Florida is one of the most culturally diverse peninsulas in North America, which is reflected through its many culinary offerings. From traditional southern home-cooked meals, to Pan-Asian inspired dishes and fresh-off-the-boat seafood, here is a selection of must-visit eateries across ten beautiful small towns in Florida.
A casual restaurant located on Scipio Creek Channel in beautiful Apalachicola, Florida, Up the Creek Raw Bar is not your father’s oyster bar. The town is famous for oysters, but that’ s not all that is served at Up the Creek Raw Bar, they feature everything from vegetarian entrees to upscale cuisine. From the menu say yes to the raw oysters, the mignonette oysters, and fried grouper.
Located inside the Okeechobee Livestock Market, one of Florida’s premier cattle auction businesses is the OLM Restaurant, which is rumored to have one of the best hamburgers in the state of Florida. The experience doesn’t stop at just the hamburger either, guests are able to sit and watch a live cattle auction on Mondays and Tuesdays. Call it a ‘start to finish’ full production food experience. From the menu, order the cheeseburger or bacon cheeseburger with a side order of fried okra.
Sugarboo’s is an award-winning barbeque restaurant located in Mt. Dora, Florida. This down-home style BBQ joint is only open on the weekends and offers a drive-thru window where guests can pick up menu items like ribs, brisket, pulled pork and sides. Dining-in is also an option, and Sugarboo’s offers a quaint outdoor patio to enjoy a meal in near solitude, as the restaurant is off-the-beaten-path. From the menu order the ribs, chicken, pork, turkey, or beef brisket.
Crawdaddy’s is a festive New Orleans style restaurant in downtown Jensen Beach that serves award-winning dishes such as New York strip steak with wild mushrooms, pork chops with bourbon peaches, clam chowder, gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etoufee. With indoor and outdoor patio seating, Crawdaddy’s offers live music nightly and one of the best Mardi Gras celebrations outside of N’Awlins. From the menu say yes to the shrimp creole, which is a portion of gulf shrimp in a wonderful creole sauce served around rice, and the crawfish étouffée.
Pie from The Square Grouper Bar and Grill | Courtesy of Lynn Bell
The Loose Caboose is a family owned-and-operated restaurant serving fresh and local seafood and produce in downtown Boca Grande’s historic Railroad Depot. Known for specialty sandwiches and homemade ice cream, the Loose Caboose has something for everyone’s palate, from sweet to tart. From the menu try the fried green tomatoes, fresh catch sandwich or fingers and the Thanksgiving wrap.
Just off US 1 at mile marker 22.5 on Cudjoe Key, The Square Grouper offers low-key, gourmet seafood cuisine. The name is derived from the 1980s drug-running era, when bales of marijuana were found floating off the coast of Florida. The name may be comical, but the food is seriously delicious. Opened and operated by chef Lynn Bell, The Square Grouper has quickly become a favourite of the locals in the Middle Keys. En route to-or-from Key West, stop by The Square Grouper for a tropical gourmet dinner followed by a homemade slice of the famed key lime pie.
District Table & Bar located in Stuart, Florida, offers a southern-inspired menu driven by seasonal ingredients derived from local farmers and fishermen. Once inside the restaurant, diners experience a collaborative kitchen where chefs interact with guests. Chefs take whatever ingredients are fresh and available day-to-day and transform them into delicious menu items. What the restaurant doesn’t use immediately is swiftly preserved, pickled, smoked and saved. From the menu, try the small plates of lamb meatballs, double bacon brussels sprouts and candied beets. For dessert, homemade ice creams, sorbet and cinnamon sugar donuts will do the trick.
As one of the state’s first restaurants to champion local farmers, fishermen and artisanal purveyors, The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, offers culinary creations inspired by the best seasonal foods in Florida. The seasonal pig roasts held on the first Saturday of every month, as well as tasty premium select craft beer, make this gastropub a local favorite. Say yes to the Canaveral shrimp ‘n grits, pork porterhouse, gruyere biscuits, steak frites and pig tails with chocolate espresso sauce dessert.
Cowpoke’s Watering Hole, Sebring | Courtesy of Cody's Roadhouse
Cowpoke’s Watering Hole in Sebring is known for consistently good food and drinks in an indoor and al fresco tiki hut setting. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers live music in a comfortable setting with friendly staff. Must have menu items include the rib-eye steak, filet, or lobster, which all come with garlic butter potatoes and steamed vegetables.
St. Augustine’s locals and visitors describe The Floridian as a restaurant serving regionally, authentic cuisine for lunch and dinner. The Floridian uses fresh-from-the-source ingredients -a mixture down home Southern comfort entrees mixed with lighter, healthier dishes. The restaurant also offers a plethora of vegetarian options. The venue prides itself on the use of local and sustainably produced meats, seafood, vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses. The restaurant does not take reservations, except around the holidays. Say yes to the pickled pepper shrimps, fried green tomato bruschetta, and shrimp and sausage pilau.