by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
My next tasting experience takes me to down to Fort Pierce and right next to the Indian River intercoastal waterway to the Original Tiki Bar & Restaurant. Before my review, I’ve had the pleasure of dining here twice and I thought the food was good, but nothing special. Something must have changed recently because I don’t remember seeing any of these items on the menu on my previous visits. They have taken what I remember as a typical bar food menu and elevated it up to nearly fine dining levels. The food quality was top notch and I was impressed by the offerings they have now and I think you will be too once you finish reading my review.
If you are familiar with the Saturday Farmers Market in Fort Pierce, then you should know where this place is located. Parking for the restaurant can be done on the street or in the shared city parking lot. If they have events going on in the park such as the Farmers Market or other happenings, finding parking can be challenging at times. As you walk up to the restaurant you pass by the Fort Pierce City Marina and get to enjoy the view of all the great boats docked there. The restaurant does have the stereotypical thatched roof you would expect for a Tiki bar. As you walk in, you feel like you are being transported to the islands with its colorful tropical themed décor, the laid-back vibe, and tropical-themed music. While it is open to the outside, they do have plastic zippered windows for those times when the weather does not cooperate. The place is quite large with lots of tables and a bar with quite a few stools available.
Let’s jump right in and see what I had to eat and drink!
Miami Vice – Now that looks refreshing on a hot day! This is a combination of a Pina Colada and a Rum Runner, both of which are frozen. The Rum Runner is made with Cruzan light rum, banana liquor, blackberry brandy, sour mix, and grenadine. The Pina Colada is made with Cruzan light rum, Coco Lopez, and pineapple juice. It was light, not too sweet, and definitely hit the spot on a warm summer evening.
Tiki Relaxer – This is one of the more popular drinks at The Original Tiki so they wanted me to try it. It’s made with vodka, coconut rum, pineapple juice, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice. This one was served on the rocks and had a bright citrus flavor, it was both sweet and sour, and quite refreshing.
Bahamian Conch Chowder – ($9.00) – It’s not often that I am served chowder in a bread bowl, so this was a nice change of pace. It’s made with fresh conch, peppers, onions, and potatoes that are simmered in a spicy tomato broth. The portion was large enough to make this a meal in itself. This seemed more like a hearty stew than a chowder, but either way it was delicious. The bread bowl was fresh and held together well and was a nice way to present the chowder.
Steak & Watermelon Balsamic Salad – ($18.00) – Hearty salads are one of my favorite meals and this one has a lot going on. It’s made with a bed of mixed greens and dressed with a watermelon balsamic vinaigrette. The generous portion of tenderloin steak cooked to a perfect medium was laid on top. Sweet cherry tomatoes, red onion, blue cheese, purple orchid, and a lime wedge complete the garnish. The lettuce was crisp, the steak was nicely seasoned and very tender, and the dressing was sweet and tangy. Overall, a great salad, but I thought it could use a something crunchier than the red onion to take it over the top.
Spicy Chili Calamari – ($11.00) – The description on the menu does not do this justice. I think they just changed the recipe and have not had a chance to update the menu yet because the description is nothing like what you get. These are made from a calamari steak that was cut into strips, dredged in seasoned flour, deep fried, then dressed with a spicy peanut chili sauce and garnished with black and white sesame seeds. A key lime aioli sauce was served alongside. WOW, this is some of the best calamari I’ve had anywhere in Vero, hands down. The calamari steaks were very tender and were not rubbery at all. My wife who normally does not like this type of seafood, had several more bites of this than I have ever seen her eat before. The spicy peanut sauce had a wonderful aroma and only a tiny bit of heat. The key lime aioli was tangy and paired perfectly with the dish.
Pistachio Crusted Yellow Tail Snapper – ($28.00) – All the colors on this plate are so beautiful! The yellowtail snapper has been filleted with the tail on and has been coated with a pistachio wasabi crust and is drizzled with a key lime aioli that has a hint of wasabi in it. It was served with a side of fried plantains and garlic butter broccoli. The fish was perfectly cooked and the pistachio crust gave it a slight crunch. The key lime wasabi aioli was tangy and only had a hint of the wasabi flavor. The fried plantains were large, sweet, and delicious!
Crab and Shrimp Stack – ($21.00) – As the 1st place winner at the Taste of St Lucie event, I was anxious to try this award-winning dish. Starting at the bottom working my way up to the top it starts with a grilled green tomato topped with two blackened shrimp, a crab cake, another grilled green tomato, loose crab meat mixture, and topped with a mango salsa. This dish had a lot of different flavors and textures going on. The tomatoes were fresh and just slightly grilled to give them some flavor and soften up a bit, the shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the crab cake had a ton of lump and claw crabmeat in it and very little filler. I now understand why this dish won 1st place because it’s fantastic!
House Made Key Lime Pie – ($6.00) – Key Lime pie is delicious and this one is exceptional. It had just the right amount of key lime flavor, not so much as to tweak your cheeks, but just enough. The texture was more like a custard which I think I prefer over the fluffy or cheesecake versions I’ve tasted. The writing on the plate was made with a raspberry sauce and was a nice touch.
For a restaurant to survive in today’s competitive market, they need to do something unique to keep diners coming back for more and the Original Tiki seems to have found the winning formula. To say we were blown away by the menu changes since our last visit is an understatement. While they still have some of the typical bar food available, you now have some nice upscale options to choose from if you are in the mood for something different. If you have not been here for a while, then you need to head down to Fort Pierce and rediscover the Original Tiki!
Have you tried The Original Tiki Bar & Grill? What has your experience been with them? Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.
Atmosphere – 5 Forks
Service – 5 Forks
Food – 5 Forks
Rating Scale Legend:
1 to 5 Forks – 1 Bad to 5 Excellent