For more than a decade, our favorite dining place when returning to Vero from the Orlando airport has been the Yellow Dog Café on US 1 in Malabar a half a dozen miles south of Melbourne.
The Yellow Dog is one of those rare restaurants that combines excellent food with a drop-dead view of the Indian River Lagoon. Totally redone following the 2004 hurricanes, the restaurant consists of three charming dining areas: a cozy room overlooking the lagoon and an open kitchen; a more traditional room filled with antiques; and a large downstairs that opens onto an outdoor seating area leading to a dock (yes, you can come by boat).
On our most recent visit, we once again were shown to a very nice table overlooking the water.
My husband started with the pan seared sea scallop appetizer ($12) and I opted for the chef’s soup of the evening ($4), a tasty beef vegetable. The scallops were perfectly prepared and served with a caper raisin relish, drizzled with a cardamom and ginger sauce.
Following our appetizers, I had the house salad – a mix of mesclun, red beans, roasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese tossed in a citrus balsamic vinaigrette. My husband chose the classic Caesar salad, a nice rendition tossed with a classic Caesar dressing and served with anchovies.
For entrées, I chose the shrimp Louisiana ($34) and my husband opted for one of the evening’s specials, beer-braised short ribs ($38). The short ribs were nothing short of wonderful, served on a bed of mashed potatoes with the beef falling off the bone.
The shrimp Louisiana – sautéed shrimp tossed in garlic, butter and Creole seasoning, served over crawfish grits and vegetable succotash – was one of our rare disappointments. The shrimp were plump and tasty, and the grits were creamy, but the succotash – which should have been a perfect complement for this dish – was more than a bit overdone.
As I have remarked on other occasions, however, the manner in which a restaurant deals with a problem is what separates the average restaurant from the very good ones.
The waitress immediately inquired if I would like a different vegetable, and though I demurred, quickly returned with a side of perfectly grilled asparagus. Then the hostess came by at the end of the meal, insisted on taking the succotash still on the plate back to show the chef, and offered a complimentary dessert.
While our favorite here in the past has been a sinfully rich layered chocolate cake, we opted this time for a sun-dried cherry and chocolate chip bread pudding. In an area that has no shortage of good bread puddings, this one sets the new standard. Woof!
On previous visits, other entrées we have enjoyed include the herb rubbed half-rack of lamb ($30 for the half, $44 for a full rack), and a variety of seafood dishes. Meat entrees which we have sampled and can highly recommend include the mixed grill – a dish that varies from night to night – as well as the filet mignon ($44).
We accompanied our dinners on this most recent visit with selections from the Yellow Dog’s quite decent list of wines by the glass.
Dinner for two is not cheap. Prices of some of the entrees seem to have crept up since our last visit, and dinner for two can easily run you $150 or more before tip.
We would also note that the Yellow Dog Café is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch – giving beachside residents who do not fancy a lengthy drive home after dark (it’s about a 30 mile trip each way) another option for sampling this fine restaurant.