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  • Tara Crutchfield

Maritime Anchors in Bowen Yard

Maritime, an oyster bar and coastal cuisine concept, just dropped anchor in downtown Winter Haven. Partners Jason Ellis, Conn O’Leary, and Corey Ripley are the masterminds behind Lakeland’s Cob and Pen, Good Thyme, and Rec Room. The three partnered with Miguel Barcelo to start Winter Haven’s newest pearl.



“I think we’d always talked about a raw bar concept,” O’Leary said. When they were approached by Six/Ten, the investors behind the new open-air food hall, Bowen Yard, things began to fall into place. “Doing a concept that we loved, in a space that made sense, which we thought was Winter Haven – it just naturally evolved with the Bowen Yard concept,” said O’Leary.


When you hear ‘seafood in Central Florida,’ you might think of all things fried. That’s been done, and it’s been done well here already. The Maritime partners hoped to set sail towards slightly different horizons. “We have a little more adventurous culinary tastes,” O’Leary said. “We thought about doing something more aggressive concept-wise.”


“We wanted to make a place that’s comfortable for everybody,” Ellis added. “But we would also like to stretch our creative legs and bring people on an experience, a journey.”


The oyster program at this Bowen Yard mainstay is worth the community chatter it inspired even before opening its doors. Maritime has chosen to sustainably source year-round from cold waters up the northeastern coast into Canada. “That’s the style that we really like, and felt like that was a way to push the envelope away from the typical Gulf oyster you find around here,” Ellis said.


These include the likes of the less briney James River oysters from Virginia with a mild and meaty flavor and a hint of stone. Other options include the Irish Point oyster from Rustico, PEI, which has a tender texture, sweet brine, and smooth mineral finish. Among their offerings will be Summerside, Standish Shore, and Beavertail oysters.


Maritime oysters are available raw or steamed in a rotating house selection served with Travis’s Hot Sauce, house cocktail sauce, grilled lemon, and saltines. Charbroiled oysters, available in garlic butter and parmesan or oysters Rockefeller, also make an appearance on the starter menu.


Aside from a rock-star raw bar, Maritime has focused on an elevated, eclectic menu featuring the best in coastal cuisine. Popular during their ‘friends and family’ meals have been the crispy fish and chips made with beer-battered haddock, housemade tartare sauce, and lemon, and the lobster roll served Maine-style (cold salad) or Rhode Island-style (hot and butter poached).



Innovation has been the name of the game with Chef Jason Boniface. After opening as the chef at the Red Door in Lakeland, Boniface joined Ellis, O’Leary, and Ripley at Cob and Pen, where he’s been for the last four years. From the Boston area, Boniface has plenty of experience in coastal cuisine. “He’s been helping us take the next step on our menu,” Ellis said.


“He’s worked so hard with us at Cob and Pen that it was a no-brainer to allow him to remain there in an oversight capacity to keep standards where they need to be but to come over here and get to do something new as well.”


The dining room is done up in taupes, corals, and blues, lending to its seaside vibe. The aesthetic is clean and minimal, with mid-century modern elements tied to the ocean. Sunbeams glint through a wall of windows, illuminating the spirits behind the bar, drenching the space in buttercream daylight during lunch hours. Much like a moody beach vista, Maritime’s mercurial nature takes over as the sun sets and lights come down, taking on a much sexier mood. No matter the time of day, all eyes are on the 50-foot bar made of quartz, sea glass, and oyster shells constructed by a company in South Carolina. Maritime murals are courtesy of local commercial artist and illustrator Josh ‘Bump’ Galletta.


The bar is a focal point visually and in spirit. “One of the things we wanted to focus on in the inception of the idea was having a longer, more cocktail, cool-driven bar,” O’Leary said. The concept was a tiki-themed cocktail list with cool, tropical flavors bolstered by a solid wine program to pair with the oysters. “We’ll be super spirit and wine heavy, a little bit lighter on the beer, but we’ll still play the favorites,” O’Leary said.



A few Maritime originals include the Paid Vacation with 4 Roses Bourbon, Pimm’s, blackberry basil syrup, and fresh lemon, and the Florida Man with Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Select Aperitivo, mango puree, passion fruit puree, and fresh lemon. Another crowd-pleaser is the Siren’s Song with tequila blanco, Italicus, prickly pear puree, fresh lime juice, and jalapeno. If you’d like to imbibe without the buzz, they also offer a mocktail called the False Idol with hibiscus tea, pineapple juice, mint, and ginger beer.


The bar also features a pass-through window so Bowen Yard patrons can grab bites and cocktails to enjoy on the yard or pick a meal from one of the other on-site establishments and imbibe in a drink from Maritime.


“With that kind of rising tide, we can all help each other out. I think that would be fantastic,” Ellis said of his neighbors. With three booming Lakeland concepts, why the move to the Chain of Lakes city? “We’ve been coming over here quite a bit, and it’s been cool to see it go from a couple of places we like to go, to five or six places we like to go, to seven or eight places we like to go. We’ve experienced that a lot as the town has grown,” Ellis said. “There seems to be an undercurrent of cool here that we really gravitate towards. They seem to be super supportive of the local restaurant, the local bar, the local spot. We wanted to be a part of that.”


Maritime soft launched on June 13 with abbreviated hours and has added days and hours each week. They plan to celebrate with Bowen Yard in their grand opening on July 25.


Maritime

302 4th St SW, Winter Haven

(863) 229-7167

FB: Maritime - Winter Haven

IG @maritime_wh



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