Gnarly Surf Bar and Grill Review

Historic Flagler Avenue and Canal Street have seen many changes through the years, but both seem to be more comfortable than ever in their own skin.

Jason’s Corner and Mango Thai on Canal are two favorite stops. You have to love the Little Drug Co.’s trapped-in-time diner counter. And Henry Salgado at Spanish River Grill (Publix plaza on east Third Avenue) can give the Orlando culinary superstars a run for their money any day.

Beachside, Flagler Avenue — the north main drag to the ocean — thrives with pub crawls, street festivals and a vibrant restaurant scene. Atlantis Bistro, The Breakers and others are enjoying a feeding frenzy of sorts.

Where the north causeway over the Indian River gently slopes toward Peninsular Avenue, the Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill has redefined what you might expect of a beachy casual eatery. But this place has no ordinary chef at the helm.

Danny Veltri surged into the national spotlight as the 2009 winner of “Hell’s Kitchen,” the Fox culinary reality show starring the caustic and generally bombastic chef Gordon Ramsay. At the time, Veltri was known locally for his eclectically inspired fare at the original Flip Flops Grill & Chill, on Pine Street just off Flagler, and the Flip Flops that took over an old Shells on Third Avenue.

The Sarasota native soon returned to Florida, started consulting and created Back From Hell Catering. In 2011, he joined with a group of investors to create a surf bar with creative food. The result is the Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill.

The menu and restaurant are homage to all things surfing. Televisions play loops of great wave rides from around the world. And our staff photographer pointed out to me that “they have local surfboard shapers’ surfboards displayed on the roof.” Very cool.

Posted on: 16 Jan, 2012