Station 49- Vero Beach- 4 Stars
"...and in the end, you'll pack up, fly down south/Hide your head in the sand..." -- Pink Floyd, Dogs
If one is an executive chef in a bustling New York City restaurant and want to continue following your passion of making great food, but need to relax a bit, where does one go? Vero Beach, FL, of course. At least if your name is Dino and you are partnered with Jay McLaughlin you do. Dino was Jay's chef in NYC for years and had enough of life in the fast lane and wanted to get away from the big city life. In short, he was looking for a way out of the rat race. Not wanting to break up the friendship and successful partnership, Jay took the opportunity to buy an old Texaco gas station in his beloved Vero Beach, convert it into a delightful casual restaurant and gave Dino the keys. The result is nothing short of spectacular.
As previously mentioned, Station 49 Pizza sits in a spartan, yet modern and exciting remodel of an old Texaco gas station in downtown Vero Beach. The kitchen is of the open variety, meaning patrons can scrutinize Dino at work and even have a chat with him if he's not too busy.
Passing by the man in the kitchen, we were lead to our table, presented with menus and awaited the arrival of our servitor. A young man soon approached our table and taking pad and pen in hand introduced himself as "Hammer, your waiter for the day." I had to ask, "So, your parents actually named you after a tool or an 80s rapper?" He laughed heartedly and said his real name was Antoine or LaTwan or Antwan (I just didn't catch it), but everyone called him Hammer. He was well versed in the menu offerings of the day, congenial and focused on providing the best he had to offer to his many patrons. I put in an order for 1 Grilled Cheese, 1 Station Burger (medium rare) along with one Station House Amber Bock with which to wash it down.
The grilled cheese was served on a freshly made and toasted ciabatta bun with Applewood smoked bacon nestled lovingly in thick melted slabs of real cheddar cheese with roasted tomatoes on top. If you have been living under a rock lately and have not yet tried this meat mana, I urge you to do so as it is the best bacon in the whole world of bacon and made Dino's version of this childhood staple otherworldly. The sides, having the Applewood bacon to live up to, did not let me down. The salad was made from a mix of fresh baby greens and did not include one little speck of el cheapo iceberg lettuce like many of their lesser colleagues. And the fries? Holy French truffles and freshly grated parmesan cheese, Batman. These were not your Father's fries, oh no. These were "Dinolized" fries. Again, taking your average meal staple and elevating it to gourmet status, Dino's talent and passion for food shined forth from every dish. The Station burger is made fresh to order with a mix of ground chuck, brisket and short rib meat and hand formed by Dino before being placed on the grill.
Grilled to a consummate medium-rare, smothered in real cheese and then placed on a made on site stout bun all toasty and warm from the oven made this one of the best "craft" burgers I have had to date. The sides, being the same as for the Grilled Cheese were as stated above. The salad. I can't get over the real salad at a casual dining pizza and burger joint. Outstanding job, Dino! I washed this all down with their eponymously named draft beer, Station House Amber Bock. While I am still working on my beer tasting, I have to say that this tasted suspiciously like a Michelob Amber Bock (if it wasn't, forgive me), which is fine as it was an excellent pairing with the burger, but if it was, just call it that. No need to sound all trendy or upscale, the food and service say all you need to on that topic.
The Big Boy says, "If you are looking for a gourmet spin on casual dining fare and are in the Vero Beach vicinity (within 200 miles or so), make the drive to Station 49 and allow Dino to show you what's what." #bigboydiningout #iamthebigboy