Crush XI- Downtown Melbourne, FL. 5 Stars
Top 5 in Brevard
This week has been all cacanny, for real. It is actually harder to produce top 5 reviews than 1 Star. The reason is because it’s easy to pick apart horrid food. It’s very hard to emphasize the most amazing food that exists. Well, my task this week has been to grapple with the words to tell you how awesome Crush XI is in the food department.
There are very few restaurants that hit on all cylinders from the moment you ...walk in the door. Crush XI is one of those establishments and they earn the number 2 spot on the Best Restaurants in Brevard County list.
You walk into this dynamic place that has perfect lighting with tables situated perfectly. Ambiance is stellar. Service was prompt, attentive and on point.
I started with the house Sazerac. This is a rare drink to find in Brevard County. Not only is it spot on but they Crush it outta the park. Instead of ordering an entree I decided to go tapas style and ordered all of the bites. We started with Brie that was cooked properly and flavorful. I took a taste of the Spanish cheese. It was creamy with a tang on the tongue. Great zing. The buffalo style sweetbreads were spot on. Tender morsels of gland that literally sang a song in my mouth. The charred blue brussels were cooked with kielbasa cippolinis and obviously blue cheese. The layering of flavors in this dish were complex and delightful. We also ordered the Street Corn. This offering was the hero of the night. It is cooked with cilantro and cotija cheese. It is finished with paprika that literally blows you out of your seat. The only dish that was not perfect were the Duck Fat Fries. I am not sure if it was just me but I did not care for the preparation. That said, this restaurant is 5-Star all the way. If you don’t try this Big Boy says you are making a huge mistake.
Brasas Grill-Indialantic, Florida 5-Stars
It is very rare for me to ever eat at the same restaurant twice due to the overwhelming necessity to try every restaurant before I go on to glory. One month ago I ate at Brasas for the first time. I was literally blown away by the complex flavors I experienced. As I sat at home in a state of cachexia pondering my meal options, I decided to satisfy my cravings and return to Brasas.
This den of delight is owned and managed by a pleasa...ntly hyper gentleman named Alberto. His dedication to his food is second only to the infant he carries strapped to his stomach as he works. I decided to duplicate the meal I previously consumed. I ordered a steak skewer, a beef heart skewer, and a quarter chicken. The chicken comes with a side of Peruvian canary beans. The skewers come with home sliced potatoes and hominy on the cob. First let me begin by saying EVERYTHING is seasoned. No salt or pepper is needed. If you put ketchup on the potatoes you will have committed a venal sin. The food is that good. The steak is marinated in a lemon garlic combo that bursts with flavor. The beef hearts are similarly marinated. This was my first foray with heart. While texturally it is unusual, I strongly suggest putting out of your mind what you are eating and please try it. The chicken is a slow roasted rotisserie chicken. This is the weakest entry of the 3, but still better than 90% of the food at other restaurants. All I can say is try it. If the Big Boy goes twice you absolutely should go once.
Le Crave- Suntree/Melbourne 5 Stars
UP AND COMER- 2018
Let me begin by saying this restaurant has the potential to make the Big Boy Dining Out Top Five list.
I know I regularly point out these reviews are all about the food and for the most part that is true. However, to make the top five list you have to have the total package. Le Crave has the ambiance and it definitely has the food, unfortunately, it has significant service issues that I am 100% certain will be completely ...solved in the coming months. Once they are Le Crave will most likely hold the penultimate position on the list.
Let’s talk food, this restaurant is a crepary. However, this is not your average crepe slinger. The owner is an exuberant man named Tuan Le. Mr. Le is originally from Vietnam. What I didn’t know was how much French cooking is part of the Vietnamese culture. So this is a Vietnamese fusion crepary. On my first visit I ordered the lump crab crepe. The crab was so fresh it tasted like pure butter. The crepe is buckwheat, which is rich and flavorful. The flavor layers are INCREDIBLE. Inside are zucchini, onions and red peppers. On top is a tangy red pepper sauce offset with smooth and creamy goat cheese. Each bite is a taste of heaven. On my second visit I ordered the Paris Sunrise. This has artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese. On top is thin slices of prosciutto. Magnificent. This was a true bacchanalian feast. Big Boy gives a Huge recommendation.
Meg O'Malley's- Downtown Melbourne- 4 Stars
The true test of a restaurant's food quality is how busy is it on off days. My trip to Meg's on a Wednesday at 6:15 resulted in a 35 minute wait. It was so packed. This brought a smile to my face because I knew that after 20 years this Bistro is still churning out high quality food.
