Category Archives: Food

Riverside Cafe – Restaurant Review

by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie

For my next tasting experience, I head to the island and to the historic Riverside Café!  This is just one of those places that define what Florida living is all about.  It’s located on the water, you can drive up in your boat, dock and get a bite to eat, and enjoy those spectacular sunsets!  Owners David and Ellen Lane took ownership of Riverside back in 2008.  David had been working at Riverside for over 24 years and his wife Ellen, 13 years as bartenders before taking ownership. They have a long history here and know this place and their customers very well.  Chef Brandon Howard is the creative genius in the kitchen and he seems to come up with some fun & creative dishes that keep the customers coming back for more.

Considering their location, I would consider this place truly a “hidden” gem, a local’s place if you will.  If you have not lived here long or are a tourist, I’m sure you passed by this place hundred times and did not know it was there.  Those of you that are more adept with technology I’m sure have found them and know what a treasure this place is to Vero.  Parking should not be too much of an issue with their main parking lot having quite a few spaces available, of which only a few are reserved for the Bait & Tackle shop located directly in front of the restaurant.  If the main lot is full, there is overflow just outside the lot with additional parking under the bridge.  As you enter the restaurant, you are instantly transported to old Florida with a cool laid-back vibe.  An interior dining room has several low top tables available if you prefer a quieter dining experience.  The main dining room has all high-top tables to help you better enjoy the 180-degree views of the water and plenty of seats available at the bar.  A stage is also in this room for live performances by local artists.  If you are lucky enough, Jake Owen may stop in for an impromptu performance from time to time.  If you would like to dine outside, they have a limited number of seats out on the dock so you may be in for a short wait if you prefer that option during peak hours.

 

Now let’s dive right in and see what this place has to offer and what I had to eat and drink!

Pina Colada – ($8.00) –  Pina Colada is my go-to drink because I love coconut, so we decided to try one.  Served frozen in a tall glass, finished with whipped cream and a cherry.  It was light and refreshing with just the right amount of coconut flavor.  For me, it only gets better as it melts and becomes creamier.

Ahi Tuna Nachos – ($16.99) – I’ve been told that this dish is not to be missed so I was glad to see it when they brought it out for us to try.  A bed of seaweed is laid on the plate, house-made wontons are fried and overlapped with each other.  A generous portion of Yellowfin tuna tartar is laid on top, then its garnished with a sweet soy glaze and a cucumber & wasabi cream sauce.  Does it taste as good as it looks?  YES!!!  The tuna was very fresh, the wontons provided a satisfying crunch, and the sauces added tons of additional flavor with little to no heat.  It was awesome!

Drunken Sautéed Mussels – ($13.99) – I’ve seen, tried, and been served mussels at quite a few places during my reviews, and I think this might just be one of, if not the best I’ve tried yet.  Fresh mussels are steamed in white wine and served with a lemon, thyme, roasted garlic, and butter sauce.  The broth was the star of the dish as it was creamy and full of flavor.  The mussels were also larger than I’ve seen at other places and were very tender.  Three rolls on the side were provided so you can soak up all of that wonderful broth.

Grouper Ruben – ($MP) – Nothing says Florida like a classic Grouper Ruben!  Fresh grouper is fried and layered between rye bread with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing.  Potato salad and a pickle were served alongside.  The rye bread was perfectly toasted, the coleslaw gave it that satisfying crunch, and the grouper was light, flaky, and fatty.  It was delicious!

Filet Mignon Sandwich – ($14.99) – OMG that looks so good!  Made with thinly sliced grass-fed filet mignon and layered with mozzarella cheese, sautéed onions, a roasted red pepper remoulade, and served on a brioche bun.  The filet was cooked to medium rare and was very tender, the sautéed onions were nice and sweet, and the red pepper remoulade paired perfectly with the filet.  The French fries are also worth a mention here because they were larger than normal and had a satisfying crunch on the outside, yet were soft and fluffy inside like mashed potatoes.  It was amazing!

Mahi Caprese – ($25.99) – They say we eat with our eyes first and I think I devoured this one without even taking a bite!  The grilled Mahi is topped with sliced locally grown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction sauce.  Rice and steamed veggies were served alongside.  The Mahi filet was huge, it goes all the way up and is leaning on the rice.  It was perfectly grilled and still very moist and flaky.  I don’t usually talk about the sides too much but the steamed veggies with a creamy butter sauce were outstanding. 

