It might be hard to drag yourself away from the Space Coast’s breathtaking beaches, but, well, you’re going to have to eat some time. Take a break from the sunshine and waves and refuel your belly at our favorite 10 lunch destinations.
If you can’t bear to venture too far from the beach, head over to Squid Lips Overwater Grill, where your view comes complete with fresh, grilled food and often live music. If you’re in a hurry to get back to the surf, grab a quick bite to eat at Long Doggers, known for its hot dogs and fish tacos. The waves got your belly grumbling? Try the footlong dog.
For a relaxing, sit-down lunch, the Haru Sushi Bar and Grill offers sushi made with the freshest ingredients. Try the Bento Lunch Box for a quick, delicious and healthy lunch. The Bento box comes with salad, soup, sushi and a special that changes every day. Haru offers the region’s biggest selection of saki, too.
Looking for something different than the typical beach lunch fare? The Sweet and Salt traditional Polish restaurant is a local favorite and authentically European. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled overseas as soon as you step through the doors.
Venice at Cocoa Beach
Venice at Cocoa Beach opened on the Space Coast in 2014, inspired by Venice Beach in California.
The restaurant brings a mini Venice to Florida, complete with the colorful urban-style art on the walls, a vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere and a large wall mural of a sun setting on the Pacific Ocean. The oranges, reds and yellows truly look like an evening on Venice Beach.
In true Venice style, the menu here is casual, eclectic and international. (No funnel cakes, though, but that's for the better.) For breakfast, try the huevos salsa verde. For tapas, try gourmet cheese, the Hawaiian pork or Costa Rican Chifrijo, with rice, beans, chips and pork or beef. For dessert: Filipino-style chocolate rice pudding. (321-613-4909)
Salt and Sweet Restaurant Traditional Polish Cusine
For a unique lunch in an authentic European atmosphere, check out Salt and Sweet Restaurant, which serves up traditional Polish food. Here, you can indulge in pierogis (stuffed with potatoes, cheese, onions – you name it) or the broiled fish of the day. Or go full Poland with the Zrazy Polskie, rolled beef stuffed with onions, pickles, peppers and bacon. You'll be sure to fill up on dumplings and red cabbage, too.
Salt and Sweet has been named one of the best restaurants in Melbourne (it's listed in the top 20 on TripAdvisor). The atmosphere is a little more sophisticated than the Space Coast's traditional beach shack with fish tacos. Trained sommeliers can help you pair domestic or international wine with your meal. Or tip back an imported Polish beer. (321-259-5182)
Feeling a touch Blarney? This downtown Melbourne pub is as Irish as they come, from the St. Patty's pot pie down to the tall, cold glasses o' stout. The authentic menu boasts Irish classics, including corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash. Or try your luck and ask about the Fisherman's Catch of the Day and the new Butcher's Cut of the Day. Great happy hour specials (starting as early as 3 p.m.) and frequent live entertainment are boons, as well. Snag $5 Car Bombs and Irish coffees all day, every day. During football season, the pub is especially crowded on NFL Sundays and Mondays. (321-952-5510)
It wouldn't be right to have a top-10 list in this area without at least one legitimate tribute to surfing. Long Doggers has that covered. Come as you are – yes, even after a morning of surfing. Grab a quick foot-long "Mork Dog" at the window, or sit down for a Beach Bum meal, like a crab cake with a handful of sides. Everything here's casual. After all, Long Doggers calls itself a "radically relaxed" grill and brew. Bonus: People with allergies will appreciate the full gluten-free menu. Find Long Doggers as five different locations in Florida. (321-751-4448)
Crackers Island Grille
Crackers Island Grill is a local surfers' favorite. This relaxed restaurant in Cape Canaveral is close to the waves and next door to Core Surf, so it draws in the hungry wave-hunters. But it's also popular among hungry travelers seeking a house-made inexpensive meal. Daily specials are just $6.50, and that often includes a side and drink.
The Coney Island Dogs (made with fresh, original Coney Island sauce) are a signature item, but this grill also serves hamburgers (and garden burgers), fish tacos, a footlong Philly steak, pulled pork and various hot dogs (try the slaw dog).
Beer is on the menu here, too, so you can tip back a cold one with your generously portioned meal. (321-613-4815)
Squid Lips Overwater Grill
A local, casual favorite, Squid Lips is all about freshness. But it's more than the typical beachfront grill. Food here is grilled over an open oak-wood fire, and nothing is pre-breaded or pre-made. Start with the Cajun bacon-wrapped scallops, which will prepare your tongue for the signature black cherry pepper pork. The crab cakes are another favorite. If you're looking for some beachy entertainment with your meal, you can often hear live music here, too. Find two Squid Lips in the state, one in Melbourne and another in Sebastian. Arrive by boat, if you want the quintessential Space Coast experience. (321-259-3101)
Yellow Dog Café
From the talented Stuart Borton (owner of Stuart's Bistro in Indialantic) comes this exciting cafe, which put the community of Malabar on the culinary map. Sound like an exaggeration? Get this: Among Stuart's more noteworthy customers are Jeb Bush (he likes the place so much, he celebrated his 49th birthday here!) and folk hero Arlo Guthrie. The breathtaking views of the Indian River are plusses, of course, as are the white linens and first-rate service. But what truly sets the place apart is its outstanding cookery – that is to say, innovative dishes like pecan-crusted mahi mahi with vanilla bean-infused praline sauce or roast duckling with raspberry, cherry and peppercorn sauce. (321-956-3334)
Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar
Pick your favorite location: Melbourne Riverside or on the Port. But whatever you do, don't judge this restaurant by its curb appeal. Grills looks like a standard waterside shack (complete with its own party deck and tiki bar, of course!), but then it's that intentional shabbiness that helps give the place its character. Of course, the kitchen crew does its part, too, a fact made clear once you've tried the grilled fish of the day (mahi mahi or cobia one day, maybe dolphin the next), bacon-wrapped scallops, or steamed deep-water crab legs. Forget all of that battered and fried nonsense! If it's fresh fish and seafood you seek, Grills serves up some of the best. (http://www.visitgril)
About Aimee Heckel
Aimee Heckel’s passion for storytelling has brought her around the world as a journalist, writing award-winning articles about Haiti and Uganda. Aimee studied international journalism at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and she majored in journalism and German at Colorado State University.
When she's not covering Colorado for Fodor’s Travel Guides and writing for SpaTravelGal.com, she travels and volunteers for Think Humanity, her family's nonprofit that helps refugees in Africa.
Heckel also blogs for HuffPost Weird News and writes feature stories, a fashion column and fitness column for the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado.
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