DINING IN FLORIDA

Travel information about good food and dining out in Florida

In a state as culturally diverse as Florida, the food promises to be just as interesting as the people. Whether you prefer Latin fare, savory seafood or home-cooked Southern comfort foods, Florida has it all.






Mullet and blueberries are specialties in northwest Florida, strawberries and Cajun delights are sure to please both natives and visitors to central Florida.

From the top of the state in the Panhandle to the bottom tip of the Keys, visitors and residents alike can enjoy the freshest seafood at restaurants in almost every city throughout Florida. It’s no wonder visitors seek the perfect seafood dining experience in a state where no spot is more than 60 miles from the vast coastline.

Florida is particularly known for its fresh-off-the-line seafood and “Floribbean” cuisine which combines the colors and spices of Caribbean cooking with some traditional Florida favorites to create the ultimate regional delicacy. Savor sumptuous seafood fresh from the sea like wild shrimp, juicy crab claws and tender fish fillets all cooked with tangy and blackened spices native to the Caribbean.


DINING IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Beaches of South Walton
From award-winning fine dining to casual fare, Beaches of South Walton is home to more than 120 restaurants serving dishes to satisfy any taste from fresh gulf seafood to Caribbean Creole cuisine. The area is home to six of Florida Trend's "Top 500 Restaurants" including Bud & Alley's, Café Thirty-A, Seagar's, Fish Out of Water, and (vin’ tij) Wine Boutique and Bistro. Criolla's was voted one of the top 400 restaurants in the world by Wine Spectator.

Destin/Fort Walton Beach
Destin and Fort Walton's justified claim is there is always a variety of tasty types of fish from amberjack and red snapper to yellowfin tuna available straight off the docks. Required “dress code” is flip-flops and beach tops as more than 400 culinary characters – cedar seafood shacks, boardwalk oyster bars, gracious antebellum estates and Gulf-air cafes – shrug off sophistication and showcase local seafood celebrities with unbridled zest. True to its Southern heritage, popular specialties feature tastes such as Louisiana Cajun crawfish gumbo, beer-battered fried mullet and cornbread hush puppies.

Panama City
Panama City Beach, known as the "Seafood Capital of the World," is host to an array of colorful dining options, from casual eateries to award-winning restaurants. Seafood plus Cajun means spicy crawdad etoufee or traditional gumbo. The annual Indian Summer Seafood Festival is held the second week in October each year.

Pensacola
The stunning variety of cuisine in Pensacola is a reflection of new influences, from sushi bars and spicy Thai curries, to culinary standards reflecting much of the city’s 450-year history. Whether talking of the diversity of the cuisine or its historical antecedents, nothing reflects more clearly on Pensacola’s long love affair with dining than the plentiful seafood coming directly from the Gulf of Mexico. This area is home to award-winning restaurants such as Jackson’s, Fish House, Flounder’s Chowder House, Skopelos on the Bay, McGuire’s Irish Pub, and Yamato’s Oriental Cuisine..

Seaside/Beaches of South Walton
After taking a dip in the Gulf of Mexico, biking down a scenic trail and fishing in the Choctawhatchee Bay, golf enthusiasts will be yearning to take a swing at one of Beaches of South Walton's highly acclaimed golf courses. With 207 challenging holes on nine of the Gulf's top-rated, professionally designed, well-manicured courses, spending a day on links is par for the course.



DINING IN NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

Tallahassee
Even the most discriminating palates will be pleased with the variety and quality of authentic recipes, seafood specialties and famous Southern-style dishes Tallahassee serves up to make visitors feel right at home. With the Gulf only 25 miles away, Tallahassee benefits from the freshest of saltwater sensations. Two especially tempting delicacies are famous Apalachicola oysters and Panacea blue crabs. From fast food to five-star, Tallahassee serves up an excellent selection of tantalizing restaurants. Tickling the taste buds are specialties ranging from homemade country sausage and melt-in-your-mouth steaks to wild game and succulent seafood fresh from the Gulf.



DINING IN NORTHEAST FLORIDA

Gainesville
The historic downtown entertainment district has many options for an evening of dining. A three square block section starting at the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street, it contains the best collection of local cuisine in town. Each restaurant offers a delightful dining experience. Whether it is Italian, bistro, steak or gourmet an opportunity to taste the best Gainesville has to offer is waiting.