Crème Brulee of the Day – ($6.99) – The day we visited just happened to be Grand Marnier flavored Crème Brulee day and I’m happy that it was.  This was the most flavorful and creamy version I’ve ever had.  The wife and I were fighting over the last few bites, it was that good.

In Conclusion:

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 4 years since I first visited Riverside Café.  I’m kicking myself now for waiting so long to come back and rediscover it.  I do enough of these reviews that I don’t always appreciate the food as much as I should when I’m at the restaurant, but when I’m writing the review and looking back at the photos, I then realize how good it really was.  The food, the atmosphere, and the possibility that Jake Owen could stop by for an impromptu concert is reason enough to stop by and check these guys out, I know you won’t be disappointed!

Riverside Cafe Website  |  Riverside Cafe Menu  |  Riverside Cafe Facebook Page

Address3341 Bridge Plaza Dr, Vero Beach, FL 32963

Phone(772) 234-5550

Hours:  11:00am – 10:00pm, 7 days a week

The Original Mama Mia’s Kitchen – Restaurant Review

by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie

For my next tasting experience, I head back to Downtown Vero once again and to The Original Mama Mia’s Kitchen!  It seems like just yesterday that the VB American Bar & Grill was there, and in the blink of an eye, the sign changed and the new one for this place went up.  Once the word got out about Mama Mia’s, the questions started flooding in.  Is this the same place that was open in Sebastian many years ago?  I’m happy to report that the family recipes and lineage are the same, just with new ownership.  For the full story of Mama Mia’s history, be sure to check out the back of the menu when you dine with them.

Located on 14th Avenue in the corner between Main Street Jewelers and Baci Trattoria is Vero’s newest Italian restaurant.  Subtle changes were done to the interior due to the quick change over, but they did add a lattice wall with green vine through it to divide the room, most of the tables and booths were used with a few changes to the configuration, and they added white tablecloths with glass tops on all the tables.  The bar and TV’s that were there previously have remained.  They still share the patio with Baci, but they don’t open until well after Baci has closed, so there is no overlap.  Most of the businesses in the plaza are also closed or closing shortly after Mama Mia’s opens, so most of the parking lot will be available to their customers.

 

Now let’s dive right in and see what this place has to offer and what I had to eat!

Escargot in Phyllo Cup – ($8.95) – I have fond memories of a dish that used to be offered at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival in the France pavilion that this one reminded me of, so I had to try it.  The escargot was placed in the phyllo cups, topped with a garlic butter sauce, then baked until golden brown.  The escargot was very tender and almost disintegrated with the flakiness of the phyllo cup when I took a bite.  The garlic butter sauce was just enough to coat and not overwhelm the dish.

Mozzarella en Carozza – ($8.95) – With such a fancy sounding name in Italian, I was not sure what to expect since it translates in English to just a mozzarella cheese sandwich.  Fresh mozzarella cheese is sandwiched between two slices of bread and the “sandwich” is then coated with seasoned flour, dipped in an egg wash and fried until golden brown.  Marinara sauce can be served over the top or alongside.  The outside of the bread had a light crunch, while the inside was soft and gooey from the cheese.  The marinara has just the right amount of sweet verses tartness from the tomatoes.  It was so good!

Twisted Caesar Salad – ($7.95) – I was curious as to what makes it “twisted”, so we ordered it to find out.  From the description, it’s a typical Caesar salad with the addition of fresh mushrooms and bacon.  The lettuce was nice and crisp and was not overdressed.  The addition of the mushrooms and bacon added some additional texture, but only a minimal smokiness from the bacon.

Momma Mia Fiesta Platter – ($18.95) – Since this was our first time here, I thought that ordering the sampler platter would be a good idea to try several of the dishes they offer at one time.  This platter includes an eggplant rolatini, ravioli, meatball, sausage, and penne.  All were topped with their house-made marinara sauce.  The meatball, made with only ground beef, was seasoned nicely and quite tender.  The sausage was quite bold in flavor but just a little too “herby” for my tastes.  The ravioli had a generous amount of filling and was cooked al dente.  The true star on this plate was the eggplant rolatini.  I’ve tried several around town at other restaurants, but this one steals the show.  The eggplant was roasted, then rolled up with seasoned ricotta cheese, topped with mozzarella, and baked until golden brown.  It was very tender and easy to cut through with a fork, yet still had a little chew to it which was nice.  Flavor was spot on and it was a table favorite!

