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Believe it or not, there’s more to Florida than the beach and Disney World — though, Disney has some outrageous food items of its own. Between the resorts, the Keys, and Florida’s other hot tourist spots, there are dozens of attractive cuisine options available. In addition to the places frequented by tourists, Floridians are hiding a few gems of their own as well. We’ve hunted down the best of the best from the infamously wild state as part of our first-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Florida is home to 17 of the 100 hot spot restaurants in America and has birthed culinary innovations such as legendary Key West shrimp and hurricane shutter grilled cheese. Despite it not being thought of as a destination for food, the state’s restaurant scene gives the beaches some competition for tourists’ attention. Famously generous chef Jose Andres recently opened a restaurant in the state, after chef Thomas Keller chose to do the same.
Florida is also home to one of the best grocery stores in America — Publix. Of course, you’d only know if you were from Florida, but those stores have the best chocolate chip cookies we’ve ever tasted.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and farmers markets to its best dive bar and craft brewery in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state. Here is where to look to find Florida’s must-try foods and drinks.
Photo by Janin c. via Yelp
Miami Beach is home to many of Florida’s best bars, but The Broken Shaker takes the crown. Another one of Esquire magazine’s best bars in the country, The Broken Shaker is very small and quite romantic. You have to go inside the Freehand Hostel to access its creative cocktails and spacious courtyard. It’s the perfect drinks spot for your tropical vacation.
It should be no surprise that Tampa’s Cigar City has the best beer in Florida. And while they have many wonderful offerings, their Double Barrel Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is the best of the best. Aged 50 percent in rum barrels, 50 percent in apple brandy barrels, this sought-after imperial stout is spicy yet rich and the 14th best beer in the world.
Jackie Sayet/The Genuine Hospitality Group
This popular Miami restaurant (with an outpost on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman) serves its first-rate burger only at lunchtime, but it's beefy enough to make a substantial dinner. The beef is house-ground Black Angus from California's Harris Ranch and the bun is brioche. Optional accompaniments include house-smoked bacon and blue or Vermont white Cheddar. Find more details on Michael’s Genuine here.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar / Facebook
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar brings a Southern charm and influence to Miami, a place better known for its Cuban and Spanish food. Former chef Jeff McInnis, who has since moved on from Yardbird to open Root & Bone in New York City, is said to have boiled this fried chicken recipe down to a science by brining the chicken for 27 hours before dredging it in cayenne-spiced flour and frying it. Yardbird’s fried chicken has received numerous accolades in recent years, and for good reason. You just have to taste it yourself to see what the fuss is all about.
This upscale London-based chain has American locations in Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco. Though it’s flashy, opulent, and expensive, the food coming out of the kitchen is of an incredibly high quality, full of flavor and always interesting.
Dim sum items are especially notable, including chicken and abalone shumai, morel crystal dumplings, and roast duck pumpkin puffs. If you’re looking for a Chinese meal fit for a king, Hakkasan’s your place.
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Cigar City Brewing, a Florida favorite, has fans from far outside the Sunshine State thanks to their unique lineup of beers. John Holl, author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook, says it best: “Capitalizing on the Latin culture and tobacco-manufacturing history of Tampa Bay, Cigar City highlights those strengths on its labels and in its beer names and recipes. Many of the beers it produces — Jai Alai IPA, Improv Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale, Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale — reflect the sensibilities and ingredients of Florida.”
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From its inception, Misha’s Cupcakes was designed for family. The owner began this delicious cupcakery as a way to spend time with her newborn daughter (and also to make a few extra bucks). A successful business blossomed a few years later, and now it’s one of the finest cupcake joints in Florida. Be sure to check the site for the current flavors, as they change with the seasons. Some of their flavors for fall include ginger snap, chocolate obsession, and pumpkin dulce de leche. Click here to find out why Kate Middleton has been eating so many gingersnaps lately.
Mac’s Club Deuce/Yelp
Mac's Club Deuce is the antidote you need to counteract the trendiness of Miami Beach. With a happy hour that actually runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., this bar is grimy and old school. But don’t let the clientele scare you off; folks here are actually as friendly as they come. Bring plenty of cash; this bar doesn’t run tabs and you may be there for a while. While they likely don’t sell craft cocktails, they’ll definitely have your favorite best-selling beer. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the dive bar vibe.
Mojo Donuts bakes the craziest flavors, which we are totally obsessed with. They unsurprisingly always sell out quickly, so make sure you get there early in order to choose among flavors such as key lime pie, Fruity Pebbles, and s’mores. For more information on Mojo Donuts, click here.
