by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie
I can’t believe another year is in the books and it’s time to select the best of the best of what I tasted over the past year. The end of 2018 also marks my three-year anniversary since I began the journey to find the best dishes that Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast has to offer.
The Vero Beach Foodie Facebook group was created two years ago as an extension to the Vero Vine food blog to allow our readers a place to interact and share their positive dining experiences with other members of the group. The growth we’ve seen in membership over the past two years has been nothing short of staggering. The same time I wrote this article last year, we had 2,370+ members. At the time of writing this year, we currently have 4,800+ members, an increase of over 2,400+ members in just the last year alone!
Two years ago I created 12 distinct award categories, but last year I decided to shake things up a bit. We now have only three categories. One for my Top 10 Dishes of the Year, Chef of the Year, and Restaurant of the Year. There were so many great dishes to choose from that I did not want to exclude anything if I felt it was deserving of an award, but did not fall into any particular category. If I had multiple winning dishes that fell into one particular category, it would allow me to recognize both of them without exclusion of the other, since both were worthy of the same award.
Listed below are my Top 10 Dishes in no particular order, Chef of the Year, and Restaurant of the Year winners. The winning dishes were selected from the reviews I’ve done over the past 12 months.
Now on to the awards! Let’s jump right in and see who this year’s winners are, and see what I had to eat from the past year!
Vero Beach Foodie’s Top 10 Dishes from 2018
Chopped Salad – Wow, what a beautiful presentation! This salad contains iceberg lettuce, red and yellow tomatoes, broccoli and topped with crumbled bacon. The dressing is made with avocado and their house made Stilton blue cheese dressing. Everything was beyond fresh. The dressing was smooth and creamy. You could most certainly taste the Stilton blue cheese in the dressing.
Inti Burger – We at Vero Beach Foodie are always looking for something different and this one fits that description! From the bottom up, we have a fried green plantain (tostones), sirloin burger patty, bleu cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce and topped off with another fried green plantain. Waffle cut fries and a pickle were served alongside. First off, the presentation was gorgeous! The burger was cooked to perfection and the veggies were very fresh. The fried green plantains were fairly thin but held up well when I picked it up to take a bite which was another feat since I had to unhinge my jaw to take a bite. This one’s definitely a stunner!
Johnny D’s Market & Bistro
Eggplant Rollatini – While eggplant is not one of my favorites ingredients, if you slice it thin, bread it, and fry it, it has to taste good, right? In this case, it tastes really good! It was sliced very thin, breaded, fried, then filled with a ricotta cheese. It was then rolled and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked till golden brown. Angel hair pasta with marinara sauce was served alongside. The eggplant was light and crispy on the edges. The filling was rich and creamy. I’ve had a few others around town, but both my wife and I agree, these were some of the best we have tasted.
Nick’s Family Restaurant
Sausage Parmesan Sandwich – OMG that looks so good! Made with a toasted sub bun, they use a mild Italian sausage and place it inside the bread with their marinara sauce and top it with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. The sausage was ground very fine and had the consistency of a meatball in a casing. The marinara was the same as served with the garlic knots, and as you can see from the picture above, they don’t skimp on the cheese. It was amazing!
Bruschetta – This is one of the most beautiful presentations of the dish I’ve seen at any restaurant in town. It’s made with slices of grilled house-made bread and topped with diced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and drizzled with an EVOO basil pesto sauce. Everything was so fresh. The bread had a slight crunch on the edges, the tomatoes were sweet, the mozzarella was soft and easy to bite through, and the basil pesto added a zesty, yet somewhat nutty flavor to the dish.
Post & Vine
Cheese Goddess Portabella – Those look so good! The base is an oversized portabella mushroom cap stuffed with a blend of cream cheese, shredded provolone, Swiss, parmesan, sour cream, and garnished with scallions and a balsamic reduction sauce. The mushroom caps were perfectly roasted and tender, the cheese blend had a rich and creamy texture, and the balsamic reduction sauce added a sweet and tangy flavor. Very rich, but it was delicious!
Ahi Tuna Nachos – 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!
The Works – FINALLY, a pizza place in Vero that uses crumbled sausage! As someone who has lived in the mid-west for most of my life, I’ve never seen so much “sliced” sausage on a pizza until I moved south. It’s very hard to find a place that uses crumbled sausage, so I was thrilled to see they do. Hand-tossed to approximately 11”, their pizza has a very thin crust which allows it to cook within minutes. This one has crispy pepperoni, sweet sausage, Grande mozzarella cheese, and San Marzano tomato sauce. The crust was light and crispy, the sausage was wonderful, and it had just the right amount of smoke flavor from the wood-fired oven. I can’t wait to go back and have another one!
Sweet Kiss Ice Cream
WOW Flavor – Sweet Kiss was recently invited to participate in an ice cream contest by Klavon’s Ice Cream Shop located in Pittsburgh, PA. This was their 2nd Annual contest and Sweet Kiss came in 1st Place! This is a huge honor and they have been dubbed the “Best Ice Cream Parlor in America 2018” and won the $10,000 Grand Prize! The flavor is called “WOW” because of the reaction their customers had when they taste it.
The Wave Kitchen & Bar
Pan Roasted Florida Grouper – Grouper is my all-time favorite fish, so I was happy to see this brought out for us to try. The dish consists of a pan-roasted 7 oz. grouper filet served over a charred corn succotash with a lobster tomato sauce and garnished with crispy leeks on top. First off, the grouper was awesome! It was light, flaky, and fatty, just as this cut of fish should be. The dish had lots of colors, a mixture of flavors and textures, which really brought this dish to life. It was delicious!
Chef of the Year – Beam TK – Siam Orchid Thai & Sushi
Asian food is in my Top 3 personal favorite cuisine types and the food at Siam Orchid is nothing short of amazing! The variety of dishes offered, the big bold flavors, and beautiful presentations that Chef Beak Tk comes up with continue to amaze me each time I visit his restaurant. This place has become a family favorite of ours and always gets a YES when we suggest going here for dinner. If you’re looking for an exceptional Asian food dining experience, then you need to pay these guys a visit and experience it for yourself.
Restaurant of the Year – Fire and Wine
My selection for Restaurant of the Year should come as no surprise to anyone that has dined here since they opened a little over a year ago. My early prediction at the time I wrote my Tasting Experience article for this restaurant stated that this place would be hard to beat, and I was right. From the symphony of expertly prepared dishes that come out of the kitchen each night, to the ballet the chef and his staff perform in their small kitchen, this is without a doubt the best fine dining experience in Vero I have experienced to date. (From the left: Cory Terry, Rob Walsh, Lyle Renz, and Chuck Arnold)
Over the past year, we’ve been very busy! I had the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with Chef Graham Elliott and Chef Shawn O’Neil, both from the TV show MasterChef on Fox, we’ve hosted 2 Chef’s Table Dining Experiences, 12 Vero Beach Foodie VIP Meetups, 20 Tasting Experience Reviews, and given you the opportunity to win tickets to several different events, thus bringing you closer to the action than ever before!
What does Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie have planned for 2019? Big plans are underway as I write this and I’m really excited to reveal those changes to you in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for an even better experience with us than ever before!