The 2021 GOLDEN FORK Awards

I can’t believe another year is in the books and it’s time to select the best of what I tasted over the past year.  The end of 2021 also marks my Six-Year Anniversary since I began this journey to find the best dishes that Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast has to offer.

Last year was a busy one for us here at The Treasure Coast Foodie! In March, we played host to Randy Santel, a YouTube Food Challenge competitor who has 1.4 million followers and over 1,000 challenge wins from all around the world! He spent 4 days in Vero and took on food challenges at Cafe 66, The Green Marlin, Crab Stop, and Chive! All 4 videos have now been viewed over 1.1 million times and can be viewed by clicking here!

In April, a dream of mine came true. I’m very passionate about finding “Holy Grail” dishes and supporting local mom & pop restaurants, and I’ve had an idea for a show in my head for the past few years, thinking it would never be produced! I had the opportunity to pitch my idea to Visit Indian River County Chamber of Commerce and they loved it and decided to help me produce the show! Season 2 is right around the corner, and we start filming again soon, with new episodes coming Summer of 2022! To learn more about the show and watch the first 3 episodes, please visit our website, https://holygraileats.com.

We continue to host our foodie meetups and specialty dining experience events in and around the Vero Beach area and last year we hosted over 24 different events. We did our first Pop-Up Restaurant with Chef Eddie Hunter at the Irish-American club in Downtown Vero Beach, I brought back the very first foodie event from 6 years ago called The Ultimate Italian Dining Experience and hosted that at Armani’s Cucina, and we also had our very first cooking class with Chefs Anthony and Lisa Damiano at Counter Culture. What do we have planned for 2022? You will just have to keep following us and see what we come up with! 😉

Now on to the awards!  Let’s jump right in and see who this year’s winners are and see what I had to eat from the past year! Listed below are my Top 10 Best Dishes (in no particular order), Chef of the Year, and Restaurant of the Year winners.  The winning dishes were selected from reviews or dining experiences I’ve had in 2021.

Top 10 Best Dishes from 2021

Harbor Cove Seafood Bar Grill & Sushi – Fort Pierce, FL

Sushi Boat – On the far left was a sesame marinated baby octopus salad, the 4 sushi rolls in the middle were a crunchy tuna roll, red dragon roll, traditional rainbow roll, and a dragon roll. On the right, several sashimi choices included Hamachi, Farrow Island salmon, and AAA bluefin tuna.


The Crab Stop of Vero Beach – Vero Beach, FL

Ultimate Seafood Feast3 King legs, 2 lobster tails, 3 snow clusters, 3 medium crabs, 12 jumbo shrimp, 1/2 lb of scallops, 3 corn coblets, and 1 lb of garlic potatoes.


Cobalt Restaurant – Vero Beach, FL

Seafood Tower – It contains a lobster salad, conch salad, jumbo cocktail shrimp, and oysters.


Sweet Kiss Ice Cream – Vero Beach, FL

Banana Nutella CrepeA large crepe is freshly made while you wait and is filled with Nutella and topped with bananas, then lightly dusted with powdered sugar.


Rib City at Grant Station – Grant-Valkaria, FL

Coconut Cream Pie – This large slice of Coconut Cream Pie is nearly 6 inches tall and at least 3 inches wide at the base. It’s topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut.


Cafe 66 – Vero Beach, FL

Full Rack of St Louis Style Ribs – Sides are Collards, Cabbage, and Baked Beans.


The Wave Kitchen & Bar – Vero Beach, FL

12 oz Australian Wagyu New York Strip – The steak is grilled to your desired temperature, then served on a hot stone and is served while still sizzling to your table. Sides were roasted potatoes, sauteed mushrooms.


Fire and Wine – Vero Beach, FL

A Study in PeanutHomemade cracker jacks with fresh peanuts, peanut butter Semifreddo (round), peanut butter powder, and homemade toffee.


Blue Agave – Vero Beach, FL

Shrimp Ceviche – Lime juice, tomato, avocado, jalapenos, bell peppers, onions, cilantro, and served with a side of tortilla chips.


Johnny D’s Market & Bistro – Vero Beach, FL

Gnocchi Carbonara – Gnocchi tossed with Crispy Prosciutto, Caramelized Vidalia Onions, Sweet Peas, Portobello Mushrooms, all served in a Parmigiano Reggiano Cream sauce


Chef of the Year – Louis Kolbauer

While our award recipient prefers to be referred to more as an entrepreneur, and not necessarily a chef, we have all enjoyed many delicious meals at both of his restaurants. He grew up in Georgia and Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in 1998 with a degree in management. He worked for a few years in the industry to gain valuable experience before opening his first restaurant, Sunrise City Cafe in Fort Pierce in 2000. In 2013, he participated in the Hope for Families Center Top Chef competition and won top honors. Looking to change things up, he opened a new restaurant concept called Chive in 2013. It’s best known for their healthy and delicious meals that you can customize to your liking. In 2017, he opened The Green Marlin Restaurant & Raw Bar. He felt Vero needed a casual sit-down restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere with top notch seafood at affordable prices. Over the past several years, it’s been a pleasure to see how his businesses have grown and only gotten better. I think you all know who I’m talking about by now, so my pick for Chef of the Year is Louis Kolbauer!


Restaurant of the Year – Armani’s Cucina

As one of Vero’s newest restaurants, they certainly have made a name for themselves in a very short amount of time. They just be celebrated their one-year anniversary in November 2021, and per reader suggestions, they are one of the hottest new editions to Vero’s Italian restaurant scene! The owners have owned several previous Italian restaurants south of here, and one day as they were strolling down 14th Ave, they discovered the space where Prima Pizza was previously located and decided to look into it further. Angelina said, “we were not planning to open a restaurant in Vero, it just sort of fell into our laps”. As a food blogger that eats at a lot of restaurants, it’s getting harder to impress me, yet these folks somehow managed to do just that. I think you all know who I’m talking about by now, so my pick for Restaurant of the Year is Armani’s Cucina!

In Conclusion:

Over the past year, while business seems to be almost back to pre-pandemic levels, restaurants are now dealing with not being able to find enough employees that want to work. The “Great Resignation” is hurting more than just this industry, almost all businesses are struggling to find help. For those employees that do choose to show up to work, please be kind to them, have patience, and tip well. They are working much harder and longer hours away from their families to serve you. I hope by this time next year, the pandemic will be a thing of the past and we are back to normal, or at least a “new normal”.

Written by Thomas Miller

My name is Thomas Miller, aka “The Treasure Coast Foodie” and “The Foodie Guy” and now the host and producer of the brand new show called Holy Grail Eats! I’ve been a professional food blogger for the past 7 years and I’m very passionate about finding “Holy Grail” dishes and supporting local mom & pop owned restaurants! I’ve reviewed over 250 local restaurants in the last 7 years and my food photos are devoured by 10’s of thousands each month on my website treasurecoastfoodie.com. As a Google Maps Level 8 Local Guide, I have submitted over 3,000 photos that have been viewed over 50 million times. My foodie tribe is over 125,000 strong on the Treasure Coast and my Foodie Meetups & Chef’s Table Dining events are some of the Top Culinary experiences on the Treasure Coast!

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