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Ms. Cheezious isn’t just another grilled cheese truck; it was the No. 1 food truck in America for 2015, and No. 3 for 2016. The menu includes 17 standard styles and a build-your-own option, with eight cheeses, about five breads to choose from, and six add-ons to throw into the mix. Go for the standards, like the Crabby Cheese Melt (crab salad and sharp Cheddar), Southern Fried Chicken & Waffle Melt (fried chicken and Cheddar on house-made buttermilk waffles with gravy and syrup), Frito Pie Melt (house chili, American cheese, jalapeños, onions, and Fritos), and the best dessert grilled cheese we’ve heard of yet: The Sweet Meltdown, with a ricotta and orange marmalade blend on Texas toast, served with chocolate dipping sauce. Ms. Cheezious has been a mainstay on our list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America since 2012, and we’re thrilled that husband-and-wife duo Brian and Fatima Mullins are still getting recognition from hungry folks year after year.
The title of owner Michael Schwartz’s cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat, is a pretty great description of the food he serves at his restaurant. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink sticks to this comfort food theme with homemade fries, which are thin, crisp, and nicely golden.
The fried chicken at The Dutch, which was originally only available for lunch but is now for sale during dinner hours as well, definitely lives up to the hype. The buttermilk their chicken is soaked in includes a winning mix of cayenne, Old Bay, honey, and Tabasco. This popular SoHo spot also has a location in Miami.
Ragland Road Orlando / Facebook
Raglan Road is the ideal spot to kick off a fun bar crawl. Its high-energy atmosphere will get anyone feeling the luck of the Irish. The menu was devised by consulting Irish chef Kevin Dundon, whose classic creations have a modern touch. With all the necessary brews on-hand, like Magner's Irish Cider, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, and of course Guinness, you'll be set here for a perfect night out.
Queens-born, Italy-raised chef Michael Pirolo spent time at some of Italy’s finest restaurants and enjoyed a stint as chef de cuisine at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta before branching out on his own with Macchialina in 2012. The menu is primarily composed of antipasti and housemade pasta, and we strongly suggest you try as many of the pastas as possible (especially on Thursdays, when they’re just $10). Other standouts include gnoccho fritto, veal cheek and pork meatballs, and a 21-day dry-aged New York strip.
With three Miami locations and one in Aventura, Roasters ‘N Toasters has made a name for itself as Florida’s premier Jewish deli. In business since 1984, this deli hits all the right notes: corned beef, pastrami, brisket, roast beef, tongue, Reubens, a wide variety of gutbusting combo sandwiches, smoked fish, matzo ball soup, and homemade baked goods. If you’re near Miami and have a hankering for some good old-fashioned deli fare, Roasters ‘N Toasters is the place to go.
Five cheeses go into this Miami hotspot’s super-popular macaroni and cheese: Grayson, Swiss, Cheddar, red Leicester, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Combined into a creamy sauce and tossed with a spiral-shaped pasta called torchio, it’s topped with bread crumbs and chives before being served in a heaping baking dish. Unique, creative, and delicious, this mac and cheese hits all the right marks.
Chef Oscar del Rivero oversees one of Florida’s best Mexican restaurants, with a menu inspired by seasonal ingredients and the chef’s personal travels to Mexico. This place serves Mexican food you’d actually find in Mexico. Beyond standouts on the everyday menu like queso frito, puntas chipotle, pambazo sliders, there’s a huarache grill prepared a la talla (with mild guajillo chile rub), a different pozole every Thursday, and a “traditional” Caesar salad said to follow the original recipe from Tijuana.
Every day, chef Kevin Cory gets the highest-quality seafood available and puts them on a menu that changes daily according to what he was able to procure. Only 16 diners have the privilege of sampling his creations each night at Naoe, and each will pay $200, plus 20 percent service charge and sales tax, for the opportunity.
Miami’s best food truck now also has two locations in the city. You can build your own grilled cheese, or choose one of their “Must Haves.” The most popular gutbombs include Frito Pie Melt (chili, American cheese, jalapenos, onions, and Fritos); Mackin Melt (creamy gouda mac and cheese with house cured bacon); Southern Fried Chicken & Waffle Melt (fried chicken and Cheddar housemade waffles, country gravy, syrup); and S’Mores Melt (roasted marshmallows, salted chocolate hazelnut spread, Graham cracker crumble on sourdough).
Yelp/ Cassie G.
Queens-born, Italy-raised chef Michael Pirolo spent time at some of Italy’s finest restaurants and enjoyed a stint as chef de cuisine at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta before branching out on his own with Macchialina in 2012. The menu is primarily composed of antipasti and housemade pasta, and we strongly suggest you try as many of the pastas as possible (especially on Thursdays, when they’re just $10). The beet mezzaluna, little half-moons filled with a beet-based mixture tossed with a simple sauce of brown butter and hazelnuts and topped with ricotta salata, is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Find more details on Macchialina here.
Photo by Will G. via Yelp
Scuola Vecchia brings a host of traditional Italian pizzas to Delray Beach with a ton of different options for every pizza-lover. Guests can choose from 25 different pizzas from the traditional Margherita to more complex pies like the capricciosa with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, Italian ham, artichokes, mushrooms, and extra-virgin olive oil. But if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, there’s the option to build your own pie, starting with the foundation of either a marinara or Margherita.
