Indian River County restaurants dishing value: great food and experiences that diners are looking for

Ellen Contreras
Capt Hirams Sebastian, FLCapt Hirams

We are hearing in the news whispers that a recession is around the corner. Some financial analysts said it has already started. It should not come as a surprise as the last one was back in 2008, the Great Recession. We did experience a pull-back at the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Economic ups and downs are the norm and even if we are affected, we weather the storm and bounce back.

I read an article in Yahoo Finance recently about how Americans are dining out but if they are going to spend money, they are looking for experiences to go along with the food. Even with the rise of inflation, people are still eating out, but they want to have fun and do something different.

Diners are flocking to dinner theatres (+240%), supper clubs (+200%), and themed cafes (+75%), to name a few as reported in Yelp’s State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

This got me thinking about restaurants in Florida, particularly where I live on the Treasure Coast. We are known for tourism and providing travelers and residents alike with all sorts of fun vacation experiences. This article will focus on Indian River County only because the list of restaurants with fun things to see – do – experience is quite long. I thought it would be best to create a three-part series: Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.

Many of these restaurants, I’ve been to myself with friends and family. Others on the list have been recommended to me by friends who’ve really enjoyed what these restaurants have to offer and the wonderful memories that will last forever.

I also consulted a friend of mine, Debbi Goodman Venturina, of Treasure Coast Culinary Tours. She’s the Tour Guide Extraordinaire and this company offers diners truly unique and fun epicurean encounters. They have three walking tours in Sebastian, Vero Beach, and Fort Pierce, where you visit a number of restaurants in walking distance of each other and sample the signature dish at each location. One of the stops includes a signature drink and the final stop is for dessert. Along the way, Debbi dishes on the points of interest, local trivia, and history of the area. It is something well worth doing whether you are a local or tourist.

I’ll start with Sebastian first and then Vero Beach. These restaurants cover the dining spectrum regarding cuisine and price. What they all have in common is that they serve more than just food, they dish on experiences too.

Fire pit at Capt Hirams in Sebastian, FLCapt Hirams

Capt Hirams located at 1580 US 1 Sebastian. While they are a resort with an almost endless myriad of fun things to do, they have a restaurant and tiki bar with amazing music, and it is almost always standing room only. Start off by taking a riverboat tour, then grab a bite to eat at Blackfins. Finish off with drinks at the tiki bar while listening to live music or sit at one of the fire pits. I love the seafood here.

Earl’s Hideaway located at 1405 Indian River Dr. Sebastian. Earl’s is frequented by motorcycle enthusiasts, so if you’re planning a vacation or local drive on your Harley, add this place to your list of stops. They have live music and are known for the best blues in the area. Have a cold, refreshing drink, a bite to eat, listen to music while overlooking the gorgeous Indian River as the backdrop. There’s never a cover charge and all events are free.

Tiki Bar & Grill located at 1130 Indian River Dr. Sebastian is the place to go if you want good food, delicious drinks, live music every night with your toes sand on the Indian River. But wait, there’s more! They have open jam night on Mondays and karaoke on Thursdays. If you like to dance and play cornhole, they’ve got that too.

Pareidolia Brewing Company located at 712 Cleveland Street Sebastian. This family-owned brewery makes wonderfully delicious, hand-crafted beers, ales, porters, IPAs, ciders, and seltzers. They’ve also got terrific food that the beer can help wash down. Seating is both indoors and outdoors with live music, open mic night, and trivia. They welcome your doggos on their outdoor deck. I fondly remember my stops here enjoying flatbreads, pretzel bites, cider and Slow-Paddle porter.

Vero Beach – Beachside:
Citron Bistro in the Village Shops on A1A in Vero BeachCitro Bistro

Citron Bistro located in the Village Shops at 6260 Florida A1A Vero Beach made it on this list because it is amid a lovely and diverse cluster of stores on A1A. They pay scrupulous attention to detail using only the highest quality, freshest ingredients in all their dishes. You can eat a healthy meal that is sumptuously satisfying, and their brunch is divine. Pamper yourself by combining your shopping with an amazing meal for a luxe experience. I’ve enjoyed many a meal with my husband, friends and with colleagues for work meetings.

Heaton’s is nestled in the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa at 3500 Ocean Dr in Vero on the ocean. This gorgeous place is luxurious with a casual yet dressy vibe. The food is top notch with the sparkling ocean before you. In addition, they have live music and a packed event calendar. Don’t forget about the cozy fire pits for those cool nights we experience a few times a year in winter.
Tiki table at Mulligans Vero Beach with the author's husband checking out a rainbow.Ellen Contreras

Mulligans Beach House located at 1025 Beachland Blvd. in the Sexton Plaza Vero Beach. While they have eight locations, the Vero Beach location is right on the ocean, and you can dine under your own personal tiki with your toes in the sand. If you just want to enjoy a refreshing cocktail and a snack, you can sit on one of their colorful Adirondack chairs and listen to the live music. Their fish tacos are yummy, and their salads are fresh, large, and you can add shrimp, fish, or chicken on top. Excellent happy hour options and sometimes your ocean view comes with a rainbow.