Jacksonville
Jacksonville nightlife is a vibrant scene, from laid-back local pubs to martini mania for the hip and beautiful. The restaurant scene is thriving, with the finest culinary creations as popular as the waterfront fish camps or a table piled high with southern comfort food.


St. Augustine/Ponte Vedra Beach
Straight-from-the-docks, fresh seafood and delicacies are served in more than 150 eateries on the beaches of Anastasia Island and in St. Augustine. Options range from waterbound bungalows to gourmet bistros and turn-of-the-century Victorian mansions. The area's strong Minorcan heritage inspires spicy dishes and savory specialties, such as pilau and sauces from the datil pepper – a red-hot local condiment indigenous to the area. The resorts of Ponte Vedra cater to the most discriminating of tastes and offer dining experiences ranging from gourmet to beachside oyster roasts.



DINING IN CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

St. Petersburg/Clearwater
The area is best known for incredibly fresh, yet reasonably priced seafood including excellent shrimp, grouper, red snapper and a myriad of other fish caught nearby in the Gulf of Mexico. Romantic dinner cruises and dinner theaters are popular and memorable. Dining can be as formal or a casual as one prefers at any one of the area's 2,276 restaurants. There is also a virtual United Nations of other cuisine available in a wide variety of price ranges including French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Caribbean and from central and eastern Europe.

Tampa
Tampa's food and restaurant scene tells the story of its people and its past, the diversely different cultures that settled the area creating a melting pot of flavor. While Spanish and Cuban dishes took on new twists, the Italians stayed true to their traditional ways of cooking. However, it wouldn’t be unusual in Tampa’s historic neighborhood Ybor City to find homemade focaccia and cannoli on the same menu as Cuban sandwiches and guava turnovers.



DINING IN CENTRAL FLORIDA


Kissimmee
From four-star restaurants to casual dining, Kissimmee has restaurants for every taste and budget. Dozens of nationally recognized franchise restaurants and ethnic eateries as well as traditional Mom-and-Pop restaurants offer visitors a wide selection of succulent food. Kissimmee also has several dinner attractions that provide not only delicious food but also fine entertainment.

Lakeland
If you’re looking for some great dining spots in Lakeland there are a variety from which to choose. Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille offers New Orleans style flavor, delight in a number of Cajun favorites from red beans and rice to gumbo. Antiquarian is another local favorite with a unique flair. A blend of French and American foods, this restaurant is a great lunch spot Tuesday through Saturday and don’t miss the live jazz music on Friday and Saturday night. If you are looking for fine dining, look no further than The Terrace Grill in the Terrace Hotel. Serving “new American” cuisine, this upscale restaurant offers a stunning view of the city.

Orlando
The Orlando dining scene is alive with wonderful dining destinations from Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road to The Mall at Millenia shopping and dining mecca. Whether visitors want to linger over a romantic dinner or gear up for a family feast, the settings are many and the fare is diverse. Orlando serves up more than 5,180 restaurants to stimulate one’s senses and satisfy the palate – from themed and character dining venues such as Cinderella’s Royal Table to dinner shows and elegant dining settings like Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and Manuel’s on the 28th. From haute cuisine to the perfect burger, there’s something for every palate and pocketbook. 



DINING IN CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

Cocoa Beach
The Space Coast serves up some of the finest seafood and dining delicacies in Florida throughout more than 1,400 “ready-to-eat” raw bars, eclectic eateries and gourmet bistros. Along with the traditional super-fresh favorites of lobster, scallops, crawfish, shrimp, fish and crab, specialties including octopus, fried frog legs, alligator and shark, surface from the deep – of course, served with selections of steaming hot corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw and cornbread hush puppies.

Daytona Beach
The Daytona Beach area contains some of the finest nighttime entertainment and dining in Florida. Locally-owned restaurants cater to those with international palates. Visitors can enjoy restaurants that feature Italian, Japanese, Chinese, French, California-bistro, Mediterranean, Caribbean, vegetarian, seafood, barbecue, gourmet and creative American cuisine.


