Excitement about eating and drinking in the Sunshine State has been building in recent years.
And with good reason: Florida’s culinary scene is one of the most diverse and exciting in the United States.
Large Hispanic, African-American, Native American and East Asian communities mean ingredients and techniques from all over the planet have been combined to create a varied and vibrant approach to food, that is, above all, wildly delicious.
Preparations such as Cuban mojo pork and Florida-style barbecue are deeply rooted in tradition, and there’s an abundance of meticulously finessed fine dining cropping up around the state’s many metropolitan areas, too.
Read on to fill your plate.
Florida’s Michelin stars
Florida is one of the most recent American regions to be reviewed by the Michelin Guide and it made quite an impression on the company’s inspectors.
118 total restaurants were recognised, with 35 different cuisine types in the selection.
The coveted stars were awarded to 15 restaurants in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, with a further 29 taking home the Bib Gourmand accolade.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Miami received two stars, making the Design District’s 34 seats even more difficult to book, while other notables include Rocca in Tampa, Soseki in Orlando, and Stubborn Seed in Miami Beach, all of which splice international cuisines with locally sourced Florida ingredients.
Did we mention local ingredients? The farm-to-table movement is in a state of rude health throughout Florida, with a raft of young and ambitious chefs embracing the locavore ethos.
Each region in the state has its own character and terroirs, and this shines through in restaurants like Black Sheep in Jacksonville, which utilises honey from Callahan bees and chicken raised in Palatka; or the Michelin-starred Rooster and the Till in Tampa, which uses produce from hydroponic farm Urban Oasis; or indeed The Local Naples in the southwestern part of Florida, which makes its own bresaola from the Jackman Wagyu Beef Ranch.
With such an abundance of agriculture, produce never travels far in the Sunshine State.
Restaurants with a view
There’s nothing better than cracking open a crab claw when you can see and smell the body of water from which it was plucked.
Florida, being surrounded on both sides by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to oceanside dining.
Whether you’re slamming shellfish on the half-shell at Southport Raw Bar in Fort Lauderdale; taking in the Biscayne Bay with elevated Peruvian at La Mar by Gaston Acurio; despatching lobster mac and cheese at Beach Walk Cafe in Destin; or slamming babyback ribs at Water Pig Barbecue in Pensacola, you can be sure you’re in for a treat.
Seafood and eat it
While we’re on the subject of experiential dining, we want to drill down into one of Florida’s finest phenomena, the seaside fish shack.
You know the place: waves lapping under the sun-bleached, knotty pine of the jetty; the smell of conchs and scallops turning that perfect shade of amber in the fryer; and, of course, all the ice-cold beer under the sun.
From Triad Seafood Market in Everglades City to Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo to Aunt Kate’s in St Augustine, these no-frills operations have spent decades honing their craft, and you can taste it.
When it comes to America’s craft beer scene, Florida is an industry-leader. Many of the beers created at its more than 250 breweries have achieved cult status in America and abroad.
Funky Buddha, for instance, does what it says on the tin and mashes up mind bending flavour combinations such as sweet potato casserole and blueberry cobbler.
Cigar City is probably the most famous of all Florida breweries, and its Jai Alai IPA and Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale can be found in supermarkets and liquor stores in all corners of the US.
For all things craft beer, Florida’s got it going on.
Find more inspiration at visitflorida.com