Travelers often flock to Florida’s largest cities for a taste of their award-winning restaurants and top food festivals. However, the Sunshine State’s big metros aren’t the only areas full of flavorful attractions. Sebring, Fla., located just 60 miles south of Walt Disney World, is known for its thrilling race tracks and tranquil state parks, but it’s also home to some unique restaurants and agritourism attractions that are sure to quench your thirst for something new. One of the best ways to experience a destination like a true local is to eat like one, so why not let your taste buds do the exploring with a 48-hour wine and dine tour of the Sebring area.
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Tour a Distillery
Start your first 24 hours off at a local distillery that’s sure to get you in the vacation spirit. Take a short drive south of Sebring where you’ll find Florida’s only estate grown sugarcane farm distillery. Nestled on a 10-acre sugarcane farm on Henscratch Road, Sugar Sand Distillery produces handcrafted, small batch spirits including rum, vodka, whiskey and moonshine. A true farm-to-bottle operation, the sugarcane that is used to make its rum is grown onsite. Visitors can take a full tour of the distillery where the spirits are produced and just steps away you’ll find the sugarcane field. Tours are offered on Saturdays and include a tasting of all the distillery’s clear spirits, a complimentary cocktail and a $5 discount toward the purchase of a bottle.
Enjoy an Organic Lunch
After tasting the local spirits, you may be craving a healthy helping of local fare for lunch. Stop by Good News Juice & Smoothie Cafe where you’ll find a wholesome menu of fresh juices, fruit smoothies, salads and sandwiches. The mouth-watering paninis, wraps, and soups as well as flavor-packed smoothies cater to a variety of customers, including raw, vegan and vegetarian choices. Get your veggie fix at the “mega” salad bar where you can create your own salad with unlimited toppings like goji berries, tomato basil couscous and organic roasted corn. Or opt for the açaí bowls blended with bananas, apple juice, almond milk and coconut milk, with your choice of three toppings. And while this organic cafe helps spread the news of healthy eating with its workshops on raw, vegan and vegetarian diets, the cafe’s name also gives a nod to the former newspaper office that was once housed in this same location.
What’s a Hookiemelt?
As you make your way to one of the many hotels in the area, plan to stop by a true local favorite for dinner: Jaxson’s. This lakeside bar and grill serves up delicious pub-style American cuisine, with plenty of mouthwatering sandwiches and burgers, as well as sophisticated entrees like prime rib or brown sugar and dijon baked salmon. To enjoy a true local experience, grab a seat on the screened porch to enjoy the gorgeous lake view and order the signature Hookiemelt — a zesty appetizer of chicken or gator tenders topped with hot sauce, sour cream, onions and smothered in cheddar jack cheese.
Save room for dessert and head to downtown Sebring for a sweet treat. Sebring Soda & Ice Cream Works offers more than 300 craft sodas and 50 flavors of premium ice cream. The vintage store features traditional sodas, like colas, ginger ales, root beers, and cream sodas, plus countless others you can’t find in stores, including flavors like caramel apple, prickly pear, espresso, peach cobbler, candied bacon, key lime, cucumber, and pepper soda. And everyone loves to re-visit the many vintage favorites, such as Cheerwine, Moxie and RC Cola. Don’t forget to share a scoop of Working Cow Ice Cream, which is made right here in the Sunshine State, or create your own tasty treat in a sweet sundae, milkshake, or a fantastic float — the flavor combinations are endless. While visiting this soda shop is a sweet experience, you won’t want to miss the annual Sebring Soda Festival in April, which is sure to conjure up childhood memories as you sample craft sodas, enjoy live entertainment and more.
Before heading out for the second day of foodie fun, start with a cup of Joe from the quirkiest coffee shop in town. Top Hat Coffee in downtown Sebring is quite mad about coffee and you will be too after visiting this “Alice in Wonderland”-themed cafe. Your favorite beverage is served with a side of whimsy, as each menu item is named after a character from the fantastical tale. Those who enjoy a simple black coffee should try The Alice, while those looking for more flavor may like the Red King — espresso and double brewed iced coffee infused with mocha and a touch of cream. Fancy a cup of tea? Try the Mad Hatter english breakfast tea. The menu gets curiouser and curiouser with the addition of milkshakes, smoothies and lemonades, but a must-have sweet treat is the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum — a 32-ounce milkshake for two infused with your favorite candy.
A Taste of Old Florida
After you’ve fueled up on caffeine, trade the morning rush for a slower pace at an old Florida favorite — Maxwell Groves. It’s hard not to fall in love with its Southern charm as you sit on the porch in a rocking chair enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice or homemade orange ice cream. This quaint country store started out as a fruit stand in 1935 and today has all kinds of finds from jams, jellies and orange juice to Florida wines, local honey, and a variety of fresh fruit. You can even ship Florida-grown fruit to friends and family.
Dine Alfresco in the Neighborhood Beer Garden
After a morning in the orange groves, enjoy lunch and a cold beer at one of the most unique establishments in downtown Sebring. Faded Bistro and Beer Garden is a family owned and operated restaurant that offers open-air casual dining surrounded by lush gardens. The menu emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients throughout your meal, right down to your cup of Joe, using small batch roasted coffee from Bones Coffee in Cape Coral, Fla. For lunch, nosh on flavorful flatbreads, tasty quiche or juicy Black Angus burgers. You also can share delectable charcuterie boards with artisan cheese, or enjoy signature entrees like Black Angus tenderloin with lobster mac ‘n cheese, sage honey-glazed pork chops or Thai green curry chicken. Whether you pull up a seat at the pre-civil war era bar or snag a table in the beer garden, you’ll find warm hospitality and seasonal ingredients. And don’t forget to snap a selfie with the resident garden gnomes before you go.
End your wine and dine journey on a high note, with dinner at a gourmet lakeside restaurant. Chicanes Restaurant at Inn on the Lakes offers a simple, yet elegant ambiance you can enjoy after a day of sightseeing. With a glass of wine in hand, take in the views of Lake Jackson or admire the vintage racing photos that decorate the interior of this upscale restaurant. Start your meal with Rollovers, the restaurant’s signature appetizer featuring filet mignon rolled in pepper jack cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled. For your main course enjoy fresh seafood, like grouper and mussels, as well as prime rib, pasta, and other classic dishes like baby back ribs or pork schnitzel. It’s the perfect location for a date night, but if you happen to be in town mid-week, Wine Wednesdays at Chicanes is sure to help you wind down your week.
A culinary quest through Sebring and its neighboring cities is a great way to explore this Central Florida destination. While race fans enjoy the city’s speedy adventures, foodies can uncover Sebring’s savory side with an itinerary centered on more appetizing attractions. If you have more than 48 hours to explore the city, consider curbing your cravings at other local favorites like Don Jose Mexican Restaurant, Cowpoke’s Watering Hole or Eighteen East Restaurant and Bar. Wherever your taste buds take you, Sebring is sure to serve up a delectable dining experience that’s sure to please your palate.