The impetus for this weeks’ review started in a bar. That’s right in a bar. Grub found himself sitting at the bar in a popular watering hole in Crystal River, Florida with an Army buddy. As we were swapping war stories and throwing back top-shelf spirits (his derived from distilled grapes, mine by distilling malt), we got to talking about food. Realizing that top-shelf liquor goes better with top-shelf food, we asked the bartender where we could find the best place to satisfy our gastronomic desire for good grub. The bartender told us that there was a plethora of great restaurants in the area; it just depends on the type of food we desired. Now when it comes to food, Grub’s only requirement is that the restaurant has passed its health inspection! The bartender’s reply was simple: you have got to try Vintage on 5th.
Vintage on 5th is located in downtown Crystal River. Not exactly a metropolis, so calling it downtown is a stretch. It is located on – you guessed it 5th Street! The downtown area of Crystal River is probably about three-square blocks and easily navigated by foot. The restaurant is impressive from the street in that it is located in a renovated church, which was built in 1940. Locating a restaurant in a historical building in most cases is a good sign. Someone who has thought enough of their business to locate it in an old structure usually means that they have something special to offer their clientele. As we didn’t have a reservation when we arrived, we had to wait for a few minutes, but nothing extraordinary. As you look to your left, you are attracted to the ample wine bar that doubles as a community table. For some reason, most of the bars in Citrus County, Florida only serve beer and wine. We were seated by a window, which gave us great views of all that downtown Crystal River has to offer. The waiter promptly come over and took our drink order as we mulled over the menu in search of something really special. On this particular day, the drink fountain was out of order, but the staff was able to procure drinks from a local supermarket. The owners adapted, and I like that. Shows that they value their customers.
By the looks of the menu, this place is known for its southern food and fresh seafood. Let’s see. I ordered the Caribbean Jerk Shrimp ($8.00) as my appetizer. The shrimp were prepared pan-seared with a creamy jerk seasoning. The plate was also lined with slices of a French baguette for texture. My first inclination was to try a spoonful of this creamy goodness in an effort to get a preview of what the shrimp would taste like. The first sip was a bit overpowering with spice, but as I recovered, the sweetness of the jerk seasonings kicked in to help me along my journey. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and I could have had this appetizer as my main meal.
Appetizer = A+
Next up was the 5th Street Mac & Cheese ($18.00). I ordered it not because I am a mac and cheese fan, but because I wanted to see whether a restaurant could freshen up an old classic, and how they could possibly pass it off as an entrée. The mac was penne pasta and the cheese was goat cheese. I love goat cheese, but I couldn’t fathom how it could work in this traditionally southern dish. The entrée arrived at our table piping hot with the goat cheese bubbling around the edges. After allowing the dish to settle, I dug in. The pasta was tossed with the goat cheese, diced tomato, and a sliced, pan-seared chicken breast. This mac and cheese worked and worked very well. The goat cheese gave it a tang that is only found when using the sharpest of cheddars. The chicken breast added a protein in order to make a complete meal. The dish worked really well and the portion was substantial, so much so that Grub couldn’t finish it.
Entrée = B
The service was impeccable. The waiter and the owner checked on us often to make sure that we were okay, and kept our drinks refilled. All in all, this was a great find in a small town, and there is absolutely no reason to not be able to find good grub in small-town America.
Service = A
All in all, if you find yourself down in Crystal River, Florida for business or pleasure, stop in and dine at Vintage on 5th. You wont be disappointed. Tell them Grub sent you and sit back, relax and enjoy this piece of gastronomic bliss! This is certainly a Good Grub Spot!
Restaurant: Vintage on 5th
Address: 114 Northeast 5th Street, Crystal River, FL 34429
Telephone: (352) 794-0004
Date of Visit: June 8, 2012
Tags: Crystal River, Shrimp
Good Grub or Garbage © 2012