What To Eat in Florida
Seafood in all its glory: oysters along the Gulf coast, crab and flounder and grouper and redfish throughout the state. Shrimp are divine on the eastern coast, especially around St. Augustine, which also is known for its unique Minorcan chowder, made incendiary by the inclusion of locally-grown datil peppers. Orlando is a beacon of good soul food restaurants; and in Tampa and Miami and out in the Keys, genuine Cuban restaurants are nothing short of spectacular. Need we mention that true Key lime pie is an essential? So much of Florida is new, but throughout the panhandle are a handful of charming old-Florida eateries – reminders that the farther north you go in this state, the deeper South you are.
Deep-cupped Aplachicolas glistening with oceanic liquor are painfully tender, ocean-sweet, overwhelmingly satisfying cool on the half shell. Or gild the lily by having them flash-baked in a plush veil of butter, Parmesan cheese, and garlic.
A perfect storm of multiple ingredients, the Cuban is a sheaf of roast pork, sliced ham, at least one kind of cheese, puckery pickle slices, mustard and mayo all packed into a torpedo of crusty Cuban bread. The sandwich would fall to pieces as constructed, but it attains poise and harmony in a hot plancha, the Spanish toaster that is basically a toothless waffle iron. The heavy top of the plancha presses down on the assembled sandwich, causing all the different flavor notes to bond together as one resounding chord inside the crisped loaf.
It looks like Manhattan clam chowder but Minorcan chowder definitely doesn't taste like it. The difference is datil peppers, grown only in and around St. Augustine, Florida, which give it chowder a fruity pepper punch. The shock and awe come on slowly, beginning with a glow at the back of the throat that soon blossoms to set tongue and lips tingling. Chopped clams, shreds of tomato, corn kernels, and hunks of potato ride a slow-rolling capsicum wave that swells with sweet-tart citrus zest.
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El Cristo is popular among Miami's Little Havana visitors who seek beautifully rendered traditional Cuban cooking, simple or deluxe.
Known for big, crisp-fried shrimp, La Cameronera is a tremendously popular Miami seafood market / cafe with a Cuban accent.
Farmer's Market Restaurant is a taste of old Fort Myers, specializing in catfish, Southern vegetables and house-baked pies and dinner rolls.
A tiny eat-shack with only outdoor seating, Cuban Sandwiches To Go makes one of the best sandwiches in Orlando.
Local oysters -- raw, baked or steamed -- are featured at Indian Pass Raw Bar, a Florida Panhandle landmark of good eating.
With its eclectic take on Southern and traditional pub dishes, Pensacola's Union Public House is the place for a good time and good food.
A casual, sophisticated restaurant with a seafood-focused menu, Great Southern Café offers "new-fashion Southern cuisine." Best bet: smoked Gouda cheese grits.
Pour your own pancake at a grill built into the center of the table at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, located within Florida's idyllic De Leon Springs State Park.
Robert Is Here is a roadside fruit stand and tourist destination known for exotic fruit and world class fruit milkshakes.