Wild Ocean Seafood Market’s ocean-ensconced staff helps customers peruse local fishermen’s wild-caught bounty, specializing in hand-processed rock shrimp and other locally sourced grocery items. Like the most humble bananas, royal red shrimp comes peeled and deveined ($11.50/lb.), and a flash-freezing process maintains freshly caught flavor. Not satisfied sticking to one ecosystem, Wild Ocean Seafood Market also boasts landlubbing sustenance, such as cage-free eggs ($3.99/dozen) and grass-fed beef, all from nearby farms, plus aquatic fare from across the country, such as Alaskan king crab, lobster from Maine, and starfish plucked from the lenses of telescopes.
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.
With fish selections as varied as baked stuffed haddock and the Boston Big Boy—a fried-fish sandwich layered with coleslaw, french fries, and cheese—seafood certainly earned its place in this restaurant's name. But maybe an even bigger presence than the Big Boy are the restaurant's signature roast-beef sandwiches, which are piled high with medium-rare roast beef sliced to order. Dinner entrees include top sirloin and 1.5-pound Maine lobster, though seafood is also a mainstay in the restaurant's breakfast dishes like crab-meat benedicts.
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.
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.