Yellow Dog Cafe: Florida’s Most Romantic Dining
I had this great idea to write an article on the most romantic restaurants in the Vero Beach vicinity for Valentine’s Day and I had envisioned a list of 8-10 of them. However, after my experience at Yellow Dog Cafe, I knew there could not be any others because THIS IS the most romantic restaurant, not only in my area but in the entire state of Florida.
My first time at Yellow Dog Cafe was three years ago when I was still commuting between West Virginia and Florida. My husband picked me up at the Melbourne airport and we stopped there for dinner on our drive to Vero Beach. That nights special was Lobster Newburg and I was blown away by how tremendous everything I ate was. From the appetizers and salad to dinner and dessert, everything was divine and second to none. Three years later, I am still telling all my friends about that unique experience.
Back to the present, my friend Michele and I went to Yellow Dog Cafe to eat dinner. Valet parking is free, so we had only walk about ten steps to get inside the restaurant where a team of friendly staff was waiting to seat us. Michele and I were shown into the Green Room to our table, directly by a window overlooking the waterfront and in plain sight of watching the excellent team of chefs prepares our food.
Yellow Dog Cafe owner, Stuart and Nancy, both chefs as well, greeted us with open arms and made us feel incredibly welcome. Tara was our well-trained server and she rattled off all of the intricate specials of the day with no problem and impressed me with her suggestive selling, a plus in the restaurant business.
Starters and Wine
Michele ordered her favorite glass of wine, and we chose the Baked Brie to start with. Yellow Dog offers a Charcuterie Platter, one of my favorite things, but we felt that it might be too much food because we were already thinking soup in addition to entrees. Our appetizer arrived with the Brie perfectly oozing out as it was cut, and was served with orange slices (we are the in the citrus capital of the world here at Indian River County), granny smith apple slices, crisp handmade crackers, and grapes. It was wrapped in puff pastry and topped with a cranberry-cherry sauce. We nearly licked the platter clean. Next up, soup!
The Yellow Dog Cafe is known for their Crab Bisque so we felt that we must try a cup to see for ourselves. It came with their signature dog mascot in cracker form standing in the rich broth. No wonder they are “known” for this bisque, as it is rich, but not too rich, delicate, and packed with bits of crab, delicious, succulent pieces of crab. We were given a basket of fresh baked sliced bread and butter. Yellow Dog bakes all their bread in-house.
Our entree choices were difficult to select because everything sounded amazing. After much deliberation, we chose to share the Crab Cakes and Pecan Crusted Mahi-Mahi. Our choices were superb! I couldn’t have asked for them to have been any better.
Something about the Yellow Dog I had forgotten, was the most impressive thing to me about my last meal there: the Himalayan red rice. I have never had this side dish anywhere else. It is to die for!
Our plates arrived and were almost too pretty to eat. The plating is an art form and as the saying goes, “we eat with your eyes,” so I was doing good just looking at these masterpieces.
Yellow Dog’s crab cakes were standard size and drizzled with a yellow sauce. They were paired with the Himalayan red rice with a side of tasty haricot vert. The pecan crusted Mahi-Mahi was topped with a luscious vanilla bean infused praline sauce, and had the same presentation as the crab cakes. We immediately dug in and did not stop until both plates were clean.
Sometimes words cannot describe the euphoria you feel when you eat something so incredible, but the best I can come up with is bliss. The crab cakes were full of crabmeat and very little filler. The sauce was a saffron cream sauce that had a velvety texture and a little kick to it. It was perfect; much better than a typical remoulade or hollandaise. Tara, our server, had cautioned us as we ordered the Mahi that the dish was very sweet, which was fine by us; and fine it was. This fish was maybe the best I have ever had. I loved it! The sweet sauce against the thick piece of fish and the delicious rice was a perfect combination, cutting the sweetness just right. Somebody pinch me because I feel as if I am in a dream from this amazing food and gorgeous, romantic ambiance.
