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Labor Day Beach Eats

Written By Scott Joseph On September 2, 2011

Note: The flog is giving away Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month certificates for free dinners-for-two at some of the participating restaurants throughout the Labor Day Weekend. Winners chosen from among Scott’s Newsletter recipients. Click here to sign and and automatically be entered to win. You can also text the letters SJO to 22828 to sign up.

Are you heading over to the beach for the Labor Day weekend? I am. I’d be a lot more excited about it except that I’m really supposed to be headed for New Orleans. But Tropical Depression 13 is ruining that. (I think tropical depressions are aptly named.)

So I’ll just have to make do with kayaking through the waves and along the canals and walking on the beach. Oh, darn.

And, of course, going out to eat. The great thing is, there are lots of good places to dine over on the coast, whichever beach you’re visiting. In fact, that’s this week’s topic on my segment on WMFE-FM. I chatted with Judith Smelser of 90.7 about some of my favorites. The segment airs Friday at 5:45 p.m. and again Saturday morning at 9:35. But you can listen to it now by clicking this link to wmfe.org.

In Cocoa Beach there’s Heidelberg, the old Worldly German restaurant with a very hip and modern jazz club, Heidi’s, next door. You can have dinner in the restaurant, go next door to listen to some good music, then hike up Minuteman Causeway to the beach and take a late night stroll.

If you cross the causeway and head for Cocoa Village, you’ll find two very good restaurants right next door to each other. In fact, they’re owned by the same folks, even though they are really quite different. Cafe Margaux is the longtime French restaurant, all frilly and lacy and with very nice, if not exactly authentic, French dishes.

Next door at Ulysses Prime Steakhouse. It’s just a small place, and, as the name might suggest, has slight Greek leanings. But serving a really great steak is the focus here. Lately, I’ve just learned, the restaurant has been offering some smaller plates to satisfy guests who are looking for lighter bites. Maybe I’ll stop in there and check those out.

Or I might be in more of a divey mood. In that case I’ll head for Grills at Port Canaveral. There’s usually some honky-tonk band and good enough food. In fact, I like the burger there very much.

If you’re headed for New Smyrna Beach, there’s the Garlic, an Italian restaurant that can be both raucous or romantic depending on what part of the restaurant you’re in (and your own mood). I like the mussels here. Mains tend to feature mostly pasta dishes.

Not far away is Spanish River Grill, which is just one of the best restaurants on the coast. I remember hearing about SRG years ago, just after it had opened, and driving over from Orlando. I arrived to its dreary strip mall location and nearly drove off without going inside. I’m glad I didn’t. The interior will make you forget the location, and the food will, too, whisking you off to the Caribbean and Cuba.

Farther up, in Ormond Beach, is the upscale, upstairs La Crepe en Haut. In fact, I think the name translates to the upstairs pancake. La Crepe en Haut sounds so much better, and more accurately describes the fine food and service you’ll find here. Be sure to pack something other than beachwear and flip flops.

What are your favorite beach and Space Coast restaurants? Leave them in a comment below.


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