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Space Coast's Best Restaurants: Watch Marine Life and Eat It, Too



Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Space Coast dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Space Coast Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.

The Space Coast has perfected fresh seafood – in every way possible. Here, you'll enjoy quick to-go crab cakes, flavorful sushi and exquisite pecan-crusted mahi mahi. For the best, freshest seafood, head to Seafood Atlantic.

For a quirky new restaurant, check out Venice at Cocoa Beach, which brings a bit of the West Coast to Florida.

Of course, the best restaurants are not just limited to the menu. Whether you are looking for a romantic night on the port, an energetic evening of live music on the river or an evening stroll down the docks or through town, our favorite restaurants are ideally located to bring you the best of the Space Coast, all under one roof – thatched, as it may very well be.


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Cape Canaveral
Seafood Atlantic Inc
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Rusty Clark


The motto here is "the freshest seafood in the world," and it's true. There's no way to surpass this caught-fresh-daily freshness. Seafood Atlantic is where you go when you want the real deal, and for reasonable prices, too. Here, you'll find experienced fishermen who are experts in seafood. Read all about each fisherman's history and passion for fishing on the restaurant's website. The menu? Whatever they caught that day. The only option is outdoor seating on the waterfront, which only feels appropriate for this authentic seafood hotspot. Seafood Atlantic is such a connoisseur that the restaurant even sells its seafood to other restaurants and stores; instead, we say start at the source – the experts.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is our favorite place to get local, freshly caught seafood.

Aimee's expert tip: If crab is available, the crab cakes are the best we've ever had. Tons of crab, and perfectly scrumptious.

Read more about Seafood Atlantic Inc →


Crackers Island Grille
Photo courtesy of Crackers Island Grill


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. 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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is a great place for a cheap lunch in Cape Canaveral.

Aimee's expert tip: Try the chili cheese dog and hand-cut fries for a no-fail, fill-you-up lunch.

Read more about Crackers Island Grille →




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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: You can't beat the flavor, views and service for these prices.

Aimee's expert tip: After you eat, pull up some chairs on the sand and watch the water for dolphins.

Read more about Squid Lips Overwater Grill →


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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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Yellow Dog is where comfort food meets a memorable atmosphere, with a stunning view of the Indian River. Everything you order is individually prepared.

Aimee's expert tip: Request a table on the airy, open covered porch and enjoy sunny Florida's great weather and beautiful views. Even though it's outdoors, this porch feels more romantic and elegant than some of the other outdoor dining in Brevard County.

Read more about Yellow Dog Café →


River Rocks Dining & Drinks Dockside


River Rocks specializes in seafood (say hello to a fried whole snapper with butternut squash mash), but its entrees from the land won't leave you wanting – especially the steak. The restaurant also boasts a full cheese menu and pasta options. River Rocks is known for its drinks, too, with an extensive wine list and signature cocktails, such as the Oxygen Stoli, a creative mixture of St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, champagne and muddled fresh strawberries. Although the food is top-notch, it remains family-friendly, with a special sand area for the kids.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This riverfront restaurant has just as good of views as food. After delighting in some of the area's best food, stroll along the boardwalk.

Aimee's expert tip: Head here for the brunch buffet on Sunday, when you can snag $3 Bloody Marys and mimosas. For less expensive options, but prepared with just as much care, request a table on the dock and enjoy the views. You might even be joined by dolphins.

Read more about River Rocks Dining & Drinks Dockside →


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.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: It's rare to find such mouth-watering food at such an unassuming, chill location.

Aimee's expert tip: Do not leave Florida until you try this chowder. It took first place in the 2013 28th Annual Chowder Cookoff. And for live entertainment, visit Grills on a Thursday through Sunday, when it's music calendar is always packed.

Read more about Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar →


Black Tulip


One of the best-known spots to eat in Cocoa Village, the Black Tulip has been thrilling palates since 1981 with its expertly-prepared fare and charming European ambiance. But don't be intimidated; in true Space Coast style, Black Tulip's atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Lunch diners are treated to an array of delightful dishes, from daily quiche and soup specials to tasty steak sandwiches. It's at dinner time, though, that the place truly shines, and this is thanks in large part to superbly presented mains of roast duckling, crab-stuffed grouper and filet mignon.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Black Tulip is totally hip and artsy – a local landmark with a solid reputation for more than three decades.

Aimee's expert tip: Although it's a bit pricey, this is Brevard County's top spot for a romantic date. Order the tulip double roast duckling with red wine pear sauce.

Read more about Black Tulip →


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Meet 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...  More About Aimee

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