Thanks to an eclectic mix of cultures and ethnicities – and top-notch local produce – Florida shines when it comes to being wined and dined. Here are some of our favourite dining experiences.
Be transported back to the glitz and glamour of the 1940s Cuba at El Tucan in the Brickell neighbourhood of downtown Miami. From Thursday to Sunday there’s a fixed menu price of Latin-inspired tapas, with delights such as Cuban coffee rubbed tenderloin in yamaki sauce and miso seabass skewers with baby bockchow. While you eat, you’ll be entertained by a cabaret backed by the resident 11-piece jazz orchestra. On Fridays and Saturdays the party goes on until 3am with tropical tunes and top DJs
Local celebrity chef Dan Dunn serves up his award-winning, flavourful and fun Cajun-Asian inspired menu at the beachfront H20 Cajun-Asian Grill. On Sundays, its ‘Best Brunch on the Beach’ has become a Pensacola institution, with no less than five buffet stations piled high with Prime Rib, succulent seafood, salads, waffles, pastries, mimosas and more. The restaurant is also known for its Bloody Mary bar, mixed with three kinds of vodka and more than 30 self-serve garnishes. There’s live music too.
Feast on truffles, lobster, soft-shell crab, big steaks and gildings of Hollandaise at 31 Supper Club in Daytona Beach. A 2016 Golden Spoon award winner, the restaurant harks back to the time of the prohibition era, speakeasy, with an authentic 1930s feel. Sip cocktails alfresco at the Havana Bar, where black and white movies are projected on to the wall, and enjoy the live entertainment five nights a week.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH
A little piece of Tuscan countryside comes to New Smyrna Beach in the form of The Garlic. Set in an enchanting garden grotto, guests walk down a vine-covered arbor, past a walled Olde World fireplace and enter a lush garden with lit-up trees and flowering greenery. The specialty is, you’ve guessed it, roasted garlic, which comes steaming from outdoor brick ovens and is used everywhere from starters to mains. Every table is served a bulb of baked garlic sautéed in olive oil and balsamic, paired with toasted Tuscan bread to dip. Chef Perri’s signature dish is Cioppino, a seafood stew. There’s also live music, fine wine, Italian beer and specialty martinis.
Guests can have a truly interactive experience at Cress, a critically-acclaimed restaurant in historic downtown DeLand. Award-winning chef, Hari Pulapaka, prepares each dish à la minute at the table, and loves to comment and answer questions about ingredients, techniques, and the nuances that make each serving unique. Dishes are globally inspired with a focus on quality local and sustainable ingredients.
Wine lovers should head to Vintage on 5th in Crystal River. Winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence every year since 2009, the restaurant’s owner, Rodney Carr, personally selects all the wines on the surprisingly affordable list and works closely with executive chef Aaron Davidson on creating the perfect pairings. The menu features dishes using locally-sourced ingredients with a southern influence and includes favourites like fresh clams from Cedar Key and oysters from Apalachicola.
It’s all about chocolate at the newest addition to CityWalk at Universal Orlando. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen is a full-service dining concept but with a focus on gourmet chocolates and other sweet treats. The 19th-century inspired, Steampunk-era themed chocolate emporium also boasts an artisan milkshake collection, including shakes with names such as Chocolate x5 – yes, that’s five different types of chocolate – Bacon Brittle and the Espresso Buzzzz.
Voted the Best New Restaurant last year by Florida Trend Magazine, The Mill Restaurant in downtown St Petersburg is going from strength to strength. Chef Ted Dorsey and his team serve up New American dishes with a Southern and French Creole twist, such as sweet pea hummus, southern fried frog’s legs, fish and grits, roast beet panzanella, and honey black pepper cheesecake.
A romantic waterfront restaurant, on the beautiful white-sand beaches of Anna Maria Island, Beach Bistro has been welcoming locals and visitors since 1985 and is now firmly on Florida‘s culinary map. The chef team serves up creative dishes using the best locally-sourced farm products and fresh, line-caught seafood, earning the restaurant no less than 10 Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Awards.
For something completely different, put your taste buds to the test at Market 17‘s Dining in the Dark experience. Combining dining with theatre, the restaurant is completely dark and diners are invited to taste, smell, even touch the food and to figure out what they are eating and drinking. Executive chef Lauren Deshields follows a zero-miles foodie ethos, when ingredients come straight to the table from local farm suppliers.