The Sinful Dessert Tray
As we concluded our dining experience, Tara arrived at the table with the ever-popular dessert tray. Not your average tray, as this one contained ten items, in regular size and minis. Yellow Dog Cafe is known for three dessert items especially: Bread Pudding, Berry Peach Cobbler, and the Chocolate Dog Bone. We ordered a couple of minis and anxiously awaited these sweet treats. Yellow Dog Cafe desserts are prepared by an in-house pastry chef.
The plates arrived and we feasted; Michele on the dog bone and bread pudding and me on the bread pudding and berry cheesecake. The dog bone is a rich chocolate walnut brownie dipped in ganache and topped with ice cream. Yellow Dog’s bread pudding is one of the best I have ever had, and the few chocolate chips and raisins added the perfect sweetness to this rich dish; plus the dog mascot cookie adoring the dish is yummy. I have not eaten cheesecake in 10 years because I always find it mediocre at restaurants, but this cheesecake, though just a tiny portion, was ultra-creamy and wonderful, topped with three juicy berries on the top.
They Won Me Over…Again
I think it is apparent that I am now an even bigger Yellow Dog Cafe fan and was entirely pleased with everything I put in my mouth. Michele felt the same way. The fact that they go to such great lengths to have a beautiful restaurant with top quality ingredients, creative recipes, and friendly well-trained staff, adds the polish to this gem that most places this day are lacking.
Being a blogger, I have my share of good meals in exotic locations around the world and compile a post at the end of each year about my best experiences. The only sad part of my visit to Yellow Dog is that I have now had my best meal of 2016 early in February, which leaves a very high measuring stick for the other restaurants that will compete but doubtfully will surpass. My thanks for the entire staff and chefs for my exceptional evening.
Notes about the Yellow Dog Cafe
A bit about the restaurant: Yellow Dog Cafe is a fine dining establishment that consists of 8 separate dining rooms: The library, patio room, room 11, green room, dock, cabana on the river, open covered porch, and new room. They host special events and even weddings, a big hit outside at the gazebo on the waterfront. I recommend the private dock for the ultimate romantic experience as you dine under the stars over the Indian River, 400 feet from land. Reservations are required.
At night, sparkling white lights line the riverfront paths and huge extended pier, a gorgeous place for a romantic stroll. A multi-leveled riverfront covered porch is the perfect place to have lunch while watching the magnificent views and boats on the Indian River. It is their goal to exceed your expectations. Let them plan your special events such as a wedding or baby shower, retirement party, birthday shindig, holiday party, or corporate event.
Patrons often go downstairs to the bar and have a cocktail while enjoying the views before dining. The uber-friendly bartenders are eager to serve you one of their many signature cocktails. After meeting a few of the bar staff, it would appear Yellow Dog has a steady group of “regulars” and a friendly relationship with all of them.
A small gift shop offers exclusive “Dog” gifts and apparel. The cookbooks were beautiful and had many great recipes and they even offer a kid’s cookbook. Yellow Dog sells bottled dressings, signature wine glasses, and most recently Borton’s new line of packaged seasonings and grains that would make a great gift. All of these wonderful special touches make it no wonder that Trip Advisor gave Yellow Dog Cafe the Certificate of Excellence in 2015 and 138 diners ranked them as “excellent”.
Meet the owners: Stuart and Nancy Borton are the friendliest restaurant owners as well as chefs. They are in touch with their audience and current food trends as well as appear to have a great working relationship with their staff. I got the vibe they were one big extended family and it seems they both pour their heart out in a labor of love to growing their business and offering ways to make everyone who enters the doors day special. Stuart has worked in restaurants since he was 21 (at that time in Australia) and owned his first restaurant shortly after. Even celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse has showcased these magnificent chefs.
Yellow Dog Cafe on the Indian River in Malabar
905 US Highway 1, Malabar, FL 32950
Want to see a virtual tour? Click here.