How hard is it to change your menu? Apparently not very since Meg's does so frequently and with great aplomb. So I ordered the Scotch Egg and seafood M...ac and Cheese. I have never had a scotch egg before. It is a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep fried. I found this dish to be stunning in its conception and execution. Properly layered flavors and the frying was light. It came with a Caesar salad and pickled vegetables. The salad was slightly above average but the pickled vegetables were to die for. Tart, tangy, crisp and bursting with flavor. The Brussel sprouts were seasoned properly and tasted fine. They would have tasted better if they had been fresh and not frozen. I wanted to give Meg's five stars. Sadly, I could not because the Mac and cheese bombed. It was runny. Too much milk had been used. The seafood was literally swimming in water. Quite frankly, I am not sure why the expediter did not catch it. Anyway, Big Boy says try it, just avoid the mac and cheese.
WORST RESTAURANT LIST UPDATE
Over the last week I have posted my reviews from my trip up north over the Christmas holiday. Starting tomorrow we are back in Brevard County for the duration. Despite all of the reviews there was only one change to the worst restaurant list. Here is the info.
WORST RESTAURANT UPDATE. I am making a change to the Worst Restaurant list in Brevard County. I am removing Billie’s from the Dishonorable Mention. It is being replaced by Robburritos Melbo...urne Beach, which was previously the Number 5 worst restaurant in the county. They are now being replaced by Oceanside Pizza. Please see pics for photographic proof. I am also moving Beachside Cafe to number 3 and Deangelo’s to number 2.
Now for the NOT GOOD. If you patronize any of these restaurants and think they provide great food please message me privately.
1. Ethel & Fred’s- Melbourne.
2. Deangelo’s- Melbourne Beach.
3. Beachside Cafe- Indialantic
4. The Blueberry Muffin- Indialantic
5. Oceanside Pizza- Melbourne Beach
Dishonorable Mention: Robburritos Melbourne Beach.
The Huddle Kitchen & Bar- Bolton Landing, NY 4 Stars
Bolton Landing, NY in the wintertime is a ghost town. Thick piles of snow line the streets and other than liquor stores just about everything is closed. Except, I might add the Huddle Kitchen and Bar. This quaint homey locale is open year round. What's amazing is not only that they are open but the quality and execution of the food they are serving in this down time is incredible.
I ordered a sirloin burger. Out came this ...fresh ground sirloin perfectly seasoned and exceptionally grilled medium on a soft bun that was toasted and grilled topped with a generous slice of cheese. The side was potato chips. Why chips you ask? They are homemade. I don't mean prepared days earlier and re-heated but fried to order delicious chunks of fried potato slices. Again, served seasoned. I try to drive this point across because most restaurants are lazy and serve bland food. They hand you a salt and pepper shaker and tell you to have at it. A true mark of a genius chef is one who prepares the food his way and serves it. The Huddle Kitchen does that. If you are ever upstate, Big Boy says give it a try.
La Bella Vita- Bolton Landing, NY- 3 Stars
On our second day at the Sagamore we chose to have breakfast at La Bella Vita inside the hotel. Breakfast can be ordered a la carte or you can partake in a huge breakfast buffet where the bulk of the items are made to order on demand. The dining area is large with open tables. All with a spectacular view of Lake George. Despite there being an over abundance of service staff, like most buffets, the servers were asleep at the wheel. B...ut as I always say this is about the food. Entering the buffet expanse you are greeted by no less than 4 cooks. One making pancakes, another on eggs, and another on waffles. There were chafing dishes full of delectable treats. What was most amazing was a bacciferous bowl chocked full of strawberries and raspberries. We ordered an everything omelet, pancakes and waffles. All were prepared well but nothing was spectacular. This was just average. #dining #sagamore #travel
Mr. Brown’s Pub- Bolton Landing, NY 4 Stars
After a long slog from New York City to upstate New York we finally arrived at our destination, the Sagamore Hotel and resort. We checked into our room and decided we needed chow quickly. Of course there was snow on the ground and 12 degree weather which was truly spectacular.
We alighted down the stairs to Mr. Brown’s Pub and were greeted with a rustic wood decor almost southern barbecue style. There is minimal seating but most ...seats have a spectacular view of the lake.
I ordered the Brunch Burger. It came as a 1/2 pound hand patted top shelf burger covered with fresh ingredients of lettuce, tomato and onion. It also is topped with a great egg that truly balances the meat served on a toasted and slightly grilled bun. I ordered a side of fries that were hand cut and seasoned. This meal truly packed a punch and satisfied this weary traveler. Big Boy says give it a try.
Vernick Food & Drink- Philadelphia, Pa. 5 Stars
NUMBER 1 ALL USA ALL-TIME!!
As we drive north on Christmas Eve I felt a stop in the City of Brotherly Love was appropriate. It was not easy to reserve a fine dining adventure. Vernick could get us in at 11:00pm. I took it because I know how highly regarded this locale is. As we were driving I called and asked if there had been any cancellations. Lucky for me there was. 6:30pm. With a nine year old in tow it was much better.
