When friends over-nighted here last week on the way back to Coral Gables in their 51-foot trawler after a summer exploring the Maine coast, we obviously had to take them to dinner at the one place neither New England nor South Florida could match – the Ocean Grill.
And as it happens, Vero’s most venerable place to dine was even more of a must-visit than usual, having already engaged in its annual spook-tacular transformation for Halloween.
Until arriving at the Ocean Grill, we had forgotten that we and our guests were in for a haunting dining experience, with ghouls and goblins lurking amid the spider webs that criss-crossed the dining room in preparation for next Saturday’s big event!
Unless you are unusually lucky, you probably won’t be able to get in on the big night itself, when members of the restaurant staff bid to outdo one another for scariest costume.
But you have a week yet to check the Grill out, and this really is something spooktacular you don’t want to miss.
On this evening, we were shown to a very nice table near the window – a bit too dark, despite the full moon, to see much of the waves outside – and our server quickly brought us a nice bottle of pinot noir.
We decided to simply start on this visit with salads. Our two companions and I had the tossed house salad (included with dinner). My husband went for the wedge – a wedge of iceberg lettuce with bleu cheese crumbles ($6 extra with dinner).
For entrees, I ordered the shrimp baked in butter and served in a mustard sauce ($21.95). My husband had one of the evening’s specials, the yellowtail snapper ($29.95), and our two guests both went for the Ocean Grill’s roast duckling ($26.95).
The shrimp were very nice, served in a sauce that I used to enjoy with sea scallops. My husband’s snapper also was well prepared. But our guests absolutely loved the duckling, with its crispy skin and a touch of orange sherry sauce.
Nobody does duck better!
For dessert, we belatedly inquired whether a birthday the day before qualified us for one of the Ocean Grill’s fabulous birthday cakes. Well, these really need to be ordered in advance, was the reply.
But miracle of miracles, five minutes later, our server returned with both a cake and a group of her coworkers signing “Happy Birthday.”
The only downside to this visit was it occurred a day before start of stone crab season, so none of those divine claws was yet available.
But they are on the menu now, and the Ocean Grill serves the crab claws either as an appetizer or an entrée.
Dinner for two with a modest bottle of wine is likely to run you about $90 before tax and tip (if you pass up the somewhat more expensive stone crabs).
I might also note that if you don’t get to the Ocean Grill for Halloween, there is always Christmas – when the Grill turns itself into as much of the quintessential Vero holiday experience as the Ocean Drive Christmas parade.
As a place to bring visitors, and especially at Halloween or Christmas, there is no better choice.
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The reviewer is a beachside resident who dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.