Sunday, February 17, 2008

Captain Katanna's - Guest Review

Dine with the river rats


by Rachel Hauck, author of Sweet Caroline

In the spring of last year, a former co-worker invited me to our former boss's retirement party. Through a strange series of events, many of our former co-workers migrated to a competing company in town. So, the retirement gathering at an out of the way river restaurant, Captain Katanna's, was an odd mix of old and new friends.

Meanwhile, I'd left the corp world for full time writing. And, sitting in my office, living the life of solitude, I welcomed the chance to visit with old colleagues and friends.

I live in central, coastal Florida. I've watched night launches of the space shuttle, felt the sea breeze in my face, built a fire in my fire place even though the temperature outside was only 65.

But this was my first time to visit Captain Katanna's along the Indian River, one of the many great hole-in-the-wall, mom-n-pop restaurants along U.S. 1.

From the road, it's barely discernible. I braked in time to hit the sand and gravel parking lot, then was lost as to which door was the front. Yeah, I tried to enter through the kitchen. A worker directed me to the front door where I entered a lovely dining room with a wall of windows facing the river and a high gloss wood floor running the length of the restaurant.

Captain Katanna's is the quintessential river restaurant and bar, but with the care and beauty of an established chain.

One of the best parts of this place is how guests can arrive via car or boat. Out on the river sailing and get hungry? Dock your boat at Captain Katanna's and walk up to the dining room.

Guests can eat indoors or out. There's a Tiki Bar along the deck and this is where I met my friends.

The food is the best. All my favorites. Sandwiches, burgers, wings, spinach and artichoke dip, and seafood such as steamed clams and crab fritters.

Main dishes include clam strips, chowder, stuffed mahi and a seafood platter of shrimp, scallops, and mahi served fried, broiled or Cajun spiced.

After my retirement party experience, where I think I was only hungry for an appetizer, I chose Captain Katanna's for my husband and my birthday dinner.

We sat out on the back deck by the water under a silky night sky, a balmy breeze against our skin, and enjoyed the company of friends and great food.

I chose a cheese burger and fries because I love burgers in this kind of dive. My husband had the mahi and loved it. For appetizers we shared nachos with the works and smoked fish dip. Delicious.

Captain Katanna's is a place you can go dressed up after a wedding or party, or straight from boating or the beach. While inside dining is at nice wooden tables and chairs, outside we dined at a white plastic picnic table.

Captain Katanna's is unique. It's a place where locals go and every one would know their name.

So many things are changing in the world. We've become a commercial and connected society through mass media like television and the Internet. But Captain Katanna’s reminds me of how each community has its own personality and beauty. All along U.S. 1 in central Florida there are great mom and pop places. Captain Katanna's is one of the best.

Brevard County is southeast of Orlando and nestled along the Indian and St. John's River and made up of Titusville, Rockledge, Cocoa Beach, Indialantic, Satellite Beach, Melbourne Beach, Melbourne, Palm Bay, and several smaller communities.

Population? About 500,000. We are called the Space Coast. We boast many publish authors, too. Davis Bunn, Mark Mynheir, Roxanne St. Claire to name a few. And, oh yeah, yours truly.

I first came here in 1986 for my first post-college corporate job. Twenty-one years later, it's still home.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Eddie V's Edgewater Grille

The place to celebrate! But bring a bankroll.


It had been on the waiting list for a long time, the list I compiled of places Up North that looked interesting, places to pick from when rush-hour date night rolled around. As fun as it is, sometimes it can get to be a chore trying to find a new and interesting place every week. After all, I’ve done over 70 reviews in the past 18 months.

Some of the places I’ve reviewed have gone out of business. My inner redneck mourned the loss of Woody’s South, my first review, my inner barfly mourned the loss of Reed’s, one of the hippest joints I’ve reviewed. I didn’t go back through the list to see, but I suspect Eddie V’s is the priciest place I’ve reviewed. Not the priciest place I’ve been, but that’s another review for another day.

I wanted to go to the downtown location, where they have live music every night, but it would defeat the purpose of rush-hour date night to drive downtown during rush hour, so we went to the Arboretum location. Walked in, got a table right away and immediately felt underdressed. This not the crowd The Woman and The Wunderfool habituate. But that’s OK. I can act as nonchalant as the next feller from Fred, Texas.

It reminded me of the last dinner on our honeymoon in Hot Springs, AR. Yes, we went to Hot Springs, hometown of William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. (Regardless what the spin machine said about “the man from Hope” during the election, Clinton, like The Wunderfool, left his birthplace when he was in second grade. Hot Springs, the Vegas of Arkansas, is where he grew up. But we got there 24 years after he did, searching for our little honeymoon bungalow in the dark after a two-hour drive, and he was gone to Little Rock being Attorney General.)

We went to Hot Springs because it was the most exotic thing we could afford. On Friday, The Woman took off work at noon to get her hair done. I worked a regular day. We got married Friday night. We were back at work on Monday. Saturday night we decided to hit a classy joint for dinner. We got a recommendation from the owner of the resort cabins and hopped in our beat up, faded yellow Ford Maverick. We found the place and as I topped the slight rise approaching the front, I saw that it was valet parking only. That was when I knew we were in trouble.

I pulled our pathetic jalopy up to the smirking valet and we got out. He slipped gingerly into the rattletrap, making as little contact with the seat as possible, and drove it away. We went inside, got a seat, and opened the menu in fear. We decided that if we were going to tip the valet, we could only afford one entrée. We splurged and got two salads, though.

On the drive back down Sunday evening, we only had enough cash for one hamburger at the drive through for dinner. We split it and finished off the bag of chips and bottle of Dr Pepper as we drove into the sunset to our new life together. Broke, but happy.

OK, so it wasn’t quite that kind of experience at Eddie V’s. We didn’t walk in with a twenty and a large helping of naïveté. But we were surrounded by folks who probably had bedrooms larger than our house.

Eddie V’s is a great place to go to celebrate. You feel like something special has happened just by being there. The service is outstanding, and the food is incredible.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been stalling. I don’t recall what we ordered. Hey, it was three months ago and I’ve been through three major holidays, two new grandkids, several revisions of two screenplays, who knows how many day-job projects, two new laptops, five dinner parties I’ve hosted, and a bottle of 12-year-old Scotch since then. It’s a lot of mileage to displace the memory of a nice dinner, regardless of how pricy it was. I do remember it was very good, and according to Quicken 2006, which keeps trying to wheedle me into upgrading even though the version I have does 10 times as much as I need it to, we spent $121. Which is probably 10 times as much as the entrée we got in Hot Springs 30+ years ago.