DINING – First Bites: The Chubby Mullet Bar and Grill

Driving up U.S. 1 toward Melbourne, you can’t help but crack a smile when, just across the San Sebastian River bridge, you encounter a roadside sign with a huge jumping mullet – a very Chubby Mullet.

We wondered if this new restaurant actually served mullet, since you are more likely to spot this small, ubiquitous-but-hard-to-catch fish jumping as it is chased by larger fish than you are to see it on local menus. So we stopped in recently to check the Chubby Mullet out.

No, there was no fried mullet to be had on this visit – though they have it on occasion. But there were a variety of other fish and seafood offerings, some of them pretty darn good.

Headline news: The Chubby Mullet is a very casual eatery, located on the north side of the Sebastian Inlet Marina. The food is served using plastic dishes and utensils (ostensibly to protect the lagoon from harsh commercial dish washing chemicals). While the Chubby Mullet is “on the lagoon” and you can see the lagoon if seated at the bar, most of the views do not shout scenic waterfront restaurant.

Look & Feel: This is a small place decorated in muted colors, with a lot of wood, and huge “fish art” on the walls. It has an outside eating area that includes a couple of picnic tables that would be fine for lunch with the kids – or for listening to live music on weekend evenings – but the outside ambiance is not so much waterfront as it is asphalt chain link fence. It is not a place many would pick to dine al fresco.

Food: On our visit, our party of three sampled the chowder of the day, two appetizers, and three entrées.

The appetizers we tried were the conch spring rolls ($10) and the stuffed chubby clams ($10). The lightly fried spring rolls were filled with a tasty mix of ground conch, red and yellow peppers, onions, cilantro and lime juice. Quite good. And the stuffed clams were great, loaded with clams, manchego cheese, bacon and homemade bread crumbs. Highly recommended.

Not recommended, on the other hand, was the so-called New England clam chowder ($3), which bore no resemblance to anything ever encountered in the Northeast.

Then for main courses, we tried the fresh catch of the day (market price), the grilled shrimp dinner ($18), and Inlet tacos with rock shrimp and shrimp ($11). You get a choice of two sides with the entrées.

The tacos consisted of three tortillas filled with rock shrimp and shrimp, shredded lettuce, manchego cheese and diced tomatoes, with sour cream, salsa and optional guacamole on the side. Not bad.

But the fresh catch on this visit was hog snapper – a beautiful piece of fish, perfectly grilled, and served with sides of sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. And the large platter of grilled shrimp, accompanied by beans and rice, was very tasty.

For dessert, we tried “Grandma’s” Key Lime pie. I don’t know who grandma is, but her tart pie is a great rendition of this Florida favorite.

Drink: The Chubby Mullet is more of a beer than a wine place – with a very limited selection of wines. Happy hour gets you two-for-one deals from 3 to 6 weekdays.

Service: Our server Elizabeth was very attentive, and suggested several dishes we enjoyed. The only one of her favorites we didn’t try was the Mahi Reuben ($12), which sounded like a good lunchtime choice.

Prices: Entrée prices run from $16 to $22.50 for a New York strip steak. Dinner for two with an appetizer, an entrée, a dessert, and a couple of beers or glasses of wine, would probably run $80 to $100 before tax and tip.

Initial impressions: Ever go to a waterfront restaurant where the ambiance and views were great, but the food not very good? Well, the Chubby Mullet is something of the opposite. There’s not as much as you might expect to look at, but it offers creative, well-prepared food.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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