, hidden by trees and vegetation.

After admiring the setting, it’s worth stopping in the bar and hanging out, even if you don’t drink. Lit by bare light bulbs, the bar is the most evocative spot at Cap’s. It is filled with old clippings and historic photos and decorated with ancient cash registers, a sawfish bill, harpoons and parts of ships.

A most prized item is behind the half-circle wooden bar — a carved wooden frieze decorated with curious items, including the pope’s hat on its side.

Oh that? The bartender explains: “That’s the starboard bowsprit off a sunken Spanish galleon. My father found that on the beach.”

Your father?

Yes, improbably, the bartender is the daughter of co-founder Albert Hasis, who was a boy of 16 when Cap, Captain Theodore Knight, started the restaurant in 1928. According to Cap’s website, Hasis had run away from his Pittsburgh home. He came to be a like a son to Cap and, eventually, the Hasis family took over the restaurant. The three children of Al Hasis still own and operate it.

Our bartender was Talle Hasis. (Go ahead, say it out loud. It’s not a coincidence: She was named after the state capital.)

Talle says the wooden bowsprit from the Spanish galleon has been sought by the Smithsonian and other collectors who have offered upwards of $50,000 for it. Of course, the land on which Cap’s is built is similarly valuable, and the family has resisted all offers.

“This place is in the blood,” she says.

After visiting the bar, head into the restaurant, a long one-room wooden building. Rows of square windows overlook the water, though the view is primarily of mangroves along the shore.

The menu focuses on fresh fish, and we found the dolphin and yellowtail snapper (each $31) to be delicious and the portions generous. The classic salad is fresh hearts of palm, a dish Cap’s has been serving since the original menu.

Plenty of people reviewing Cap’s Place left disappointed  — read the comments on Yelp and TripAdvisor, linked below.  So, if you go, set your expectations accordingly.

My advice is plan to arrive in daylight so as to enjoy the view. Walk around and look back at the place from the Intracoastal. Look at the items on the walls. Soak up the history.

Also good to know: Cap’s does not have a seawall on the Intracoastal side and kayakers have been known to stop at the bar for a soda or beer. There’s a sandy beach that makes an easy landing.

Caps Place is open for dinner year round, seven days a week in winter. It closes on Mondays from May 1 thru mid-December. Reservations, particularly on weekends, are recommended.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Pedro in Delray says:

    I love the idea of Cap’s place — a short trip on the water to have dinner. So whenever we have visitors from out of state, we try to bring them to Cap’s so they can feel they’ve been somewhere special. Your story makes me want to go back, just for me.

  2. Pingback: Historic Florida restaurants: A meal with a story to tell | Florida Rambler

  3. Hobe Sound Visitor says:

    As a South Florida native, I had never heard about Cap’s Place until recently – so we decided to make our 1st visit – and it’s not around the corner – we drove over 1 hour to give em a try – and boy am I glad we did! What a fantastic piece of nostalgia – ah, old Florida before it was all built up and cement jungle!

    The little jaunt from the parking lot over to Cap’s Place was very enjoyable, although, it would have been nice if the “skipper” had spoken more words the entire ride than “Watch your step” when we entered & exited – but oh well!

    The food was very good – slightly pricey, but I think you’re paying for the experience. Our server, Ron, was fantastic! When we told him this was our 1st visit, he took the time to explain the history of the restaurant and the hearts of palm, and went over all of the specials in detail. My husband ordered the crab cake appetizer – fantastic! Just slightly breaded and full of fresh lump crab meat – WOW! For dinner, our party ordered the crab cake dinner (2 huge crab cakes); scallops (8 huge scallops slightly breaded, broiled in a white wine & garlic sauce); bacon wrapped scallops (8 hugh bacon wrapped scallops); and sesame crusted salmon w/honey mustard glaze. For our sides, there was brown rice w/fresh spinach pieces, mashed sweet potatoes & grilled veggies. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal!

    If you haven’t experienced Cap’s Place, or even if you have, this place should be visited at least every 3-4 months – I’m so glad I didn’t listen to the negative reviews – this place ROCKS!

    • Thanks so much, Hobe Sound Visitor, for adding your experiences here. I agree with everything you said — including the taciturn boat captain!

      My feeling is: Come to Cap’s with the right expectations. It’s unique — and I don’t use the term lightly.

  4. I love Cap’s Place .cool

  5. Oline Cogdill says:

    I love Cap’s Place but it has been years since I was there. Your article makes me want to visit — immediately. Nice job

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