Veal Parmigiana – ($19.95) – As one of my all-time favorite Italian dishes, I was happy to see this on the menu.  Portion size is HUGE!  I would compare this to the size of a chicken breast you get at Fresh Market.  Being as thick as it was, I really expected it to be a bit tough as I had read in a previous review by a local newspaper. I had preconceived expectations, but to my surprise, it was anything but.  It was perfectly seasoned and very tender.  The sauce served on the side was their meat sauce and it was delicious.  A side of spaghetti with marinara was served alongside.

Tiramisu – ($5.95) – While not necessarily one of my favorite Italian desserts, it is one that we have not had very often during my reviews, so we decided to order it.  Portion size was very generous and could easily be shared, it also had just the right amount of sweetness after such a savory meal.  The ladyfingers were perfectly tender and did not have much alcohol flavor which was nice because that is one of the reasons why this is not a favorite of mine.  It was a nice way to round out our Italian meal!

In Conclusion:

I had heard they had a rough start when they first opened and their review from 32963 confirmed some of what I had heard.  I’m happy to report that my experience was much better than expected for a place that had only been open for a short while.  I usually like to let the “new” wear off a bit and let them get in their groove, but I was anxious to see what all the hype was about.  The food was quite good and very fresh.  You can tell most, if not everything is house-made.  The atmosphere was somewhat like the previous tenant since some of it was reused, but they did add some nice touches to make it more of a fine dining establishment.  If you love Italian food as much as I do, then I suggest you go give these guys a try, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

Original Mama Mia’s Kitchen Facebook Page

Address1920 14th Ave, Vero Beach, FL 32960
 
Hours of Operation:  Wednesday – Thursday, 4:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday, 4:30pm – 10:00pm, and Sunday – Monday, 4:30pm – 9:00pm, Closed on Tuesdays
 
 

Vero Beach Food Wine & Music Event 2018

In case you missed it, over the Presidents Day weekend was the inaugural year for The Vero Beach Food Wine & Music event.  The brainchild of Fe Domenech of The Event Firm International, she became inspired to figure out a way to pay it forward on more than just one level.  Six deserving local and national charities were selected to benefit from this event.  The charities were the American Cancer Society, Hibiscus Children’s Center, One Lagoon, H.A.L.O No Kill Animal Rescue, United Against Poverty, and The Source.   With her extensive experience producing large successful events not only for her own business, she also helped produce what is now known as SOBE (South Beach Miami Food & Wine) and Pebble Beach Food & Wine events.  This event is the first of its kind for our area and it was marketed nationally with top name talent in the industry.  On the entertainment side of the event was Matteo Bocelli, the son of the famous opera singer, Andrea Bocelli, who flew in from Italy for the Friday night opening concert.  On Saturday night, four amazing celebrity chefs, two of which were from the TV show on Fox called MasterChef.  Chef Graham Elliot and Season 7 Winner, Chef Shaun O’Neale were here, and Chef Alex Thomopolous, a stand-up comedian turned chef has made appearances on MTV and the Hallmark channel.  Finally, is Chef Christi Ferretti, a Vero Beach native who is the owner of Pine Valley Market in Wilmington, NC area. 

The event kicked off a day early on Thursday evening with the Fire & Ice VIP cocktail party at Costa de Este.  Guests got to mingle with the celebrity chef’s in attendance and hear a little about each benefiting charity.  Friday night was the Matteo Bocelli concert, Saturday night was the VIP Dining Experience with culinary demonstrations by each celebrity chef, and the event came to a close on Sunday with an event called Pups & Pino, a fashion show for cancer survivors and animals from H.A.L.O’s shelter.  In addition, a Sunday Brunch Tasting Pavilion was featured with local restaurants serving up some of their amazing dishes to the event’s guests.  Chef Alex Thomopolous was featured once again for a demonstration of her famous chicken sandwich, and Chef Christi Ferretti created a dish that you and your pet could enjoy together in the Bark Bistro that was also a part of the Tasting Pavilion.

 

As an assistant producer of the event, I can tell you that it was a lot of hard work to pull off this event.  I believe we gave our guests a first-class guest experience that was second to none.  Fe has dedicated her life to this event for the last two years and poured her heart and soul into it.  The production team is already thinking of next year’s event and planning for it will be underway shortly.  It will be bigger and better than ever, so stay tuned for The Vero Beach Food Wine & Music event in 2019, you don’t want to miss it!