The 8 Best Restaurants In Florida

The 8 Best Restaurants In Florida

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™. Photo: Universal Orlando Resort

Florida’s rich seafood offerings and diverse cultural heritage have contributed to a wide array of dining experiences, spanning from food trucks to upscale fine dining establishments.

Gone are the days when Florida was solely visited by theme-park enthusiasts. Instead, a fresh wave of food aficionados is flocking to the state. While fast food still exists, there’s a burgeoning local food movement, where talented chefs are infusing upscale flair into a variety of cuisines, ranging from Cuban to Caribbean and Asian to classic American fare.

These upscale eateries proudly share the spotlight with traditional Florida establishments, including charming beachside crab shacks experiencing a resurgence in popularity, celebrated for their delectable freshly caught shellfish.

Miami. Photo: iStock

From October to May, Miami enters stone crab season, a time when harvesters carefully remove one or two claws from the crustaceans before releasing them back into the sea. These claws, best enjoyed chilled and accompanied by mustard sauce, are a sought-after delicacy. Yet, beyond the realm of cold crab claws, Floridian cuisine embodies a captivating fusion of diverse culinary influences. In Miami, particularly along Ocean Drive, one encounters modern and progressive dining options that pay homage to the city’s rich Latin-American heritage.

Venturing about three hours north to Orlando reveals a culinary landscape with a more domestic focus. Here, the culinary scene remains rooted in classic American fare, with menus predominantly featuring steaks and burgers. Whether in Miami or Orlando, a true food enthusiast will find themselves overwhelmed with options.

To help navigate the culinary delights of either destination, here’s a curated list of must-visit spots for those planning a trip:

Osprey Tavern, Baldwin Park, Orlando

Osprey Tavern, a favorite spot in Baldwin Park, embodies Florida’s culinary evolution, embracing local ingredients and skillful cooking in a relaxed setting. With its open kitchen, central bar, and street-facing picture windows, the restaurant exudes a vibrant and airy atmosphere. Indulge in tempting bar bites like freshly shucked oysters, trout dip, and smoked grouper croquettes. The menu offers a delightful blend of European and American flavors, featuring dishes such as seared foie gras with grilled pineapple, rum caramel, pistachio, and spiced bread, along with smoky chicken wings served with hot sauce and celery-root slaw, and comforting short-rib cottage pie.

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, Orlando

Nestled within Orlando’s renowned tourist hotspot, Universal Resort, lies a dessert haven inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While the restaurant offers a savory menu, its true gems are found in its sweet creations. I highly recommend trying the brownie milkshake ($13/INR 838), featuring a decadent chocolate brownie cake served in a jar, and the peanut indulgence ($12/INR 774), an irresistible combination of Snickers, Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanuts, and cream.

Azucar Ice Cream Company, Little Havana, Miami

In the heart of Miami, Little Havana pulsates with the energy of Cuban exiles and immigrants from Central and South America. A must-visit hotspot here is Azucar, an artisanal ice cream parlor renowned for its use of fresh local ingredients. Their scoops are a testament to Miami’s flavors, with standouts like the abuela maria, blending guava, cream cheese, and Maria crackers, or the café con leche, a fusion of Cuban coffee and oreo cookies.

Cantina La Veinte, Brickell Avenue, Miami

A reservation at this Mexican restaurant calls for dressing up, as Chef Santiago Gomez excels in crafting South American cuisine with an eclectic flair. Among the standout mains, don’t miss the ceviche de camaron roca ($19/INR 1,226), featuring rock shrimp ceviche, and the short rib braseada ($36/ INR 2,305), an oven-roasted beef dish served with jus. Vegetarians can indulge in quesadillitas stuffed with mushrooms ($12/INR 774).

Quinto La Huella, Brickell Plaza, Miami

Chef Alejandro Morales showcases his culinary expertise at this Uruguayan hotspot, employing a unique fire cooking method utilizing a wood fire parilla (grill). A standout dish is the verduras asadas ($9/580), featuring a rustic medley of smoked autumn vegetables. Morales also demonstrates mastery in sushi, notably with the table nigiris ($18/INR 1,161), highlighting wild salmon and yellowfin tuna sushi, and the pulpo a la plancha ($21/INR 1,355), presenting tender octopus tentacles atop a bed of confit potatoes and paprika.

Restaurant Orsay, Jacksonville

Located in Jacksonville, Restaurant Orsay presents a menu infused with Southern influences and a unique French touch. Featuring seasonal offerings that evolve frequently, this establishment boasts signature dishes such as seared duck breast accompanied by French green lentils, Eden Farms bacon, carrot puree, roasted duck jus, and crispy carrots. Additionally, the off-menu beef Wellington stands out as a culinary delight, generously serving two to three patrons. To indulge in this exquisite dish, reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. However, the anticipation is well rewarded as the Wellington is expertly served tableside, cooked to a perfect medium rare at its center.

Ice Plant Bar, St. Augustine

Nestled within a historic ice plant building dating back to 1927, Ice Plant Bar epitomizes the farm-to-table dining experience. Embracing its locale, the restaurant procures seafood from St. Augustine and neighboring regions whenever feasible, while sourcing produce directly from local farms to ensure unparalleled freshness in every dish. The bar staff showcases an unwavering commitment to mixology excellence, curating a menu of craft cocktails crafted with house-pressed juices and artisanal syrups. For aficionados of bold flavors, the menu features an array of dishes incorporating datil peppers, a notably spicy variety indigenous to St. Augustine, promising a culinary adventure for spice enthusiasts.

Columbia Restaurant, Tampa

Operated by the same Cuban family for over a century, the Columbia has cemented its status as a Tampa landmark. Its 15 dining rooms exude an elegant old-Spanish charm, adorned with intricate tiles, archways, and serene courtyards with fountains. Indulge in Cuban classics like black bean soup or empanadas filled with minced beef, garlic, tomato, onions, raisins, and olives. Alternatively, savor the simplicity of a Cuban sandwich, served by white-gloved waiters who have dedicated their entire adult lives to the restaurant.

Turtle Kraals, Key West

In Florida, key lime pie holds a place in culinary tradition similar to the pasty’s significance in Cornwall. The classic rendition features a crumbly biscuit base topped with a mixture of local key limes—yellower, juicier, and more acidic than their counterparts—combined with sweetened condensed milk. Some variations include soft meringue and double cream. For a unique twist, the Key Lime Pie Bakery offers a chocolate-covered version on a stick. However, for an unforgettable sit-down experience, head to Turtle Kraals at the Historic Seaport to enjoy a slice on the deck, overlooking the boats and the shimmering water.

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