We visit the Floridian on a rainy Friday night, and, at 4:47pm, are among the first to arrive for dinner. We’re so early, in fact, that they’re still serving lunch. The hostess lets us know that the kitchen will be turning over in about 15 minutes, and that she’s going to give us the cocktail and dinner menus. Perfect.
The restaurant is a soothing shade of light blue, its shelves artfully lined with Florida knick-knacks, its tables set with flower-filled mason jars. Under each glass tabletop, a vintage Florida scarf adds nostalgic charm.
The menu is a wild ride of “innovative Southern fare for omnivores, herbivores, and locavores.” There are vegetarian options, gluten-free biscuits, and regional items. It’s a lot to sift through, and all too easy to over-order. The waiter takes his time with us, giving us a chance to enjoy our appetizers before he puts in our dinner order.
We start with Biscuit and Belly. On top of a dark wood cutting board, the huge biscuit glistens with hot-sauce honey and sits atop pork belly (and, strangely enough, a swipe of pink mustard). In the corner, a dollop of Lil Moo cheese, and in a silver cup, house bourbon-apple butter. The gluten-free biscuit is soft and dense: The best bite features the creamy apple butter and a piece of the pork belly. Mustard and cheese are easily forgotten.
Green tomatoes are fried in cornmeal, served with spinach and green tomato relish, and topped with house-herbed ricotta and basil aioli. There’s a lot going on, but it’s all good. The tomatoes are crisp, not overly breaded.
Pickled Pepper Shrimps arrive in a jar of lemon brine with pickled poblano and rainbow bell peppers, sweet onions, capers, and lemon zest. They’re plump and chewy, and the brine trickles down your chin in spite of any effort to avoid it. They’re served with a full mini loaf of soft Pan Pugliese, dressed up with garlic and oil. They’re good together or on their own.
The menu suggests, “You should maybe add bacon jam” to a South-East Fried Chicken Sandwich. So we do. The chicken is dusted with rice flour and lightly fried, then drizzled with that hot-sauce honey and stacked on top of lemon aioli and apple-jicama slaw. Though each element is tasty, they tend to lose their identity amongst the variety of flavors. With it comes potato salad with chopped onions and peppers served in an almost soup-like sauce.
The Floridian uses ingredients from local growers and producers, because “to us, that just makes sound, sustainable sense.” Sometimes, it seems, they get carried away with a bit too much happening at once, but everything is fun and delicious. And the vibe is very laid-back and easy going. We’re invited to the bar to check out desserts, but think we’ve met our limit with our four to-go boxes.