We’ve found ourselves spending a lot of our time in the United States chilling out on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Named for a Spanish treasure fleet that was lost in a hurricane off the east coast of Florida in 1715, the Treasure Coast includes the metropolitan areas of Sebastian-Vero Beach and Port St. Lucie.
Sebastian is a small city nestled between Melbourne and Vero Beach along the banks of the Indian River, which is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Sebastian was settled as a fishing village in the 1880’s, and still retains a quaint old Florida feel. There are no high-rise resorts and very few tourists. The vibe is slow and relaxed; life is easy. It’s been an ideal place for us to shake off our travel bug and just be for a while.
What can you do here? Go for a walk through a nature preserve, rent a kayak or a pontoon boat for a day of boating on the Indian River, or go on a waterfront dock bar crawl. The city has done a great job of making the waterfront accessible. A paved scenic walkway runs the 1.5 mile length of Sebastian’s waterfront, beginning at the Riverview Park, passing by dock bars, restaurants, municipal boat ramps and parks along the way on Indian River Drive. There are even public restrooms on the walkway – so thoughtful!
There are no fancy restaurants with haute cuisine. Fried seafood is king here and you’ll find it on every menu. If you’re a fan of fried, you’ll be very happy. Every restaurant has their version of the Florida standards: conch fritters, smoked fish dip, and some form of mahi-mahi. All of the restaurants and tiki bars are casual and laid back. Just put on a pair of flip flops, shorts and a T-shirt and you’re ready to go on a dock bar crawl.
These are our favorites, starting from the Riverview Park and walking north.
Mulligan’s Beach House Bar & Grill
Mulligan’s Beach House is the first waterfront restaurant you come to just across from the Riverview Park. Mulligan’s was founded in 1997 and now has seven waterfront locations in Florida. The Sebastian building sits on a dock with three sides overlooking the river through big glass windows. There is a large central bar inside were the bartenders are friendly and attentive.
Mulligan’s is where you want to be between 3-6pm for Happy Hour. They also have a Sunrise Happy Hour from 9-10am and a Late Happy Hour from 9pm-close. That’s a whole lot of happiness and it’s a great deal, with half-price cocktails, beer and wine by the glass (even the good wines!) There are also selected appetizers for $6.99, including firecracker shrimp that are breaded and slathered in a spicy sauce. The happy hour wings are also good, in a classic vinegar-based sauce.
Tiki Bar & Grill
The Tiki Bar & Grill lowers your blood pressure as soon as you step onto the sand. In 2011, three Sebastian friends bought what used to be called Suzy’s Tiki Bar. The new owners Chris Pinson, Dawn Biehl and John Campbell (otherwise referred to as Two Nuts and a Clam) have turned the 2.5 acres of riverfront into one of Sebastian’s most relaxing spots.
There is something musical happening on the stage every evening and live music on weekend afternoons.You can take your drink over to the cornhole boards and spend some time tossing bean bags.
The Tiki’s fish taco is our favorite, not for presentation but for the quality of the fish (no photo). They come as a pair. Each flour tortilla holds a single long piece of blackened grilled mahi-mahi with a tiny bit of cheese melted on top. Fresh and simple. There is an herbed sour cream based sauce on the side and some shredded spinach, tomato, and onion if you want to dress it up yourself. They also come with a choice of two side dishes, so with some potato salad and cole slaw we have a meal.
The coconut shrimp are addictive. Nine big shrimp have just the right amount of crunchy coconut batter for our taste. They come with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce.
The dirty nachos are jaw-dropping. If you don’t have a group of friends, make some at the bar. The massive pile of chips is laden with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and jalapenos.
The Crab Stop of Sebastian
The Crab Stop of Sebastian is the third restaurant to inhabit this location on the river in the few years that we’ve been coming to Sebastian; and we really want them to stay. We were surprised to find that The Crab Stop is a franchise out of Daytona Beach, because it doesn’t feel like a franchise.
Owner Ellis Buckner and his wife Brandy, along with friends Alex and Beverly Addison opened their first Crab Stop in Vero Beach in 2015. Things are going so well for them there that they decided to expand to Sebastian a few months ago. The staff is incredibly friendly and it is so nice to see the owners in the restaurant talking to customers.
