Southern Favorites at Backwater in Downtown Melbourne

Florida natives Elise McClure and her boyfriend Ryan Verzaal have always been in the restaurant business. Elise was born locally and Ryan is originally from South Florida. The couple always knew they would be opening a restaurant, but initially thought that it would be located in Orlando. After seeing their current space in Downtown Melbourne, they realized instantly that they found the right spot. Backwater specializes in southern inspired food that everyone can eat, including those with vegan and vegetarian diets. Family and friends helped transform the place and the restaurant was ready to open in two months.

backwater-melbourne“The biggest thing we wanted to do is to focus on where our food comes from,” Ryan explained. “As little as possible comes from out of the state.”

They strive to source as many ingredients locally as possible. The grits are from Tallahassee, the coffee served is from Tampa, and the fruit is from Florida. Additionally, they pull their own pork, make their own biscuits, and squeeze juice all day.

Open for breakfast and lunch only, Ryan and Elise also concentrate on keeping their local mindset and making each meal an experience. The atmosphere is rustic and cozy with personal antique collectibles that have been gathered by the couple over many years. The presentation is also important to the owners and Executive Chef Michael Slintak who has extensive experience in ice and food sculpture as well as being a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Perhaps the “talk” of the town and the highlight for many who dine at Backwater are the eight griddle tables where guests can make their own pancakes. Batter choices include buttermilk, gluten-free, whole-wheat and seasonal versions. Inspired by the concept at Old Spanish Sugar Mill in De Leon Springs State Park, the tables are a fun way for families to “disconnect” from technology and enjoy the dining experience together.

The restaurant seats less than 100 people, with stools at the counter overlooking an open kitchen. Two of the best sellers incorporate pulled pork – the C.H. Clarks Pulled Pork Benedict and the Pork Reuben.

The benedict consists of North Carolina style pulled pork, two poached eggs with hollandaise served on a homemade biscuit and a choice of home fries or grits. The Pork Reuben includes a house made red cabbage sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Cajun remoulade on rye.

backwater-melbourne“The pork is really good and I’m really proud of it,” Ryan said. 

Anything with fried green tomatoes is also very popular including the Fried Green Tomato and Spinach Eggs Benedict. The fried green tomatoes are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The benedict is served with black cherry grits, a unique combination that just works. The Fried Green Tomato Caprese Sandwich contains mozzarella, basil, sundried tomato and Cajun remoulade on focaccia. 

If you plan on going for a weekend meal, you should be prepared for a wait but it will be worth it – don’t try to eat in a rush. Like the name suggests, Backwater is a place to slow down, enjoy the good food and the company of friends and family.


Address: 1904 Municipal Lane Downtown Melbourne 

Phone:  (321) 837-3925

Web Address: BackwaterFlorida.com

Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast and lunch only

This article appears in the December 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Living.
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