DINING IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Bradenton
The Gulf of Mexico provides an endless source of Florida’s freshest seafood, served up with style throughout the islands. Area restaurants include other appetizing cuisine as well, including French, Continental, Chinese, Italian, and more. From the exotic and inventive to simple down-home cooking, restaurants here are sure to leave you happily satisfied. The Gulf also ensures the perfect atmosphere, with steady breezes and smoldering sunsets served nightly at almost every waterfront restaurant.

Charlotte Harbor
Fresh seafood is abundant and the area boasts a wide selection of ethnic foods including French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, and Mexican. All-American cuisine is also in plentiful supply.

Fort Myers
Fort Myers has been recognized by Nation's Restaurant News as one of the "50 Cities That Sizzle," and between the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs, and the islands including Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, there are restaurants to suit any budget or mood. Best of all, even the most elegant restaurants tend to have relaxed dress codes and will accommodate more casual attire. Some of the most informal establishments even welcome patrons in swim wear. Due to the abundance of fresh local fish, shrimp and clams, seafood is the centerpiece of many restaurant menus.

Marco Island
Chef Alberto Varreto brings the authentic tastes of Italy with gourmet flair to Sale e Pepe at Marco Beach Ocean Resort with spectacular Gulf of Mexico views. Kurrents at Marco Island Marriott features fusion cuisine and martinis.


Naples
Naples has arrived on the culinary map. Chef Robin Haas of Miami opened his signature Baleen restaurant overlooking the Gulf at the LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, and diners seeking the very finest cuisine have the option of dining in five-diamond style at Artisans in The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Fresh seafood, including local stone crab claws caught in season between October and May, and the latest continental and fusion cuisines are abundant, along with many opportunities for café, alfresco or waterfront dining – from casual to elegant.


Sarasota
Not far from Sarasota’s famous Siesta Key (one of the world’s most beautiful beaches) is one of the largest concentrations of reasonably priced, intimate, bistro-style restaurants, delis and take-out places on the planet Earth. It’s the Gulf Gate neighborhood, Sarasota’s new international district that spans a three-block area. It’s an amazing neighborhood and the aromas that fill the air will quickly lure you. Sarasota abounds in superb restaurants where menus are shaped by seasonally available local produce, served in a relaxed atmosphere.


DINING IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

Florida Keys
Stretching more than 100 miles into the open ocean, the Florida Keys can boast early settlers ranging from Bahamian fishermen to Cuban cigar-makers and New England merchants. In such a rich melting pot, it's natural that the indigenous cuisine incorporates diverse and delicious influences – with a reliance on an abundant array of fish and seafood harvested from surrounding waters. Among the favorites are Key West pink shrimp, a delicacy generally considered sweeter than other crustaceans. The mollusk conch (pronounced konk) is impossible to pass up and is served in many forms: lime-kissed salad, spicy chowder and golden deep-fried fritters among them.

Fort Lauderdale
From the turquoise sea lapping against miles of golden sand beaches to the nearly 300 miles of inland waterways which meander through the landscape, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers the perfect backdrop for an enchanting waterside dining experience. The cuisines of the Caribbean, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and, of course, America are just a few of the options available. Nationally acclaimed establishments sit side-by-side with tropical outposts, revered for their laid back appeal. And in Greater Fort Lauderdale, reaching a dining destination is half the fun, as many restaurants along the Intracoastal Waterway are accessible by Water Taxi.

Hollywood
Downtown Hollywood offers exquisite international cuisine. Both Hollywood Boulevard (a 120-foot wide tree and flower-lined avenue) and trendy Harrison Street feature an array of tantalizing dining establishments and sidewalk cafes. Continental, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean are just to name a few. The perfect blend of casual and upscale dining in addition to family-style and health food restaurants gave birth to one of South Florida's most exciting eating "in-spots." In fact the Miami Herald readers choice selected downtown Hollywood as the "Best local place to take Out-of-Towners."

Miami
Miami is ascending quickly as a serious culinary destination thanks to cultural diversity and sophistication. Attracting the attention of acclaimed restaurateurs, chefs and critics, Miami is home to a breathtaking array of serious and see-and-be-seen restaurants featuring cutting-edge design and innovative cuisine. Over 6,000 dining spots cater to an increasingly sophisticated resident population as well as millions of visitors. From casual alfresco cafes perfect for people watching to palaces of haute cuisine, Miami is a full-fledged culinary hot spot, with a flavor-packed menu filled with spicy and delicious options.


Photo: Visit Florida



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