Known as the founding father of New World cuisine, chef Norman Van Aken — a member of The Daily Meal Council — is acclaimed for his fusion of Latin, Caribbean, and Asian flavors using traditional European techniques. At Norman’s in the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, guests can eat in the opulent dining room or on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace overlooking the hotel’s lake, 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course, and lush gardens. (Norman’s was ranked No. 37 on The Daily Meal’s list of the Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World.) The menu changes according to availability of seasonal ingredients; it currently features Key West shrimp ceviche; adobo-marinated grilled rack of lamb with mole verde and pattypan squash; and pan-cooked fillet of Florida snapper with asparagus, citrus butter sauce, and mashed potatoes.
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The Cuban sandwich actually originated in Florida, not Cuba, and in many ways it’s the unofficial sandwich of Miami. Just about all Miami Cuban sandwiches contain the same ingredients — ham, roast pork, Swiss, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, pressed until melty (salami also works its way into it in Tampa) — but quality can vary from place to place. The definitive version can be found at Versailles, located in Miami’s Little Havana. Fresh Cuban-style white bread loaves are baked in house; ham is glazed with brown sugar, pineapple juice, and cloves before being baked; whole pork legs are marinated and slow-roasted for three hours daily; and imported Swiss is sliced thick. A good Cuban sandwich depends on the quality of its ingredients, and the ingredients at Versailles are just about perfect.
The folks at City Seafood, located in a tiny fishing village, pride themselves on catching all of their seafood and stone crabs from their own fishing and crabbing boats. Enjoy your meals outdoors on the deck while manatees swim by. Most diners come for the stone crabs, but baskets of smoked mullet, grouper, shrimp, oysters, blue crab, gator, or frogs' legs are top-notch as well. City Seafood, conveniently, is also a market, so you can take some of those local delicacies home with you.
Yelp/ Randy S.
Key West may also be known as the Conch Republic, but there’s only one restaurant on the island that’s earned the right to carry the name. Conch Republic Seafood Company is located on the historic Key West Bight Marina, and they do their conch right. You can order it flash-fried or in fritters, but you’ll also want to try it in their homemade conch chowder, a Bahamian-style red chowder made with ground conch, herbs, and potatoes. It’s something no visitor to Key West should leave without trying; make sure you try the homemade Key lime pie, too, while you’re at it.
Don’t come to Bern’s if you're on a diet; Bern's is about wonderful excess. There are 20 kinds of caviar on the menu of this big, old-style, legendary establishment. The menu also includes two preparations of foie gras, two kinds of steak tartare (one with truffles), oysters three ways, endless varieties of fish and shellfish, 16 different cheeses both domestic and imported, nearly 50 desserts (including gluten- and sugar-free varieties) — served upstairs in a special dessert room — and a list of about 7,000 wines (5,500 of them red). Oh, and did we mention steaks? There are seven different cuts in a total of 51 different sizes (from 6 ounces of filet mignon to 60 ounces of strip sirloin), broiled to eight different temperatures, from very rare ("no crust, cold and raw") to, gulp, well-done ("sturdy little crust, no color, no juice, dried out"). Come hungry. Find more details on Bern’s here.
For sushi-lovers, Naoe is a little slice of heaven in Miami. The sushi here would be right at home even at a high-end spot in Japan, and at this tiny, eight-seat temple to raw fish, you can let sushi master Kevin Cory, dubbed the "Omakase King," be your guide. The accolades for Naoe just keep piling up: Five stars from Forbes Travel Guide, named one of the country’s best sushi restaurants by Travel + Leisure, a nomination for best new chef from Food & Wine, and so on. (Chef Ferran Adrià even called it “one of the best Japanese restaurants that I have been to outside of Japan, in the world.”) If you can snag a reservation (only 16 guests are served each night), you’ll be presented with a selection of some of the freshest seafood imaginable from both Japanese and local waters. There’s horse mackerel topped with fresh wasabi, fresh-roasted and basted eel, urchin-topped egg tofu, cured squid, Scottish salmon belly … the selection goes on and on. By the time your meal is through, you may never look at sushi the same way again.
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My Ceviche is a fast-casual seafood spot that’s become a Miami standby with a handful of locations throughout the city. Ceviche (made with your choice of three types of seafood and in six styles), burritos, bowls, and salads are all solid options, but don’t miss the tacos, which are available with fish, shrimp, octopus, chicken, or raw tuna. It may be unexpected, but raw tuna is the way to go: It’s chopped into tiny pieces and piled into a corn or flour tortilla with a bright combo of pickled red onions, julienned matchsticks, shredded queso fresco, and cilantro; we suggest you ask for some sliced avocado on top as well. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.