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.
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!
Address: 3341 Bridge Plaza Dr, Vero Beach, FL 32963
Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm, 7 days a week