“We want to be who we are; we want Squid Lips to be that place where you can leave your problems in the parking lot and come in here and pretend you’re somewhere else—maybe the Florida Keys.”
 – Buz Underill, owner

by Steven Hicks 

When this author moved to Central Brevard, the most-repeated recommendation was that we had to go to Squid Lips on Pineapple Avenue in Melbourne. I wondered if that by going there I was somehow instantly going to be more local. So, we went, my family and I, and we agree. This is one of the places you must know, and you must go to realize the full potential of your life here in Central Brevard.

It all started in Sebastian.

Underill tells the story: “We started in Sebastian in 1998. I own a marina down there and I was in the process of developing the marina and putting in some restaurants, and found myself a partner in a seafood restaurant. I learned a lot, saw things I liked, saw things I didn’t and saw things I wanted to change. That restaurant didn’t make it, and in 2002 I became the owner of an empty restaurant. I was trying to figure out what to do and I felt God telling me one night, ‘Open a restaurant.’ I thought, ‘works for me.’” Squid Lips in Sebastian was born.

“We opened the Squid Lips on Pineapple in 2009. We’re water-oriented, and guests here can come by boat or car — it’s the perfect location. You can go onto the bar side and there’s a stage and a band. You can bring a party of 20 here and sit out over the water. You can come here for a quiet dinner for two and sit in our smaller, romantic dining room. You can do anything here.

“We’ve also finished renovations on our location in Cocoa Beach. I’m proud of all three and their place in the communities they serve. Sebastian is a little smaller, Cocoa Beach is in the middle of all the energy a beach resort creates with great sunset views, and Squid Lips on Pineapple has this special getaway feel.”

Then there is the food…

Underill says, “I grew up here. I spent all my time fishing and surfing and eating lots of seafood. I worked down in that same marina I eventually owned as a kid at a commercial fish house.” There are a lot of ways to cook seafood, and Underill’s recipes are those he’s discovered along the way. “I’d eat something and I’d say, ‘Wow, that’s good. I think I can do it a little better.’ Then I’d go back to my house and cook it until my family got sick of it and said they never wanted to see it again. The tough part is to then come in to our restaurant kitchen and break the recipe down so our chefs can prepare it in quantity without losing the quality. “

The results of his efforts are amazing appetizers like blue cheese and balsamic tater chips, bacon-wrapped plantains (in a spicy orange chipotle glaze), crunchy fish fingers and Joe’s conchy chowder. Perfect salads feature seafood toppings like shrimp, mahi-mahi and grouper, and signature entrees include an oak-grilled grouper basted in honey-lime sauce, Cajun seasoning or jerked if you prefer. I’m partial to the lobster-n-crab cake, sautéed. Get two. Try the excellent Caribbean-spiced catch with toasted coconut over a coconut pan sauce. Squid Lips also features a well-stocked raw bar. 

If you don’t know where Squid Lips on Pineapple Avenue is, find it. That’s the charm. Go, be the local you long to be. If you are local, go and embrace your local-ness.