James Stadler grew up in Maryland, going to school during the week and working in local seafood eateries on evenings and weekends. One summer, more than 40 years ago, he took a spring break vacation with school mates to Cocoa Beach, and immediately decided it was the place for him to be. It took him a few decades to make his way down, mostly because of traffic in Atlanta. But when he arrived, James set about opening his very own restaurant by the sea. He called his diner Paradise Cove, and in it he combined the Northeastern seafood he so loved with steaks, sandwiches, and a bit of Floridian flavor.
James curates an extensive menu, from which he particularly recommends the Maryland-style crab cakes, a specialty of his that he learned to make in his youth. Of course, he makes many dishes that incorporate more local, tropical flavors, such as the jumbo shrimp grilled on sugar cane skewers. Whatever his guests have a hankering for, he ensures that their appetite for live entertainment is satisfied with nightly events, including karaoke and performances by local musician Brian Blatz with the nearby ocean on percussion.
Stretching itself across an 800-foot pier and inside five distinct restaurants, the 20th Annual Rockin' the Dock New Year's Eve Party welcomes revelers of all ages to its festive environs. Four live bands perform toe-tapping ditties for merrymakers, and each space boasts televisions screening celebrations from around the world and the earth's surprisingly raucous core. Enjoy sips of champagne during the midnight toast, then spin under balloon drops, multihued confetti, and the ocean breeze whistling through noisemakers.
Merritt's Table welcomes diners into a converted historic home, built in 1926 and offering ideal acoustics for clinking glasses brimming with boutique wine. Seated around white-linen-capped tables set across multiple small dining rooms, patrons savor selections from the day's small plates, which in the past have included hon-shimeji mushrooms—sautéed in butter, shallots, and porcini-mushroom stock—and roasted chicken and black-eyed-pea stew imbued with toscano kale. Among previous farm-fresh entrees, highlights include a braised osso buco ragout with buttermilk turnip puree, grilled flat iron steak with smoky paprika pasta and cheese, and Canaveral white shrimp drizzled with a Monterey mushroom and heirloom-tomato pan sauce and paired with Anson Mills cheese grits, one of chef Bolton's signature sides. To accompany entrees, owner Laura Farrelly scours the globe to stock Merritt's sprawling wine list with such selections as a flowery Alois Lageder pinot grigio and rich Cartlidge & Browne cabernet sauvignon.
Cooking pasta at home is as simple as pulling noodles out of a box and tossing them in some boiling water. At DeAngelo’s By the Sea, a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award winner in 2013, the process is a bit more complicated. Using all-natural ingredients––water, stone-ground flour, and eggs––chefs extrude pasta through hand-carved bronze dies. They then let the noodles air dry, resulting in an al dente texture that is firm enough to hold sauces but still too delicate to catch a parachuting baby. Penne, spaghetti, linguine, and lasagna dishes anchor the menu, but diners can also get a taste of Italy with more than a dozen specialty pizzas. Like with the pastas, the pizzas epitomize freshness, utilizing such ingredients as San Marzano tomatoes, pure flour from Napoli, and Sicilian sea salt.
Crabby Bill’s chefs serve up succulent seafood alongside stunning views of the Marina on Lake Toho. Warm up jaws with florida alligator bites made from real gator tail, dusted with seasoned flour, flash fried, and served with stone sauce ($6.99). Watering mouths can saddle up to the shell bar, which slings raw and prime gulf oysters from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas prepared in a variety of ways including the Crabbyfellar, a plate of six baked oysters topped with house-made creamy crab and spinach dip ($5.99). Tantalize taste buds with surf and turf combinations such as the center cut filet mignon paired with grilled sugar cane skewered-shrimp basted in garlic butter ($17.99) or try fresh gulf grouper, which is caught off the coast and then blackened, grilled, or fried, before it's released into guests’ bellies ($18.99). For king-size appetites, try a 1.5-pound of alaskan king crab, a mountainous monarchy of legs and claws ruling over the table, demanding offerings of drawn butter to coat its rich, sweet meat ($32.99).