3-2-1...Lunch! Fuel for watching the Space Shuttle
November 3rd, 2010
10:00 AM ET
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John Zarrella is CNN's Miami correspondent. He has been covering space shuttle launches since 1984. Thursday, the Discovery shuttle will make its last mission, sending a crew of six astronauts to the International Space Station.

It's going to be a mess. Just accept that now.

I'm talking about tomorrow's Space Shuttle launch. Be prepared for bumper to bumper traffic and packed hotels and restaurants. With only two, maybe three flights left, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend upon Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and Titusville, Florida.

Here's some advice: take plenty of drinks, snacks and maybe sandwiches for the 3:30pm liftoff. You'll need to stake out your viewing spot hours ahead of time and plan on waiting several hours afterward to get out, or you will just sit in traffic.

But, if you're going to be hanging around the area for a few days, there's no reason to relegate yourself to bologna sandwiches. Whenever my team is at the Cape, we have a restaurant ritual and a few favorite haunts. If you promise not to take our table or at least let us join you, we'll share.

I've been covering launches since 1984 but, I didn't know about the Portside Galley until last Easter Sunday. Astronaut Cady Coleman was in town with her family, scheduled to be my guest color commentator for the next day's launch.

She suggested the Portside at Port Canaveral on George King Boulevard for breakfast. Open for breakfast and lunch, it's a spot most tourists don't know about, but this diner still draws a crowd of locals. The portions are big and the food good. Get in there launch day for breakfast or an early lunch and you won't be hungry until well after liftoff.

Really good restaurants line the water at the Port. If you are there at the right time and day, you can watch as the cruise ships head out.

Grills is our favorite on the waterfront. The front of the menu asks, "Where is a good seafood restaurant?" The answer is right there on the table, laden with terrific local seafood. I always go for the fish of the day, usually dolphin - also called mahi mahi. Kim, my producer, likes the lobster.

If fish doesn't reel you in, there are burgers, chicken, salads and wraps. When the weather is nice, grab a table outside. There's a Tiki bar and many nights, a band. Get there early - before six if you can. Otherwise you may easily wait an hour for a table.

Just south of the Port in Cape Canaveral is Thai Thai on Astronaut Boulevard. It's a small place that fills up quickly and their California roll is almost a meal in itself. I've overeaten more than once getting the roll and then opting for the main course - chicken pad Thai. On our last trip to the Cape, my cameraman got the Volcano - baked mixed seafood atop a California roll, slathered in a special sauce. I tried a bite - excellent - and don't worry; it's not as hot as the shuttle's main engines at liftoff.

Head south on A1A into Cocoa Beach for good barbecue, but if you get to Patrick Air Force Base, turn around - you've gone too far. Slow and Low has been a favorite of ours for years. I like the smoked turkey or the chicken with a nice sweet potato. Here too, you can sit inside or out.

Those are just a few of my team's favorites. They'll leave you with plenty of cash in your pocket for the souvenirs at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center - just make sure to leave room for dessert: freeze dried ice cream, of course.

And don't forget to enjoy the launch; it's breathtaking.

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Filed under: 100 Places to Eat • Florida • Outer Space • Travel

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. port canaveral transportation

    Yeah this is really a great i love it.

    Port Canaveral Transportation

    May 31, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  2. AstroNut

    Where's my TANG? Can't leave home without it!!!

    April 29, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • From unda dez nutz

      in my taint!

      April 29, 2011 at 8:09 am |
      • AstroNut

        Poon Taint?

        April 29, 2011 at 8:28 am |
      • From unda dez nutz

        LM G DAO! Poon taint it is!

        April 29, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  3. I am sofa king hungry!

    If I had three wishes one of them would be to poop in space, the others would involve Kelly Brook in some manner

    April 29, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Jerv

      Damn, if you don't sound like Jdizz. If not, still a funny post!

      April 29, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  4. Cheryl

    I agree Rusty's isn't great anymore, but Grills has the best coconut shrimp and sweet potato fries. But the other two great restaurants at the port are Fishlips (between Grills and Rustys - get the grilled mahi mahi) and Milliken's Reef at the end of the row nice outside and beautiful inside - good prime rib.

    November 23, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  5. Susan

    What the hey...might as well add this. Google Longdoggers. There are several locations. They have specials almost every day (like half-price steamed clams), steamed shrimp, mahi, and beautiful salads with a piece of mahi or shrimp on top, burgers, tons of crazy hotdog combinations, and a super relaxed atmosphere. I love Longdoggers. I have never been disappointed there, and I stick to the seafood and salads. Anyone will be happy there, including vegetarians.

    November 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  6. Dan

    If you're coming over to see the launch, avoid the tourist traps listed in the article. Better places to go for seafood include Florida's Seafood and Old Fish House, both on SR-520 in Cocoa Beach. If you prefer fried, go with Corky Bell's on US-1 between Titusville and Cocoa instead of Dixie Crossroads.

    November 4, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  7. Allen

    I have to agree with Susan, Grills and Rusty's the food isn't very good they are just tourist traps. It's a shame. If you read this Grills and Rusty's, please get it together. Thai Thai is fantastic IMO. Same with Dixie Crossroads, I haven't tried Slow and Low yet but I will soon.

    November 4, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  8. Susan

    I have to disagree about Grills. The only reason to go there is because it's on the water. Mediocre at best. Rusty's was great at one time but it went downhill. A waste of money. If you don't believe me, go ahead and try it. Thai Thai is good. Slow and Low is good. Dixie Crossroads is delicious. There is a great sushi restaurant in Cocoa Beach called Siam Orchid. You can even go to Publix (yeah, I know - sounds nasty) and get some sushi to go and take it right to the beach.

    November 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  9. Buckscuffle

    We were down for the Atlantis launch in May. If you will be viewing from Titusville it may be worth it to stop in at Dixie Crossroads, especially if you are not a local! This place was GREAT! Most of the menu was seafood and fish, but they had tons of options. I am not a fish eater but will eat shrimp and other menu options. My fiance tried the mullet, and it was amazing, this is one of the few times I have eaten fish, and then ordered more!! They also have shrimp called Rock Shrimp that is AMAZING! Try it broiled, it is so yummy! We were on the Treasure Coast for vacation and went to the shuttle launch to view from Astronaught Park in Titusville, FL. It was breath-taking! We ended up eating several more times at Dixie Crossroads when we were leaving the state, of course after visiting KSC! :) I hope you enjoy!

    November 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
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