The inside of the restaurant is open to the water with a large deck and outdoor bar, where they have live music on Friday, Saturday, Sundays. The menu is almost exclusively seafood, with some chicken and burgers thrown in to give the meat eaters in the group something to eat.
The seafood here is different than any other restaurant in Sebastian. On our first visit we started with the crawfish, which were covered in a rich garlic butter sauce and cooked just right. They are careful not to overcook them, the most common crime against crawfish. Now we know to prepare ourselves to get messy, because we’re obsessed with that sauce.
On the next visit, we went for a dozen of the garlic crabs that they are known for. The meaty Blue Crabs are cleaned, sprinkled with spice mixture and covered in that amazing garlic butter. The snow crab clusters with the same seasoning are also delicious. Even as a Marylander, I have to admit that this may be the tastiest crab preparation that I’ve ever had (sorry Dad!) It’s also a wine friendly seasoning, pairing well with the Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnay on thier list. Just accept the fact that your wine glass will be a buttery mess.
Happy Hour from 3-6pm features two-for-one well liquor, draft beer and house wine, as well as $2.00 off appetizers and wings. If you like them spicy, the boldly seasoned jerk wings are hard to beat.
Capt Hiram’s Sandbar
Capt Hiram’s is the largest resort in the area and the center of activity along the riverfront. Coastal Living magazine recently put Capt Hiram’s at the top of their list of 10 of the Best Beach Bars in Florida.
The complex includes a full service marina with water sports, boat rentals, and lodging. It began as Capt Hiram’s River Raw Bar in 1987 as part of the Sebastian Inlet Marina and has grown over the years. Captain Hiram himself was a World War II soldier. His name was Sergeant Hiram Collins and he was the great uncle of the original owner Tom Collins (who passed away recently in March 2018). Will Collins took over his father’s legacy as president of the resort about 5 years ago.
There is a restaurant, Blackfins, with indoor and outdoor space. There are also three bars. We usually head straight outside for the Sandbar, where we can put our feet in the sand and drink a cold Dark and Stormy cocktail or one of their citrus crushes. There is also a good selection of beers on tap, including some local craft beers from Walking Tree Brewery (Vero Beach) and Pareidolia (Sebastian).
They serve Florida favorites like conch chowder, conch fritters, smoked fish dip, and just about any kind of fried seafood you can think of. There is usually a fresh catch fish listed on the daily specials. One of the more unique starters that we go for is the Asian Tuna Nachos. Sesame-seared Ahi tuna chunks top crispy fried wonton chips, garnished with a seaweed salad.
Capt Hiram’s tends to get more tourists, so the atmosphere is always lively. There are two outdoor stages for live music and three bars. Wander out to the dock when the fishing boats come in to watch the pelicans line up for fish scraps. Always entertaining. Check their events calendar for upcoming music.
Capt’n Butcher’s Seafood Grill & Bar
Capt’n Butcher’s Seafood Grille has one of the nicest outdoor waterfront decks in Sebastian. The bar and patio hang right over the water and blend into the dock of the marina. There is also a bar and dining room inside for those hot days when you crave A/C. The full service marina next door includes vacation rentals.
The restaurant at Capt’n Butcher’s had been closed for nearly two years, much to the dismay of many locals who loved hanging out on the deck. It recently reopened at the end of February 2018 under new management by the Thornado Hospitality Group.
The menu is brand new and we’re still working our way through it. So far, our go to appetizer is the Scallop Ceviche. Jumbo scallops are sliced thin and marinated in fresh citrus. The scallops are barely cooked by the acid, still rare inside just the way we like them. It is one of the few light, fresh appetizers that we’ve found in town.
This is also one of the few places on the waterfront that we can get a decent glass of wine. The Ruffino Lumina is an easy drinking Pinot Grigio from Italy that pairs well with the scallops. Happy Hour starts early at 11am – 6 pm daily with $3.50 well drinks, $5.00 glasses of house wine (Sycamore Lane) and $1.00 off all draft beers.