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With endless sunshine and summer days, Florida is America’s official tropical getaway. While visitors often get distracted by the gorgeous coastline beaches and theme park attractions, it is crucial to not overlook the unique dining experiences that only Florida can provide. Here are some Florida foods that are a must-try when visiting the Sunshine State.
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If you visit Walt Disney World when in Florida, a Dole Pineapple Whip should be a part of your itinerary. With a cult-like following, this beloved frozen pineapple treat has copycat recipes all over the internet. However, to taste the most authentic version of this delightful dessert you will have to visit a Disney park. Served in a cup or as a float, nothing will beat the heat like this creamy and refreshing pineapple flavored piece of heaven.
Key Lime Pie
A visit to Florida is not complete without a proper slice of the famous key lime pie for dessert. Made with fresh limes, egg yolks, condensed milk, and often topped with meringue, this tart-but-sweet treat originated in the Florida Keys and is where you will find local restaurants selling the most authentic version. Don’t be fooled, the true version of this creamy pie sitting in its famous buttery crust is yellow and not green!
Stone crabs are a Florida delicacy. Due to this, there are strict harvesting regulations to preserve the population of these creatures and only the claws are allowed to be consumed. Wildlife advocates insist only one claw is removed per crab before they are set free again, allowing them to regenerate and be harvested for the future. This special dish of sweet delicious meat is served cold with tangy mustard sauce for dipping, perfect to indulge in on a hot summer day.
Most Floridians would agree that the most famous sandwich in southern Florida is the Cuban. With Cuba not that far from the Florida coast, expats from the country brought a variation of the classic sandwich to the state in the early 1900s where it remains a signature dish in some of Miami’s most popular Cuban restaurants. Once you bite into a warm, crispy Cuban sandwich, you are sure to be hooked for life. The combination of roast pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles are delicious pairings on their own, but when you press it all between thick Cuban bread it is impossible to resist at any time of the day.
Fried Gator Bites
One of the more exotic dishes on the list is the Florida alligator. While it might sound strange, the fresh alligator meat is mostly served from the meat of the tail, often soaked in cornmeal, fried, and served in small bites known as fritters. While frying is the most popular version, you can also find it stewed, blackened, in a chowder, and even in cheesecake. Popular throughout the state, this meat unsurprisingly tastes similar to chicken.
A list of Florida’s must-try foods would not be complete without mentioning the world-famous citrus, such as oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and tangelos. Boasting the most flavorful and juicy citrus, Florida produces more than any other state in the US. Healthy and delicious, these fresh bites of flavor are used in a variety of dishes. Floridians use them to make fresh juice for the morning, pair them with fresh seafood in the afternoon, and toss them in a cocktail at night – all of which are tried and true crowd-pleasers.
Straight from the Florida Keys, conch is a delicacy that is abundantly found in this area, so much so that the region is sometimes referred to as “Conch Republic”. Hiding delicious meat underneath their shells, conch is a large shellfish typically soaked in lemon juice in order to tenderize it and then used to create dishes like ceviche, chowder, and the most popular, chopped and fried into conch fritters.
Grouper and Snapper
Grouper and Snapper are two of the state’s favorite bottom fish and are served so fresh that you are sure to feel like you’ve stepped on a faraway tropical island. Snapper is a favorite with locals for it’s sweet and succulent characteristics and Grouper is often paired with citrus, blackened, or served in a sandwich. Both fishes are great choices if you’re looking for a light and healthy meal to satisfy your taste buds.
In what is affectionately coined as “Floribbean” cuisine, the southern part of Florida is a vibrant fusion of cultural diversity, with a mix of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jamaican, Haitian, Colombian, Panamanian, and the Bahamian dishes. If your visit to Florida takes you down south, you will be disappointed if you don’t indulge in at least a few dishes influenced by one of these Latin and Caribbean cultures. Florida is unique in that you can taste authentic Arroz con pollo, Lechón Asado, fried plantains, arepas, empanadas, and Jamaican jerk chicken without needing to hop on a plane.
While not the most exotic item on the list, any Floridian will tell you that the best subs come from the best grocery store on the planet, Publix. With a motto like “shopping is a pleasure”, Publix has a cult-like following in Florida and is what Floridians believe is what grocery stores should aspire to be. Don’t believe it? Visit any of the stores during lunchtime and you will find locals dutifully waiting in line for one of their freshly made Boars Head subs. If you’re overwhelmed with choice, go with the popular “chicken tender sub”, made with perfectly crisp chopped tenders with your own made-to-order toppings. We’re sure it will convert you into a Publix sub believer.