by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie
Riverside Cafe is one of those places that define what Florida living is all about. It’s located right on the water and you can drive up in your car or dock your boat, get a bite to eat, and enjoy those fabulous Florida 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’s new menu is fresh, creative, and features a variety of dishes to please most any palate.
This place is truly a “hidden” gem, a local’s place if you will. If you have not lived here long, I’m sure you passed by this place a hundred times and did not know it was there. 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 transported to old Florida with a very 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 has plenty of seats available at the bar. A stage is also in this room for live performances by local artists. If you care to dine outside, they do have a limited number of seats out on the deck so you may be in for a short wait if you prefer that option during peak times.
Now let’s dive right in and see what this place has to offer and what I had to eat!
OMG, this pretzel is HUGE!!! It’s presented on a banana hanger and is served with a side of beer queso and honey mustard for dipping. It was still warm when it arrived at our table and it is more than enough for 2 to 4 people to share. It was perfectly baked, with a nice crust, yet still soft and fluffy in the middle.
Five JUMBO shrimps were light battered, fried, then tossed in a sweet & tangy chili sauce. The coating provided a nice crunch, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the sweet chili sauce provided that satisfying salty, sweet, and tangy flavor we all love about this dish.
We all know how amazing their Ahi Tuna nachos are, now image those same / similar flavors in a handheld that you don’t have to share with anyone else! It’s made with a very generous portion of their Ahi tuna and combined with rice noodles, wasabi cream sauce, guacamole, and lo mien noodles to add a satisfying crunch!
The skirt steak is grilled medium rare, then served over french fries, and topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms. A vegetable medley was served alongside. Skirt steak is not one of the most tender cuts of meat on the market, but Chef Brandon makes it melt in your mouth tender. It had a slight char on it and had that wonderful grilled flavor. The onions and mushrooms were a nice compliment to the steak.
A classic French Dip is always a good choice! A generous portion of Black Angus roast beef (roasted in house) is served on a French roll. Cole Slaw, a pickle, and Au Jus are served alongside. The roast beef is full of flavor and very tender. The Au Jus was not as salty as I expected, which was a nice change from others that I’ve tasted.
I was really happy to see this dish up next since Grouper is my absolute favorite fish! The fillets are lightly floured and pan-fried till golden brown and topped with a citrus cream sauce with capers. Rice and vegetables were served alongside. The grouper was spectacular! It was very moist, tender, and the citrus cream sauce added a creamy, yet bright lemony flavor to the dish.
Nothing says Florida like Key Lime Pie! The custard was set perfectly and it had the right amount of key lime flavor. What a great way to round out a wonderful meal!
With the old Florida atmosphere, and being situated right on the water, this is exactly the kind of place we enjoy taking out of town guests so we can give them a real Florida dining experience. Riverside Cafe has also become a regular in our rotation when I dine out with my family since they are huge fish & chips fans. While not featured above, they have one of the best we have found in Vero. Whether you have known about them for years or are just discovering this place, I highly suggest you give them a try, I know you won’t be disappointed!
Address: 3341 Bridge Plaza Dr, Vero Beach, FL 32963
Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday, from 11:00 am till 2:00 am, and on Sunday, from 10:00 am till 2:00 am