Waldo’s is part of the historic Driftwood Resort located at 3150 Ocean Dr. in Vero Beach. Waldo Sexton built the hotel in 1937 and it is ensconced in Old Florida charm and history. They claim to have the best burger and the beach, and I cannot disagree. Their burgers are good and so is the seafood. I’ve never had a bad meal or drink here – ever! This was one of my stops every time I came here for a vacation long before I moved here. Along with the charm, relaxed vibe and friendly staff, the music is terrific, and people can’t help but dance. Even during season when you wait for a table, the wait is fun because of the drinks and music. I have also had a few business lunches here too. It’s way better than sitting in an office. Lastly, do not miss out on Margarita Madness on Mondays.

The Wave Kitchen & Bar is in the Costa D’Este hotel located at 3244 Ocean Dr Vero Beach. If you eat indoors, they have a piano in the dining room adding to the elegant atmosphere. They also have the Cabana bar with a super happy hour including half-priced appetizers and a wide selection of drink specials. Sit poolside at the Cabana bar or in the outdoor seating lounge by the fire pit. If you like music and dancing, this is your place for fun. My one-year wedding anniversary was here, and they made it memorable with the chef coming out to speak with us and he prepared a special dessert of an assortment of sweet treats served on an icy cold slab of marble. Through the years I’ve also enjoyed plenty of dinners, social events, business meetings, and it’s my go-to place for my annual after party for my radio/podcast talk show.

Grind & Grape is located at 925 Bougainvillea Ln Vero Beach. If you like coffee and wine, you’ll love this place. Come in the morning and enjoy a hand-crafted coffee beverage either hot or cold and pair it with either a savory or sweet breakfast treat, which they serve all day. For the afternoons and evening, come in for a drink. Their wine list is diverse and divine as their cocktails. Their lunch and dinner menu has a nice variety like their breakfast menu. They have live music every day and you won’t want to miss out on their Sunday brunch with jazz music. Flatbreads and cheese and charcuterie boards are delish.

Havana Night’s Piano Bar located upstairs from Maison Martinique in the Caribbean Court Boutique Resort at 1605 Ocean Dr Vero Beach. Whether you go for a complete meal or drinks and tapas, you will be transported back in time to a 50’s Cuban vibe with live piano playing, singing, and dancing. This is a fun and romantic place.

Live in the Loop at Riverside Theatre located at 3250 Riverside Park Dr Vero Beach. If you want to enjoy music, comedy or the theatre and dinner, this is a fun way to do it. They have a casual dining menu along with a top-notch wine and liquor list. The music concerts are free, and you can bring your own lawn chairs or reserve a seat for $5 in their overed table areas.

Vero Beach – Mainland:
American Icon Brewery - old diesel engine generator from the 1920's power plant - Vero BeachAmerican Icon Brewery

American Icon Brewery located at 1133 19th Pl. Vero Beach is in a building with long-standing historical significance. The restaurant and brewery are located in an old diesel power plant built in the 1920’s and has been lovingly preserved through the years. Michael Rechter, the founder and owner, transformed the building while keeping a lot of the original character and even the diesel engine generator that is now part of the bar. The beer they make is terrific and my personal favorites are the 1926 Hef, the Power Plant and The Factory. The Icon burger and Black & Blue burgers are my go-to burgers and I rarely deviate. Their pretzel is awesome too! I love the industrial vibe of this place and it’s where I’ve met with friends, gone out on a date night and work meetings. What makes this place fun is the live music, corn hole, trivia, yoga on the green, and special beer tasting dinners.

Sean Ryan Pub located at 2019 14th Ave in Vero Beach’s downtown has all the charm of an Irish Pub in Dublin with an authentic menu, albeit with some Floridian influence. The fish and chips are always perfect every time I’ve gone there. It is a great place for a drink and to watch the game, but you can also play games like bingo and trivia. If you like live music, they have that too. This restaurant has a friendly, cozy, neighborhood feel. A good time is always had by all.

Filthy’s Fine Cocktails & Beer located at 1238 16th St. Vero Beach is thought by many to be a bar, but it is much more than that. Yes, Filthy’s has a lot of beers, some of them local, on tap and a fantastic cocktail menu but they have food too. Their pizza rivals the local Italian pizzerias, and they do a swift take out business from their kitchen. On Sundays they open at 11am for their Bloody Sunday Brunch. They make the best bloody marys and they have their own menu. You can craft your own cocktail and add food to it that comes with the drink in skewers. I love adding meatballs, caprese salad, shrimp cocktail, bacon, olives, and celery of course. They are known for amazing live music, but they also have bingo on Mondays. It’s a fundraiser for Veterans with PTSD. If you haven’t been here in a while, come and check it out as they have recently renovated the place and it looks really cool.

As you can see, there are many restaurants in Indian River County that do an excellent job creating a fantastic dining experience to go along with delicious food and drinks. If you feel I have missed out on one of your favorite restaurants, tell me about it in the comments below. Make sure to include why you like the restaurant, what your experience was, and events or fun things they offer. I’m sure I missed a few.

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Ellen Contreras is also known as the Treasure Coast Connector because she shares information and writes articles that connects business owners to consumers in the community - Florida's Treasure Coast and beyond. Ellen is an iHeart Radio talk show host at Planet Vero. Her show, Treasure Coast Connector, airs on Saturdays & Sundays at 3pm on WCZR 101.7FM (Stuart to Melbourne, FL). She also writes helpful articles and shares opinions on careers, business development, the Florida lifestyle and more. Follow Ellen on: Livestream - iHeart radio talk show: Spreaker:

Vero Beach, FL

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