In April of 1970, Bill Bowers, better known as “Captain,” opened the Captain’s Tavern in a converted post office building in a remote area of southwest Dade County. His friends asked why he was opening up a restaurant in the “boondocks.” Captain had a vision and the “boondocks” became Pinecrest.
Captain devoted the next 50 years of his life to providing the freshest seafood from all over the country to a fiercely loyal clientele. The secret to Captain’s success was hard work, quality, value and dedicated employees. In a business where high employee turnover is common, some of Captain’s employees were with him for more than 30 years. He was a demanding boss, expecting his employees to provide his customers with a wonderful dining experience, but also a kind and generous boss who never refused to help an employee in need.
Captain loved being with his customers and they enjoyed seeing him in the dining room.
October 15, which marks the beginning of Stone Crab season, would see the Captain ceremoniously drag a crate of fresh stone crabs which he picked up in Chokoloskee earlier in the afternoon, through the dining room to the cheers of his patiently waiting customers.
Until his health prevented him from doing so, Captain would be at the restaurant every day, inspecting a delivery of fresh fish, trying out a new recipe, or cleaning a batch of fresh Ipswich clams.
Captain took great pride in providing the freshest, reasonably priced seafood in town, as well as a wine list rivaled by few in town. Every year at the beginning of Stone Crab season, Captain and his wife Audrey would travel to Sonoma County, California, where they would host a Stone Crab feast along with the Gallo family. Wine makers from all over Sonoma County would showcase their wines along with Stone Crabs, conch fritters and key lime pie. This personal relationship with the winemakers allowed Captain to offer wines on his list that would otherwise be unavailable. When asked why he sold his wines so cheap, he would reply, “A quick nickel is better than a slow dime.”
Captain also had an interesting philosophy on decorating a restaurant. He believed that the best way to decorate a restaurant was with customers in the seats, and on any given day, the seats were full and the lobby was full of waiting guests.
Captain enjoyed sharing his knowledge and love for the restaurant business and made frequent visits to Chip Cassidy’s wine class at Florida International University where he spoke with students in the Hospitality program. He tried to impress upon them that a restaurant manager’s place was out on the dining room floor and not back in the office.
That might account for the terribly cramped and uncomfortable manager’s office in the kitchen at the Captain’s Tavern.
Through the years many well known chefs dined at the Tavern, perhaps looking for the secret to longevity in a business better known for failures than successes. Captain enjoyed speaking with them, giving advice when asked for it, and taking great pride in their success.
He will be missed by all who knew him.