While my travel this past year has only consisted of a few visits to see family in Palm Beach and Jacksonville, I decided to take a short weekend trip to see my friend and explore New Smyrna Beach for the first time. It was only an hour drive from where I live in Orlando, and a very easy one considering there was no weekend traffic on I-4 (hallelujah). I was fortunate to have a great guide to show me around all the local spots – from lobster rolls to waterfront dining to charming wine bars and a distillery, it was a fun time!
Third Wave Cafe
This popular cafe on Flagler Avenue has a charming coffee shop in the front and a tropical oasis out back. We started the day here for brunch and it was packed! I definitely recommend going early or you’ll wait a while for a table. They had yummy brunch cocktails and a delicious frittata. Good atmosphere + good service + good food & drinks = A winner in my book!
While the portions at Third Wave Cafe were generous, we managed to save enough room to sample the famous lobster roll and soups at Cafe Heavenly nearby on Flagler Avenue. It has a very diner feel, which makes sense because it has been there for over 20 years. They exclusively use 100% Maine lobster and don’t skimp on the amount on each roll, as you can see! You can order them warm with butter or cold with mayo. While we were stuffed at this point, the friendly staff brought us samples of their homemade from scratch lobster bisque, New England clam chowder, and corn & crab chowder that they make fresh daily – they were all fantastic! If that wasn’t enough, they also have gelato, fruit smoothies, and wood-fired oven pizzas. Truly heavenly!
River Park Terrace
This cozy cottage and tropical patio is located across from the Indian River and a few blocks away from popular Canal Street. Being so close to the water made the already chilly temperatures feel 10 degrees cooler, so we sat inside at the small bar for a few cocktails made with local Sugar Works liquors. While we didn’t end up eating here (see above – we were stuffed!), the menu looked great and would be worth coming back to when we could enjoy the outdoor seating.
Sugar Works Distillery
This small, family-owned local distillery impressed me so much. Their liquors were available at almost every restaurant we went to, and the quality for the price in my opinion was really great. They currently have mostly rum and whiskey, but they just came out with a limited-edition tequila. If you have the chance to go to their distillery, they offer tastings, tours and cocktail classes!
Perhaps the most popular spot in town, The Garlic is an old school Italian restaurant with a loyal locals crowd. Despite having multiple large dining rooms inside, they added casual outdoor seating, tents and bars serving wine and beer in their parking lot to accommodate those who were waiting or simply didn’t want to sit inside. For reference, we arrived about 15-20 minutes after they opened and there was already a 30-minute wait! I ordered their caprese salad and mussels, but everything that came out of the kitchen looked amazing. From what I could tell, this place was worth the hype.
We ended the night at this local wine bar situated in a house in the Historic District. They have a wraparound patio, live music and a wine shop. A great environment to enjoy unique wines in with good company!
River Deck Tiki Bar & Restaurant
For brunch the next day, we went to this new tiki bar and restaurant next to the River Deck Marina. My friend wanted to make sure we could get a table on the water so we could watch the dolphins, and luckily there were a few sightings! Being by the water instantly puts me in my happy place, and this was the best waterfront view yet. The brunch food wasn’t the best and the cocktails all quite fruity and sugary, but it’s worth going for the atmosphere and a frozen tropical drink.
We were craving some oysters at River Deck but they didn’t have them available for brunch so we drove over to Ocean’s Seafood instead. They have a small cafe area where you order at seafood baskets or prepared fish dishes at the counter, as well as a fish market with local fresh catches. The atmosphere was nothing exciting so I recommend ordering something to go.
For Next Time
- Walk down Canal Street, but not on a Sunday! Almost everything was closed
- Flagler Tavern – Surf ‘n’ turf joins cocktails in a 1920s building with warm, period-inspired decor & verandas
- Off The Hook Raw Bar & Grill – Casual spot offering a variety of seafood sourced from local waters, plus cocktails & sports on TV
- Limoncello – Modern Italian cuisine for a more upscale dining experience
- General Public House – Rustic-chic restaurant specializing in contemporary Southern cuisine plus bourbons and craft beers
- Corkscrew – Updated Southern comfort classics in a relaxed setting with exposed-brick walls & a full bar, located on Canal Street
- SoNapa Grille – Rustic-chic bar/eatery showcasing select, seasonal New American entrees & Northern California wines
- Crabby Joe’s – Family-friendly seafood spot offers casual fare such as coconut shrimp & po boys & a laid-back vibe
- Island Roasters Coffee Company – Local coffee shop roasting organic, fair-trade, single-origin Arabica coffee
- Donnie’s Doughnuts – Modern counter-serve joint offering fresh handcrafted donuts with creative toppings & coffee
- Prima – A small but popular local pizza spot just off Canal Street
- Baci Pizzeria & Ristorante – Specializes in authentic Italian food made from scratch, wood-fired pizza and wine
- The Baker’s Table – Charming bistro & bakery for German specialties & international fare, plus organic desserts. ***UPDATE: My friend Lauren went here recently with her parents and had an amazing experience! She gave me all the insight from the menu to the service to the atmosphere. Their top food recommendations include the creamy Foie Gras appetizer a nice balance of tartness and sweetness from the quince and apple sauce with a drizzle of balsamic (YUM), the gnocchi and crab meat entree with mushrooms, peas and a delicious tarragon sauce (with a generous portion of crab – always important!), the perfectly cooked salmon with ancient grains, and the veal weinerschnitzel with traditional cabbage and potatoes. Sounds so incredible, right?! For dessert, they enjoyed the Rene brûlée and 10 year port wine. SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE! Truly, my family loves a good dessert wine/spirit. As for the restaurant itself, she recommends making a reservation in advance as there’s only about 8 tables inside and 8 chairs at the bar. She did note that the bar seating did look comfortable so that’s not a bad option. There’s also some outdoor seating, for which they provided heat lamps for on a cool night. Also something to keep in mind, the server mentioned that most tables sit for about 2 hours and therefore they don’t rush you out the door like some other places notoriously do. The suggested attire is relaxed, smart casual. Thank you again to Lauren and her parents for the full review! I can’t wait to try it out.
- Sundown Smokehouse – Casual BBQ restaurant offering championship caliber smoked meats
- Merks Bar & Grill – Low-key venue with a covered patio offering pub grub (including their famous wings!), draft beer, cheap drinks, plus pool, shuffleboard & darts
- The Chalice Off Canal – A 1920s themed wine bar and vast backyard serving wine and tapas.