New Smyrna Beach may be a beachside gem with quaint historic streets and the vibrancy of lively Flagler Avenue, but it also offers numerous dining options to satisfy every discerning palate…

The Garlic, on 3rd Avenue, is a place where you will enjoy the atmosphere as much as the meal. Enter under a vine covered arbor leading to indoor seating or an outdoor courtyard reminiscent of an Italian garden, draped in tiny tea lights and possessing an unmatched rustic appeal. Dinner starts with crusty Italian bread warm from the oven, served with roasted garlic for topping. If you want to be treated like royalty, you may want to opt for the signature dish of Executive Chef Michael Perri – who, by the way, has worked under the tutelage of Wolfgang Puck and cooked for icons from presidents to rockstars. Chef’s Cioppino is a medley of lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams and calamari in a tomato saffron broth seasoned with fresh herbs. Pair that with fine wine, Italian beer or a specialty martini for the perfect romantic meal.

If you want to wake up on the right side of the bed, you may want to do it with the fresh seasonal fruit and granola yogurt parfait and grilled muffin of the day combination special at the Wake Up Café, a little further up the way on 3rd Avenue or, if you’re hungry for an affordable down home cooked breakfast loved by locals and visitors alike, head over to Ruthy’s Kozy Kitchen on Canal Street for a Jumbo, which is three eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, hash browns or grits and toast or a biscuit; or the Big Daddy, a heaping plate of French toast or pancakes, eggs and bacon or sausage….but don’t let me scare you, Ruthy’s has regular-sized breakfasts for regular-sized appetites too. In fact, they have pretty much anything you might want in the way of a traditional breakfast.

Now, since we are a waterfront town, let’s talk serious seafood and JB’s Fish Camp which is riverside on Pompano Drive. To be honest, ordering a la carte here and dipping your favorite shellfish into melted butter is absolute heaven, but if you are a traditionalist when it comes to dinner, consider a half pound of peel and eat rock shrimp in season and the jumbo mushrooms filled with JB’s famous crab cake mix and topped with cheese to start; and the Captain’s Platter, which you can order cooked any way you please and comes with fish, oysters, clams, shrimp, scallops, a mini crab cake and corn on the cob, is quite a feast.

The Corkscrew Bar and Grille is ideal for people watching from a quaint historic Canal Street perch as well as mojito scallops, which come in the perfectly seared, very jumbo variety and delicately placed atop toasted crostini slices and topped with an amazing mojito sauce and freshly shaved parmesan cheese. 

Norwood’s (just down the way from The Garlic) offers restaurant dining, garden patio dining and a separate menu in its treehouse bar, which provides a waterfront overlook. The build your own fish dish is particularly pleasing with grilled grouper chef-prepared Mediterranean style and served with coconut cilantro rice. If you prefer your dishes brimming with veggies, the mushroom ragout tossed with blistered cherry tomatoes, rigatoni and cashew sour cream gets a pretty high ranking too.

Blackbeard’s Inn on North Dixie Freeway is well-known for its slow roasted prime rib and salad bar. They also offer pretty much any kind of seafood au gratin style, which is delicious, as is their oysters Rockefeller appetizer.


When you’re not thinking fancy, take it down a notch, but not with flavor, at Panhead Pizza (Guy Fieri was just there too!) where you can order specialty pizzas to die for, including baby spinach, artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes and feta cheese, which holds a special place in this writer’s heart.

Or Flagler Tavern, with outside decks, an inside tavern and bar and an upper level speakeasy, offers a fun Flagler Avenue vibe and a whole lot of tasty treats. My favorite happens to be the crispy fried candied Brussel sprouts…yeah, I know, but you have to try them! Follow that up with a satisfying shaved ribeye cheesesteak topped with caramelized onions and queso and, trust me, it’s nap time.

Another longtime New Smyrna Beach staple is the Taco Shack, a delightful, open air, authentic Mexican fare restaurant offering dine “in” or take-away on North Dixie Freeway. The Taco Shack is closed Sunday and Monday, but – with a Tuesday buy one burrito, get one at half price and Thursday’s $1 chicken or beef taco specials – it is worth the wait. Or try a homemade fried tortilla bowl filled with mixed greens, tomato, cheese, olives, black beans, corn, sour cream, guacamole, chipotle dressing and your choice of beef, chicken, pork, steak or shrimp…and if you like rice and beans, you really should order their Radical Rice Plate with fried sweet plantains.

If you like your hours happy, Merk’s Bar & Grille on the North Causeway in New Smyrna Beach has one every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., 24 TVs and wings with their famous Frankenstein sauce. Another favorite is their homemade summer chips, which are freshly made to order and topped with crumbled blue cheese, bacon, scallions and melted cheddar and served with sour cream for dipping, as if you’d need it!

You’ll find Breakers Restaurant & Bar, home to a menu with 12 burgers voted best in Central Florida, oceanfront on Flagler Avenue. This local is partial to the beach burger topped with blue cheese crumbles, lettuce and tomato, but I like to add bacon. My only problem is that I generally have to split that bad boy. A nice, healthier alternative is their blackened fish garden salad.

Chase’s on the Beach on Atlantic was hit hard by the hurricane, but has come back with a vengeance and Tiki bar oceanfront dining with the same menu as inside. May I suggest the crabcake, which is truly jumbo lump or the authentic Philly, which really does rival the cheesesteaks up in Philly? Oh, and the chicken satay appetizer may sound ordinary, but with a sticky bourbon glaze and Thai chili aioli, is far from it.