By Tammy Roberts
Senior staff writer
Melbourne Beach has certainly met its match with the town's newest restaurant, David's Steak & Seafood.
With its chic black tablecloths, modern bar area and subtle, yet sophisticated décor, the venue creates just the right atmosphere to complement the town's simplistic lifestyle.
"We wanted to create a 'polished casual' type of environment," said David Green, who opened the restaurant in January.
"We looked for an area that we felt was lacking in this type of dining," he said. "You have a fine dining establishment on one end and then you have more of a 'beach dining' establishment on the other. We felt there was a market for a middle ground here in Melbourne Beach."
Nestled in a longstanding plaza on Ocean Avenue, David's Steak & Seafood replaced the Beach Street Eatery, a small-town staple made popular by locals and visitors alike.
Setting foot inside David's, my guest and I were surprised by the noticeable transformation of the restaurant's interior, which, we agreed, could be seen just as easily in a big-city environment as on the beach.
Our eyes were drawn to the modern fan fixtures that added a sense of playfulness to the sleek black ceiling and the array of original Florida Highwaymen paintings adorning the clean, tan walls.
As we scanned the spacious room, we saw a polished wait staff tidying up the tables, in anticipation of the impending dinner rush.
We received a warm welcome by our friendly, attentive and very knowledgeable server, Stela Tolman, and were seated in a cozy leather booth.
My guest and I marveled over the restaurant's refined menu, which boasts a lovely selection of mouthwatering entrées, including several items you could see at a fine-dining establishment, but at a pleasingly affordable price.
The lunch menu features such midday selections as Fettuccine Alfredo, grilled salmon and chicken parmesan; sandwiches including a ribeye, crabcake and chicken salad; and fresh salads, which can be topped with anything from grilled shrimp and scallops to grilled chicken or mahi - with every entrée priced around $10.
The dinner menu offers several of the same choices, as well as a variety of other delectable items.
Appetizers range from shrimp scampi with ciabatta toast points to a rib basket over french fries, while the main courses include everything from a beef brisket sandwich to an 8 oz. grilled chicken breast, topped with a port-wine reduction.
Pasta and seafood selections include a grilled or fried shrimp platter, grilled salmon, topped with a smoky bacon citrus glaze, and "David's Favorite," which is described as shrimp and scallops tossed in a spicy marinara and served over linguine.
For the hearty eaters, the menu offers a variety of hand-cut steaks and chops, including pork chops, filets, sirloins and ribeyes, as well as two "Surf and Turf" selections.
The establishment welcomes vegetarian eaters, as well, and even offers a colorful kids menu - sure to satisfy the little ones - in which each selection comes with one of five sides, a drink with free refills and a dessert, for $6.99.
"We don't want to portray a stuffy, fine-dining kind of vibe," Mr. Green said. "We invite people to come in off the beach and bring the kids and the same goes for couples or friends, who are looking for a nice, relaxed night out. 'Comfortable' is a word we hear a lot from our customers."
In an effort to make the very best of our experience, Mr. Green brought out the venue's most adored asset, Chef Johnathan Fort.
Whether it has been cooking, serving or front of the house, Chef Fort has been in the restaurant business for the past 18 years.
Mr. Green speaks very highly of his head chef, and after tasting his food, it's easy to see why.
"I actually met Johnathan when he was on my staff at Carrabba's and really liked his style," said Mr. Green of his seven years as co-owner of the Palm Bay Carrabba's before opening his own restaurant. "He worked his way up the ranks, but I had no idea what he could also do in the kitchen."
We asked the chef to use his best judgment and serve us his most popular and delectable items. And boy, were we impressed.
We started our meal with two glasses of white wine and a basket of homemade bread, served with three samplings of butter - plain, garlic-flavored and our favorite, honey butter with cinnamon.
Then Ms. Tolman served us hands-down THE most delicious soup I have EVER tasted, a made-from-scratch roasted red-pepper bisque.
After slurping down every last spoonful (causing me to nearly smack away Ms. Tolman's hand when she asked if she could take my bowl) of that savory, spice-filled soup, I could have left the restaurant right then feeling satisfied.
But then came our salads, drizzled in a house honey chipotle vinaigrette dressing that had a noticeable punch of spices, which led us to the delightful understanding that vibrant, flavorsome food may be the hallmark of this establishment.
And in voicing our satisfaction this far, the kind-hearted, yet modest, Mr. Green insisted we pair each course with a different sampling of wine in order to truly bring out the intensity of all the flavors, which was a welcomed change to my typical Thursday evening of too much caffeine and day-before-deadline writing.
As an appetizer, we sampled a trio of noticeably fresh, flavor-packed crab cakes with a roasted red-pepper burrel sauce, crunchy coconut shrimp with a spicy citrus marmalade and a Southern favorite, fried green tomatoes with a tangy aioli sauce.
Soon, it was time for the real stars of the evening, our entrées, which truly highlighted the creativity of the chef.
A self-proclaimed seafood aficionado, my guest took first dibs on a fresh piece of blackened mahi mahi, which was paired with a Columbia Crest chardonnay, and served with two of the venue's most popular sides, red beans and rice and zucchini sautéed with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese.
However, I was perfectly content on delighting in my perfectly-cooked, hand-cut 8 oz. Teriyaki Sirloin, paired with three (yes, three) samplings of red wine, and served with a side of potatoes au gratin, featuring Chef Fort's favorite bread-crumb substitute, crumbled Ritz crackers.
As if our night could get any better, Ms. Tolman topped off our delicious dinner with a slice of subtly sweet, mouthwatering guava cheesecake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It was the absolutely perfect ending to a delicious meal neither of us will soon forget.
"When guests come to this restaurant, the expectation should be comfort in a casual dining atmosphere that delivers on a hearty meal, great service, friendly faces and the chance to see your neighbors," Mr. Green said.
Well, Mr. Green - you sure made a believer out of me.
David's Steak & Seafood is at 302 Ocean Ave., Melbourne Beach.
Happy Hour is every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and catering and private-event booking are also available.
Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Call (321) 392-2029 or visit www.davidssteakandseafood.com.