So ...we get to the restaurant and it's very small but packed to the rafters with people. This to me is always a good sign. All of the tables were very close together. However, being in an establishment like this you never have to worry. Everyone was dressed up and professional. They only downside to this review is it was too dark inside for me to snap pics of the food. I took them but they did not come out well.
On to the substance of the experience. The drink menu is easily the coolest array of cocktails I have ever experienced. I started with the House Old Fashioned. A perfect balance of flavors between the bourbon, the butters and the Demerara sugar. My second drink was the Deshler a fine combination of top shelf rye whiskey, dubonnet and dry curaçao. If we were staying in town a few days I would have had more.
As I perused the menu I began to wonder why restaurants with a diverse menu like Vernicks do not exist in my neck of the woods. Anyway, I started with fluke served sashimi style in a light piquant broth. The fluke was so fresh it was still moving on my plate. This was my first foray with fluke and it was way worth it. The adventure continued with veal sweetbreads. This organ was so juicy and tender. The sauce was decadent and smooth. I wrapped up with the venison. I have consumed venison over 20 times in my life. Every single time I always taste a gamey note at the end. The Vernick venison was sans that note. How they did it I do not know. My daughter who is finicky tried it and thought it was filet mignon. After finishing the meal, we went to exit and the hostess was handing out packs of fresh baked chocolate fudge cookies. Thoroughly amazing. Big Boy rates this number 1 in the country.
Mario's Pizza & Restaurant- Rocky Mount, NC 1 Star
At the end of the movie Goodfellas Ray Liotta is relocated in the witness protection program. He looks and the camera and says I went into and Italian Restaurant and ordered spaghetti they served me egg noodles with ketchup. Mario's is not quite that bad but it's very close. I ordered veal Parmigiana and manicotti. The menu said homemade sauce. I asked the server if the sauce was genuinely homemade. When she paused before an...swering I knew I was about to hear a misrepresentation. Of course once the meal arrived it was blatantly obvious the sauce was a bulk distributor product. It was tasteless. The cheese that was melted on top must have been some ultra bland version of provolone because it was bad. Of course this was the upside of the meal. The veal was served in rubbery chunks of unappetizing breading that tasted like it had been sitting in the freezer for weeks. To add insult to injury the service was abominable. Our server had a personality like a bucket of turnips.
I am not sure why Italian restaurants throughout the country are so hit and miss. It literally is the easiest food in the world to make. However, so many people mess it up. Big Boy says if you are in Rocky Mount dont eat at Mario's
The Public Kitchen & Bar- Savannah, Georgia 4 Stars
This was the first stop on Big Boys northern Christmas adventure. Before eating we stopped at the Mercer House, Where Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil was based. Then we walked a luxurious mile to this incredible restaurant in the heart of Savannah.
The inside is small and on a Saturday at 3:00pm there was a line to get in. That gave me great home. This restaurant typifies the current food movement. Fresh original ing...redients prepared with love and flawless execution.
The menu is not large but it is diverse. Catering to even the most discriminating palate. To start I order a High Fashioned. This was a traditional old fashioned with a twist. Top shelf whisky and premium bitters. This was an amazing refreshing drink. If we were not traveling I would have had several more, that is how awesome a cocktail it is. For my entree I requested a Public Burger with lamb. It is served medium with caramelized onions, mushrooms, provolone cheese and a sriracha aioli that literally knocks your socks off with flavor. The cole slaw is freshly made and seasoned to perfection. The chef here obviously put great thought into something as simple as a burger. Three cheers and the Big Boy says, if you’re in Savannah, Georgia try it!!!
Bar Refuge- Melbourne- 4 Stars
The building that now houses Bar Refuge has been here for 50 years. This restaurant is the first time something special has been here and Tracy the owner of this establishment was done an amazing job with the decor. Amazingly, this locale is NOT all show with no go. The food here is designed for maximum palate enjoyment.
We started the meal with 3 different tapas offerings. The refuge tots, the Mac and cheese and the deviled eggs. I am thorough...ly besotted with deviled eggs. These eggs were cooked properly and the inside was bursting with a flavorful punch. The mac and cheese was fluffy and creamy that achieved a perfect balance of flavors. The refuge tots are a cool idea. My tots were a tad overcooked but the cheese combo turns this into an upscale cheese fries offering. I finished with the fish tacos. The sauce was spectacular, the fish was cooked just right and they even grilled the flour tortilla which is a plus for me always. So you ask with all of this positive feedback why not a 5 star. Great question. Bar Refuge is in a gray area of classification. Not quite fine dining but better than a gastro pub. Big Boy says try it you will like it.