Having grown up in Baltimore, Chef Kahn Vongdara showcases a cooking style infused with the flavors and ingredients of Chesapeake Bay. At Crab Cake Factory, he has compiled a menu featuring Maryland-style crab cakes and dishes such as trout and crayfish brushed with roasted-pecan sauce. Chef Kahn's hefty 16-ounce new york strip steak with crispy potato strings is served in a dining room—full of plush booths and wooden tables—where musicians pluck strings and sensually massage their saxophones. To complement the surf 'n' turf lineup and Jacksonville Jaguars games in the lounge, the eatery's mixologists offer more than 10 martinis, including the Cupid's Potion, crafted with Three Olives vanilla vodka and strawberry liqueur.
North Beach Bistro is more than a restaurant—it's a legacy. The upscale eatery was the vision of renowned chef Tony Pels, who trained with culinary giants such as Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard, and chef David Seavey, whom Pels mentored for 15 years at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Pels passed away only two months before the restaurant's opening in June of 2008, leaving executive chef Seavey to carry on his tradition of culinary creativity and generosity.
Spurred on by this responsibility, Seavey combines the freshest ingredients with a genuine love for his fellow Floridians. The Jacksonville native crafts hearty and flavorful surf 'n' turf entrees such as the bistro bouillabaisse with Mayport shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish or chargrilled Black Angus filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms and port wine sauce. Reddish-gold fixtures in the bar emanate light that's as warm and welcoming as the chef himself. DJs and live music keep the space vibrant, and the dining room's wood floors and spot-lit art give it an air of sophistication. Weekly trivia nights arm guests with knowledge that makes an ideal conversation starter or helps pass the time while stuck in an elevator with Ken Jennings.
The DeLand Stockyard is renowned for its steaks, which earned the “Best Steakhouse” vote from Hometown News readers in 2012 and a Best of the West award from The Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2010, 2012, and 2013, as well as for its history. The restaurant’s structure was built in the 1920s, and its rich wood paneling and stately décor, replete with black and white photos and mounted portraits on the wall, reflects this storied history. Atop dark wood tables, the wait staff sets down steakhouse staples, from juicy burgers and grilled seafood to the hefty porterhouse, which weighs in at 24 ounces of char-grilled goodness.
Hurricane Grill & Wings showcases its library of more than 30 sauces in dishes that blend American, Mexican, and tropical influences. Their sauces' level of spiciness mimics hurricane intensity ratings, from the honey or mango barbecue options occupying Category 1 to the Ridiculously Hot Hurricane sauce in Category 5. In between sit flavors of ancho chili and lime, Jamaican jerk, chipotle raspberry, and spicy sweet chili. Baskets of jumbo or boneless wings come tossed in guests’ sauces of choice, as do grilled chicken or mahi-mahi sandwiches.
Elsewhere on the menu are tropically themed selections such as firecracker shrimp tacos, Southwest-style churrasco steak, and Monterey jack–filled quesadillas. The to-go menu can accommodate large gatherings, such as sports-watching parties or jury-duty reunions. Meanwhile, the full bar features island cocktails and bottle and tap beers from a variety of microbreweries to help subdue roaring mouth fires.
Ocean Grille isn’t your typical seafood shack. An iridescent blue bar takes up prime real estate in the middle of the restaurant, bathing the dining room in an indigo glow that emanates from the wrap-around lighting. A slew of HDTVs tilt from the ceiling toward diners. It’s not surprising, that the seaside spot doubles as a nightclub after dining hours. DJs play club music as bartenders pour cocktails for revelers and mermaid bachelorette parties. There’s even complimentary valet parking every night. Diners interested in breathing in some fresh air while ogling land-based panoramas can grab a seat on the outdoor patio, which overlooks grass-covered dunes.
But Ocean Grille isn’t all atmosphere. The menu delights diners with unorthodox eats, such as gator bites, conch fritters, and chargrilled oysters served with white wine, garlic, and butter. The restaurants also pays homage to the classics with grouper sandwiches and grilled tenderloin.
Christopher Seafood serves up crab-happily scrumptious Chesapeake Bay fare and other varieties of sea- and land-food fashioned by the experienced hands of head chef Kahn Vongdara. Fill an empty bio-tank with a steamy cup or bowl of Maryland crab vegetable soup ($3.95 cup, $5.95 bowl), before savoring a sesame-seared ahi tuna salad served atop seaweed, cucumber, and pickled ginger drizzled with honey-soy vinaigrette ($12.95). The broiled blue jumbo-lump crab cakes, a restaurant specialty, feature a seasoned duo of crab spheres served over organic greens and mango salsa, topped with a citrus-butter chardonnay sauce ($25.95). Crispy fried options include the jumbo coconut-encrusted shrimp with orange-ginger dipping sauce ($8.95), and pastavores will appreciate a dish of seafood linguini marinara, featuring dapper pan-seared shrimp, sea scallops, and mussels that smoothly escort linguini down the throat carpet ($17.95).