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Tropix in Freeport

Baked clams at Tropix in Freeport. (June 10,

Baked clams at Tropix in Freeport. (June 10, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

It's nearing sunset and the temperature still registers in the mid-90s. On the canopied deck of Tropix in Freeport, a breeze wafts off Woodcleft Canal, helped along by a few strategically positioned fans. Even so, the night is a hot one.

What's cool is the illusion of being on a ship. Or at a beach club. Near the bar, a few Adirondack chairs are planted in little plots of sand. Well-tanned waitresses in short shorts keep the drinks coming.

Dining up on the deck are couples of all ages, young families with kids and groups of friends. Around the bar, everyone looks to be in their 20s and 30s. The sound system pumps out Madonna's "Holiday." I later learn that a live band was supposed to go on but canceled. Some nights, there's a DJ, too. And dancing.

Not now, though. I sip my fruit-dotted peach sangria, which is ultra potent but not quite cold enough. I taste my dinner date's frozen strawberry daiquiri. Icy-slushy. Ideal.

What surprises me is the artisanal caliber of the Margarita "Tuscan pizzette," its thin, crisp crust topped with fresh mozzarella, pitch-perfect tomato sauce and basil. Three lobster sliders are each festively crowned with a cherry tomato, but their mini brioche buns are too bready and the lobster salad is mixed with a few pieces of shrimp. Fish and chips: mild cod buried deep within a heavy crust plus previously frozen fries.

The sky keeps dimming. We watch boats gliding past while Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" plays. A gull lands on the water, a fish dangling from its mouth.

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