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Florida’s restaurants offer an array of cuisine, from southern comfort cuisine to fresh-off-the-boat seafood. While the Sunshine State is home to a handful of popular foodie destinations, its the small town gems that also offer unique charm, rich history and picturesque surroundings you won’t find in a tourist-packed theme park. Boasting scrumptious meals and friendly customer service, read on to discover some of the best restaurants in Florida’s small towns.
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If you’re looking for classic Southern grub, then Florida Cracker Kitchen in Brooksville is the place to go. Serving breakfast and lunch, start your day off right with the World Famous 10,000 Island Shrimp & Grits, a Florida Cowboy Classic with corned beef hash or Chicken & Waffles. The lunch menu showcases their popular fry baskets, ranging from Manasota Coconut Shrimp to Mom’s Crab Cakes and a Catfish Fry. Take some of their cinnamon raisin bread and homemade cinnamon rolls home, as they are baked fresh daily.
Offering some of the most beautiful waterfront views in Florida, Vue on 30A is a coastal gem where you can sit back and soak up the beauty of Santa Rosa Beach. A perfect spot for lunch or happy hour, the menu is inspired by the Gulf of Mexico landscape. From a delectable Lobster Roll with lemon basil aioli to the Tuna Tacos with sushi grade raw tuna, dine on seafood as you watch one of Florida’s colorful sunsets.
Serving Florida seafood prepared either fried, grilled, blackened or sauteed, Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant in Cortez is a no-frills restaurant that keeps it simple. A seafood market and restaurant in one, here you’ll find dishes like Wild Alaskan Salmon, Mahi Mahi Sandwich, Gulf Shrimp and even Stone Crab Claws when they’re in season. Then you can choose from a side of coleslaw, cheese grits or french fries. Soak up the commercial fishing atmosphere and enjoy the Gulf Coast views from outdoor picnic tables.
Known for its antique shopping and quaint atmosphere, Mount Dora is home to The Goblin Restaurant. A charming bistro is a cool eatery, pick from a menu of Irish whiskey onion soup, Florida crab cakes and Asiago Chicken Roulade. Save room for a glass of White Peach Sangria or riesling, as this romantic spot is the perfect date night venue. If you visit for lunch, you’ll have a range of tasty grilled choices, from the Irish Cheddar Burger to the Cashew Chicken Montagu.
A casual open-air restaurant in Florida’s stunning Perdido Key, the Flora-Bama Yacht Club offers the perfect blend of seafood dishes, live music and creative cocktails. Located on Ole River, this beach restaurant is across the street from the famous Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar on the state line. You won’t want to leave without sampling a delicious Bushwacker drink, while the Greek Shrimp Nachos, Lobster Corn Dog and Seared Tuna Wrap are solid menu choices.
Boasting a hippie vibe and a bright and colorful decor, Yellow Dog Eats in Gotha is tucked away just 30 minutes outside of Orlando. Located in a two-story historic building, you’ll find a VW bus in the outside dining area. The perfect spot to dine on barbecue sandwiches, pick the Fire Pig sandwiches to find a combination of pulled pork, gouda cheese and applewood smoked bacon or The Rufus with pulled pork and brie cheese.
Perfect for when you need a taste of traditional flavors from Spain and Portugal, Espana Restaurant & Tapas in Fernandina Beach boasts a small dining room and lush outdoor garden with cozy vibes. Pick from just-caught local seafood, meat entrees and an array of hot and cold tapas, or go for the traditional paella. Wash your meal down with a glass of homemade sangria and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Europe.
Famous for their barbecue, ribs, pork and chicken, Pearl’s Country Store in historic Micanopy is truly a hidden small-town gem. You’ll find all the classic barbecue options here, from dark-smoked briskets to ribs, baked beans and mac and cheese. Located inside a gas station, this small place fills up quick, with eager patrons ready to fill their stomachs with some of the best barbecue in the state. Leave room for dessert, as their banana pudding and cake are just as delicious.
A laid-back restaurant in the small town of Apalachicola, Up the Creek Raw Bar is nestled along the Scipio Creek Channel. This town is world-renowned for its oysters, so it makes sense that this local seafood joint would serve a menu of succulent oysters that range from raw to steamed and mignonette with minced shallot and habanero pepper. It also offers a range of seafood, vegetarian options and upscale entrees that you can enjoy from the covered open-air decks overlooking the water.
A small town with a rich fishing history, Matlacha’s Blue Dog Bar & Grill is a small neighbourhood restaurant that highlights the area’s fresh local food. Choose from the Cracked Conch, Crunchy Blue Crab Cakes or Calamari seafood entree, or create a custom meal of grouper, Mahi or Gulf shrimp and choose how it’s prepared and what topping you’d like it paired with, from mango salsa to pine island sauce and lemon caper. Wash it down with one of the 18 beers on tap and enjoy the lively ambiance and charming decor.
If you’re a fan of creamy clam chowder, you simply must visit Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Cedar Key. Located in a tiny town on Florida’s Nature Coast, the restaurant’s secret recipe draws visitors from around the world, as Tony has three times won the Great Chowder Cook-Off in New England. It’s so good, you can even find it on the shelves of selected Publix stores. You’ll find an array of other succulent seafood dishes to choose from here as well, including fried oysters, steamed clams and Tony’s cajun creole.