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The Waterman Fish Bar is a neighborhood seafood restaurant in Cornelius, North Carolina. The place is reminiscent of Charleston and Calabash-style eateries. Maybe more Charleston than Calabash. The Waterman Fish Bar was founded in Charlotte, and the Lake Norman location opened in Cornelius in early 2022.
I finally found some time to stop by The Waterman in Cornelius and what follows on this page is a description of my experience. Spoiler alert: it was excellent!
Arrival at The Waterman
The Waterman Fish Bar in Cornelius is located right across the street from 131 Main in a space formerly occupied by a BBQ restaurant. You’ll find ample parking in the lot surrounding the restaurant.
Walking in, I basked in the aroma of fresh seafood. Not overpowering, just right. You’ll know you’re about to be served something special.
The smooth sounds of soft rock hits of the ’70s and ’80s fill the airwaves. That’s called “yacht rock,” kids.
Seating at The Waterman
I was greeted by a friendly hostess who seated me promptly at the table of my choosing. It was 2:00 PM on a Monday, so I didn’t have to wait long to be seated.
The Waterman Fish Bar offers both indoor and outdoor patio seating. Inside, you can choose from booths, tables, and hightops in the bar area. (We’ll be revisiting The Waterman for our “Best Happy Hour Spots” article soon!)
The patio seating is interesting. There are open-air dining tables and Adirondack chairs situated around a fire pit. That’s going to be a hit in the Fall!
There are also tables on the patio that are situated under sheltered enclosures, making fresh-air dining accessible even when it’s storming.
*That’s right. In North Carolina, it doesn’t rain, it storms.
Appetizers at The Waterman
The menu at The Waterman Fish Bar is one of those rare situations where literally everything sounds good. (And it probably is.)
I chose to start with six house oysters on the half-shell. The house oysters are called “Shell Yeah,” and they’re farm-raised in Sea Level, North Carolina. They arrive at your table nicely arranged on a plate of ice and accompanied by the housemade cocktail sauce with freshly shredded horseradish, along with their white fennel mignonette. They were sublime.
I couldn’t resist ordering the hushpuppies, too. They’re served with delicious housemade brown sugar honey butter. The hushpuppies were perfect – crispy, but not overcooked, and fluffy on the inside. I enjoyed two while I was there, and brought the rest home. My server was kind enough to give me more of the honey butter to enjoy with the hushpuppies later.
“I could eat the honey butter with a spoon,” the server proclaimed. I agreed!
Entrees at The Waterman
Did I mention everything on the menu sounds amazing? I asked my server for some advice, inquiring about the most popular dishes. I also wanted to select something that I thought would be photogenic. Looking back, I feel like most of the entrees on the menu would look great in a photo.
I decided on the Creole Shrimp & Grits. It was awesome. The shrimp was cooked perfectly and the Adluh Mills stone ground grits had a terrific texture. Together with the creole crawfish gravy, this heavenly dish is a must-try when at The Waterman.
I devoured the shrimp & grits so fast that my server asked me if I’d like to lick the bowl. The thought did cross my mind. Would that be wrong?
Drinks at The Waterman
Normally, I’m not a “cocktail” kind of guy. I like my bourbon neat (maybe an ice cube) and my vodka on the rocks with a splash of nothing, thank you.
But, I was dining at a place where they mix “Boat Drinks,” and it seemed like a boat drink was just what I was in the mood for.
I went for the CAT 5 – The Waterman’s take on the classic “Hurricane.” It was yummy, no doubt.
Desserts at The Waterman
For dessert, The Waterman gives you a choice of the “Southern” Pecan Bar (classic, with vanilla ice cream,) the Chocolate In A Jar (chocolate cake, layered chocolate mousse, and salted caramel,) the Key Lime Tart (fresh lime filling, house-made crumble, lime caramel, and whip,) or the simple Two Scoops of Ice Cream (vanilla)
I selected the Key Lime Tart. It was an excellent choice. The best key lime tart I’ve ever had was, in fact, in Key West at a restaurant called Thirsty Mermaid. The Waterman version of the Key Lime Tart comes in at a very close second.
Overall, I had an excellent experience at The Waterman Fish Bar in Cornelius, and I highly recommend you have a visit soon – and often.
Location: 9615 Bailey Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031
Hours: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Daily
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