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By Sharon Lacy
There’s no shortage of great restaurants this side of Brevard County’s coastline, and with so many to choose from, we had to dine at every great spot to dial in this month’s Restaurant of the Month. Not only are we in need of a new diet plan, but also more nights in the week to eat all this great food! What makes this month’s choice so delectable is the amount of choices hungry diners have to choose from. When we were given the chance to chat with Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier’s General Manager, Mr. Rick Lohr, we were delighted to hear of the fantastic menu choices visitors have to choose from.
However, a little history may illuminate why this hot spot is so special. For those of us who’ve been around for a spell, the Pier has always been an iconic landmark for Cocoa Beach’s coastline. Whether your visit was for some sun and fun or a cool beverage on the boardwalk, I’m almost positive most, if not all, of us have had a great day at the beach there. Built in 1962, the 800 feet of boardwalk, shops, bars and restaurants have nourished and sheltered many visitors for decades. Over the years, time and wicked storms have ravaged the expansive structure, leaving it somewhat dilapidated. In 2014, Westgate Resorts purchased the pier and launched a multimillion-dollar renovation to restore its historic glory.
This writer, in particular, can recall the rumble and grumble of fellow neighbors none-to-happy about a large corporation taking over their beloved landmark. It was alarming to conceive an “outsider” might come in and wreck what beach-goers have long come to expect from the location. But Byron Evetts of Cocoa Beach says of the upgrades made, “I’m excited for the changes. We’re a quaint little drinking village with a surfing problem, trying to dig [our]selves out of the stone age.” When questioned about the crowds and excitement the Cocoa Beach Pier draws, Byron says, “Don’t be upset if you live by the Pier and people are out having fun.” That’s what it’s designed to do, right?
Contrary to what locals may have surmised to be a venture of epic disappointment, the people of Westgate rolled in, wrecked shop (in a most constructive way) and rebuilt the Pier to withstand the burden of heavy storms and crowds. They’ve presented us with a beautiful landmark, complete with all the attractions and services a beach-goer could ask for.
For instance, did you know the Pier services food and drink directly on the beach? Beachgoers can make the most of their visit by spending all their time where they want to be the most—on the beach. The Pier’s unique equipment rental program and direct-to-beach food service afford guests little reason to leave the sand. Starting at 11a.m. daily, waitstaff roam the beach, taking orders and serving directly to guests. Food and drink are available from any of the Pier’s restaurants and bars, including items such as the locally-sourced jumbo shrimp, popular lobster roll and signature Pieradise cocktail. Such a bonus! You don’t have to leave the comfort of your beach squat unless you wish to utilize the facilities; of which I’d like to highlight as well. They updated the bathrooms … thank you, Westgate, for the clean bathrooms!
The Pier’s various eateries offer menus full of enticing options for the selective diner. The Boardwalk Bar and Restaurant, an outdoor venue located along the Pier’s boardwalk, features new menu items such as fresh lobster rolls and fish tacos, refreshing beverages and oversized misting fans that complement the ocean’s natural breeze against a backdrop of breathtaking beachside views. Guests can enjoy Florida sunshine, live entertainment and fresh oysters at the Pier’s open-air seafood bar, Keith’s Oyster Bar, named for Pier owner David Siegel’s late nephew, Keith Siegel. Adjacent to the oyster bar, a 10-foot, 6,000-pound anchor discovered by Keith Siegel at the wreckage of an 18th century whaling ship also stands as a memorial of the renowned local lobsterman.
Additional food and beverage options include Sea Dogs, a quick-service option located at the Pier’s entrance offering soft-serve ice cream, turkey legs and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, and Pelican’s Bar & Grill, where this writer had a most delicious meal of Clams Rockefeller and Sidewinder French Fries dusted in a salt and vinegar rub with a side of tangy remoulade sauce … OUTSTANDING! Seriously, folks, the dishes are beautiful, bountiful and nicely priced. I had zero complaints.
There’s also a sports bar with floor-to-ceiling views of the ocean and a wide selection of hand-crafted beers. The Rikki Tiki Bar, an ideal place for happy hour, located at the end of the Pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, was where I finished off my visit with a festive mojito and rubbed elbows with other visitors. The Rikki Tiki Tavern menu features items including jumbo coconut shrimp served with a spicy mango habanero sauce, a fresh seasonal fish sandwich and the Tiki Dog, a Nathan’s Famous hot dog wrapped and fried in an egg roll and served with spicy Asian mustard sauce and sweet and sour sauce. The view is incredible and a nice bragging point if you have visitors in town and you want to show off the beauty of our gorgeous ocean-scape. Friends, it has to be mentioned, a bonus to all these great spots is not having to worry about falling through the flooring of this great structure.
Westgate’s Cocoa Beach Pier restaurants feature top quality food and beverage service and locally sourced products from seafood suppliers whose crews can be seen in action near the Pier in season. The culinary team is led by award-winning Chef John Flaherty, whose menus include burgers, a variety of seafood and even fried gator. Dessert offerings include the Florida classic key lime pie from the local favorite, The Florida Key Lime Pie Company.
Westgate Resorts has invested millions of dollars into renovation and new offerings, transforming the Pier into a top family-friendly beach destination for vacationers and locals. With easy parking, convenient and clean restrooms, five restaurants and bars, shops, an art gallery, volleyball courts and more, the Cocoa Beach Pier is a one-stop beach day experience on the Atlantic Ocean, and we think you would enjoy it. Hop on your bike and head over there. Seriously, it’s awesome.