Architectural treats abound, even in secretBy Willi Miller
Charley Replogle admits to being surprised occasionally by what he finds at his Ocean Grill restaurant.
“We've found stained-glass (panels) behind walls, even a (Beanie) Backus painting," he says. “When we remodeled a wait station, we found a cypress door that we use as a divider now. There’s been some pretty cool stuff hidden here.’’
The Sexton family has owned the building since Waldo built it in the 1940s, but Replogle’s family has owned the restaurant business since the mid-1960s. Several times a year, he holds a training session for his wait staff so they're aware of the Ocean Grill's history.
The Ocean Grill was built 200 yards from the sea 65 years ago but now stands on pilings directly over the beach. The “island casual” atmosphere and menu attract winter residents and Vero Beach visitors but it's also a popular spot for full-time residents. Reservations – accepted only by phone or in person – are suggested for lunch and dinner, particularly for those who want a table overlooking the water.
The history inside the restaurant is just one part of the appeal of the Ocean Grill. Just off shore is the skeleton of the British steamship Breconshire, which struck a reef and sank in 1894. Looking to the north any launch day, diners can get a stunning view of the space shuttle arcing high over the horizon from Cape Canaveral.
The restaurant also a features a room called the The Bird Cage – the original dining room decorated in ornate wrought iron – and The Bucket, a shortened name for what Waldo and his friends called The Bucket of Blood. “They would meet in there about 11 o’clock in the morning and drink Bloody Marys,’’ recalled Waldo’s son, Ralph. “They may stay there all day, and that’s why they called it The Bucket of Blood.’’
Chef Timm McGraw creates nightly specials, with fresh seafood highlighting the menu. Stone crab claws are in high demand at Ocean Grill from mid-October through mid-May. The chef recommends eating them chilled with his special mustard sauce but will accommodate those who just have to have them with drawn butter. Along with the stone crab claws, Ocean Grill's most popular dishes are crab meat au gratin and roast duckling.
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