Malabar, Fla., is a small city nestled between Palm Bay and Melbourne on the Space Coast. Although it can be easy to overlook, especially not far from tourist hot spots like Cocoa Beach and Port Canaveral, don't pass over Malabar as a fantastic dining destination.
Malabar is home to one of the Space Coast's most notable restaurants, the Yellow Dog Cafe, which has been known to attract celebrities for dinner. Grab a spot on the airy patio and enjoy the view of the Indian River, while you enjoy first-class service with a menu to match.
If a river view is on your agenda, you can also try a plate at Ozzie's Crabhouse, famous for its all-you-can-eat blue crabs, caught right on site in the Indian River. The Shack Seafood Restaurant also serves fresh seafood with a river view. The Shack has been a Space Coast icon for nearly 40 years.
Malabar is home to other longstanding, reputable restaurants, including Twisty Cone Ice Cream and Cakes (affectionately called Tcone), which has a near cult following of beloved fans eager to cool off with the dozens of flavors of soft serve, pies and cakes.
Latin food also has a stronghold here, with La Estancia de Luisa's Colombian fare, complete with sangria, and Mister Lechon's authentic Puerto Rican plates.
Here are our favorite 10 places to eat in and near Malabar.
La Estancia de Luisa
La Estancia de Luisa claims to have the best Latin food in the area, and that's hard to dispute.
Try the bandeja paisa or churrasco (skirt steak), with a side of moro rice, parsley potatoes or green plantains. For something a little more low key, the chicken in mango sauce is mouthwatering.
This laid-back Colombian restaurant not only serves authentic Latin food, with a speciality in Colombian, but its offering also include alcohol. In one word: sangria.
La Estancia also features wine, Colombian sodas and beer from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and more.
The lunch special Thursday through Friday is a big bang for just about $8, and includes a meat, side and soup. Friday you can get the special Colombian Mix Plate, which includes griddle cake and pork skin.
La Estancia also caters special events. (321-984-5170)
Pepper Tree Sandwich Shop
If the crowd is any indication, Pepper Tree Sandwich Shop is one of the best places for a quick and fresh lunch in the Malabar region.
Pepper Tree opened in 1972, and is stationed in a cozy house-turned-restaurant. Although outdoor seating is limited, you can take your meal to go or grab it in the drive-through. The indoor dining room is bigger, but can feel crowded during the lunch rush.
It's fast food done right, with fresh salads, fish baskets and sandwiches made with Boar's Head meat. Try a classic reuben, burger, chicken wings or the chicken sandwich.
The prices are about as low as you can get for a healthy meal, typically $5 to $10. The housemade brownie is famous for a reason.
The restaurant specializes in lunch only and closes after lunch.
Pepper Tree also offers catering. (321-724-8800)
Twisty Cone Ice Cream & Cakes
Twisty Cone and Cakes may sound just like a regular ice cream parlor, but it's more than that. To locals, Tcone is a Palm Bay icon, with a solid crew of fans.
This family-owned sweet shop serves more than 40 different flavors of soft-serve ice cream, plus shaved ice, custom cakes and pies, malts, frozen drinks, sodas and more. The shop is quirky, staff is friendly and funny and the atmosphere is small-town and homey.
Lines can be long, but you can call ahead and order your ice cream to go. It'll be ready when you arrive.
Tcone opened in 1982, then under the name of Kristy Kone.
Tip: Get a Cake Club Card and collect stamps for your ice cream and pie purchases to earn a free cake. And while you're raking in the points, wear a Twisty Cone temporary tattoo on Tuesdays and get your cone half off. (321-676-2090)
Mister Lechon is where to go for a unique meal. Beyond authentic and delicious Puerto Rican food, this Malabar restaurant is known for its full-blown pig roast on Saturdays.
Enjoy Latin food (with Puerto Rican beer), sometimes with a side of live music and dancing at night, to create an all around fun, family-friendly and laid-back atmosphere with reasonable prices. Kids also enjoy playing on the domino table. The restaurant itself feels like you've stepped into Latin America.
Menu highlights include shrimp empanadas, Cuban-style black beans, fried plantains (called manchango) and the Cuban sandwich with mojito sauce. If you're lucky, you might even get a chance to try authentic chicharon. (407-278-2052)
Malabar Mo's Bar & Grill
Malabar Mo's Bar & Grill is one of the best places to relax under in the shade of trees or on the deck, tip back a cold one, listen to live music and fill up on good food.
The cheerful atmosphere here is what makes Malabar Mo's really stand out – but it doesn't hurt that this restaurant offers full dinner until 11 p.m. Late-night dining has never tasted so delicious.
Malabar Mo's features a full bar and live music Friday through Sunday, with plenty of different places to hang out, inside or outside on the screened patio area or deck, cooled by the breeze of the river.
Look for both daily and nightly specials. Thursday is the popular wing night.
Don't miss the jerk mahi or the crispy fish BLT wrap for lunch. (321-725-8374)
Ozzie's Crabhouse is known for its all-you-can-eat blue crab legs – but we're talking some of the freshest, most delicious crab you can find. Ozzie's blue crabs from from the Space Coast's Indian River and boast their own unique flavor. That's why Ozzie's is a must-visit for any visit to Brevard County.
Ozzie's specializes in all kinds of seafood, shellfish and steak, too.
Don't miss the early-bird specials from 3-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and don't miss the various weekday lunch specials 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For example, Wednesday is chopped steak and gravy with chicken or fish, a side salad or slaw and potato, all for under $10.
This Malabar restaurant opened in 1966. (321-724-0009)
The Shack Seafood Restaurant
The Shack is a family-owned seafood restaurant with a longstanding reputation. It's been a Space Coast staple for almost 40 years.
Here, you can find fresh seafood and steaks, served up on the riverfront. Although The Shack's menu is exquisite (stuffed shrimp, prime rib, fresh fish flown in daily), the atmosphere is still relaxed and comfortable.
Score sandwiches (like a French dip, oyster po' boy or corned beef) or hamburgers for lunch. Or stop in from 4 to 6 p.m. to take advantage of discounted prices on the early bird menu, Monday through Saturday.
The best place to dine is outside on the patio, with a stunning view and sandbar. If you're looking for a private dining experience for a special occasion, like a family gathering or party, you can also rent the banquet room. (321- 676-9995)
The Original Bizzarro Famous NY Pizza
There's something about pizza and the boardwalk that's a perfect match. That's why we love The Original Bizzarro Famous NY Pizza (Bizzarro's for short), located right on the Indialantic boardwalk. Order your pie to go and eat it on the beach or enjoy it on site. In a hurry? Order a crispy-crust slice.
Feeling hungry? Try a Sicilian-style square pizza – Bizzarro's Special, with nine different toppings.
This beachside Italian joint serves up more than pizza, however. For something light, you can grab a salad here. The mussels marinara are a light appetizer. Deli subs make ideal lunches. You can even order beer or wine to wash down your meal.
Bizzarro's is a Space Coast staple, locally owned and operated for two decades. (321-724-4799)
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)
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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