A taste of Port Canaveral comes to the lagoon in Melbourne, and it’s good a great meal and a spectacular view

Both come courtesy of Grills, a standby in the port’s Cove dining district, where for years locals and visitors alike have lined up for seafood, entertainment and general all-around conviviality in what everyone once simply called “the tiki bar.”

The Caribbean-casual atmosphere translates well to the new venue off U.S. Highway 1, where people stand elbow-to-elbow, not unhappily, to celebrate evenings, weekends and just about anything else with the beautiful Indian River before them, and so the place is formally “Grills Riverside.”

It is spacious, with indoor and outdoor dining and Grills’ characteristic deck, and although you may not see captains of cruise ships lining up for breakfast – Grills Riverside serves only lunch and dinner – you are likely to see people you know, because this has quickly become a popular venue. Prices are reasonable and service is excellent

Food-wise, it’s the same: This is Grills after all.

The emphasis is on seafood, which is fresh and mainly local, with a good variety of appetizers and lighter fare, including wings; homemade chowders; lots of shrimp dishes, including Grills’ popular coconut shrimp dinner that comes with good-sized crustaceans and two dipping sauces. Sushi, kabobs, vegetarian specialties, and chicken and beef dishes are also featured items.

Naturally there’s a grilled fish of the day, and if it isn’t fresh, it isn’t grilled. It’s local, lightly marinated and served, as are other entrees, with potatoes, wild rice or pasta as well as the restaurant’s signature cheese bread and Tsunami Shrimp, a variation on the sweet-and-sour theme.

And then there are Grills’ famed fish sandwiches. The mahi version is the same one prepared by owner and fishing boat captain Joe Penovich on “Regis and Kelly Live” last year and beloved by portside diners: a good-sized slab of fish marinated in teriyaki, basil and garlic, and then glazed with the marinade mixture plus mayonnaise, lightly grilled and served on a grilled French roll with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

“There’s no sandwich like it anywhere. It is absolutely the best mahi sandwich around, and possibly in Florida. It is that good,” frequent Grills diner Margarita Risler said.

Desserts are characteristically huge and include all the sweet treats so adored at the port, like Whopper Stopper chocolate cake and fried cheesecake.

Grills Riverside was a hit from the moment it opened this spring, and the word from the faithful is the same as it is at the port: go early, because you will need to wait for parking and then again for a table. But the combination of atmosphere, food and friendliness will be worth it.

Grills Riverside

Address: 6075 N. U.S. Highway 1, Melbourne

Phone: (321) 242-8999

Web site: www.grillsseafood.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Other: Full liquor bar; tiki bar; indoor and outdoor seating; live entertainment on deck