Norby's Does Steak and Seafood Right in Lake Wales
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.
When the mood strikes for a good steak or maybe some seafood without any fancy fuss, Norby's is the place. It redefines casual without abandoning quality.
IF YOU GO
Norby's Steak & Seafood
2425 State Road 60, Lake Wales, 863-604-1456.
Open 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4:30 to 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
FOOD: 3 1/2 Stars
SERVICE: 2 Stars
AMBIENCE: 2 Starts
THE GIST: Diner featuring grilled steaks and seafood.
FYI: Check Norby's Facebook page for daily specials.
CREDIT CARDS: Only MasterCard and Visa.
PRICE RANGE: $12.99 to $29.99
APPROPRIATE FOR KIDS: Yes.
MUST TRY: Filet mignon, shrimp, scallops.
Perched on the edge of busy State Road 60 in Lake Wales, Norby's Steak and Seafood is where one goes for a fine dinner when having a bad hair day.
Its come-as-you-are aesthetic is appealing, but I felt horribly overdressed in my office attire. Norby's is all about kicking back, way back.
The entrance is more like a patio breezeway with a bar on the left and a grill on the right. From there one enters a labyrinth of adjoining screened rooms and patios lush with plants. Plastic patio tables and chairs complete the backyard ambience.
But don't sell Norby's short. The place may look disheveled, the servers rumpled, but the steaks are divine. So was the lobster, the Maine variety, its tail split, brushed in butter and grilled over an open fire.
Owner Wayne Finger sure knows his surf and turf. The original owner, Norby Karava, ran Norby's as nothing more than a roadside bar. When Finger purchased the place in 1993 he started grilling an occasional steak and folks just started showing up in droves.
They still come, for daily specials and quirky appetizers like Boogie Bob Horsey Bites, $13.99, a platter of garlic toast rounds topped with tender nuggets of steak and a mild horseradish. Crude in its presentation, you may find yourself fighting over every morsel.
I couldn't resist ordering the shrimp cocktail, mostly because of the price — $2.99. The five medium shrimp slathered in cocktail sauce and seated on a bed of lettuce suffered from a lack of seasoning, which is not the case with everything else I encountered on the menu.
In fact, Norby's excels at taking what I suspect to be canned vegetables — green beans, corn, collard greens — and doctoring them to delicious effect.
On several visits, I was served the same, foil-wrapped, dense baked potato, swimming in butter. And while I've had larger, pricier spuds cooked to fluffy perfection at other restaurants, expectations are lowered at Norby's, where, evidently, the focus is on the main ingredient.
What else could explain such a lackluster house salad, nothing more than torn iceberg; a trio of canned, black olives; several rings of onion and a chunk of ripe, red tomato for color?
Everything that comes off the grill is a different matter. A plate with a small beef tenderloin, lobster tail and shrimp was simply amazing, and only $23. Ditto with a similar plate of tenderloin, shrimp and scallops. I've paid twice that at restaurants with loftier pedigrees, and enjoyed Norby's more.
The beef is of good quality, and it's cooked skillfully. Seafood likewise, is fresh, slightly charred and served unadorned with sides of melted butter and lemon. Seasoning is spot on.
A featured special of grilled mahi-mahi delivered two large filets that tasted as good as anything I've been served in seaside establishments, or yanked myself from the waters off Islamorada and grilled at home.
Desserts receive the same sort of attention that Norby's gives vegetables. But I did have a suitable piece of lemon cream cake, and didn't lose any sleep over the fact that it wasn't prepared by staff.
With Norby's, there's simply no pretense. The servers are attentive but not smothering. There's a busy pace to the place, which is open only for dinner, seven days a week.
During an Aug. 9 inspection, the restaurant was cited for a single critical violation concerning a soiled microwave.
Places like Norby's endure because they offer solid return on your hard-earned dime. Sure, the edges are rough and parking can be difficult when the joint is jumping, as it was on a recent Friday. But Finger delivers on the goods that count.
He's created a relaxed, informal diner. Customers are not so much concerned about being seen, but getting a darn good meal at a reasonable price.
Eric Pera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7528.
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