This post is brought to you in collaboration with Visit Florida
Food towns are popping up across the country, and the state of Florida is no exception. Oh sure, you have Miami and Orlando with their big name chefs, but what about the smaller cities and towns that are making a name for themselves?
Florida food towns do exists, and they aren’t centered around big name, celebrity chefs either. You just need to get ready to dig in and explore. We already did the research for you on where to eat and drink in Florida. You just need to throw the kids in the car and fill the tank up with gas and hit the road.
Favorite Florida Food Towns
One of the most surprising places I visited last year was Tallahassee, Florida. This city is home to Florida State University, and better known for football, but there are plenty of things to do with kids. More importantly, restaurants in Tallahassee are bursting with flavors you didn’t expect. Downtown isn’t littered with chains. Nope.
Local chefs have moved in to start spots like The Edison and Midtown Caboose (s’mores burger anyone?) to make this a food scene you won’t soon forget. Oh, and if you love fried chicken and friend green tomatoes, don’t miss a trip to the lodge at Wakulla Springs State Park. They are serving up some of the best in the state.
Amelia Island, Florida
Just over the Georgia border you will find Amelia Island. This beach paradise is great to visit year round, although it does get chilly in the winter, so don’t expect much sunbathing in January. What you can expect is great, well priced Florida food at Amelia Island restaurants.
If you want a splurge, make sure you head to the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island for a table at their signature restaurant SALT. The chef’s tasting menu is worth every penny. Not ready to break the bank? That’s ok. You can grab some tacos from Timoti’s Seafood Shak and many other locally loved spots in Fernandina Beach.
St. Augustine, Florida
One of my favorite Florida natives, Jade Broadus from Vagabond3.com, is constantly telling me to visit St. Augustine, Florida. Her favorite spot? Mango Mango in St. Augustine Beach. This Cuban/seafood beach shack is delicious and nothing close to the usual chains associated with Florida living.
Yes, there are other types of restaurants in St. Augustine, but seafood is what really shines in this coastal town. Local St. Augustine restaurant favorites like the 180 Grille for mahi burgers, The Floridian, Auntie Kate’s and the fried shrimp at Barnacle Bills will satisfy your southern seafood cravings and then some. And yes, there are hush puppies involved. This is the south after all!
Jacksonville native, Carrie from CarrieOnTravel.com, loves to show off her favorite, hometown restaurants when friends and family visit the area. “The Jacksonville food scene has just exploded over the last year. From fresh seafood caught in the Northeast Florida waterways to local chefs preparing creative dishes at affordable prices, I think people are often surprised at the great eats they find in Jacksonville. With historic neighborhoods like San Marco, Riverside and Avondale – it is easy to find great restaurants in all prices ranges and atmospheres.”
Carrie also loves to explore her home state and made sure I knew about Seaside, Florida. There is great seafood and pizza to be found here. Best of all, they have something called Airstream Row—an entire food truck area, which means everyone can pick out what they love to eat! Seaside is along highway 30A, which is known for staying local.
No chain restaurants. Just family-run and locally owned stores and restaurants that you will definitely want to pull over to check out. You might want to bring your running shoes though. It will be hard to burn off those calories if you are only sitting on the beach, and this stretch has a lot of beautiful spots to get your steps in.
Winter Park, Florida
Just outside of Orlando, but far from the chains that Orlando is known for you will find the town of Winter Park. The chefs at many of the Winter Park restaurants love to play with their menus. The food options are fun, original, and diverse. Ann Belle from KidsTravelBooks.com told me that some of her favorites include the classic places like Black Bean Deli (Cuban Food), 4Rivers BBQ, The Ravenous Pig, and Bosphorus Turkish Restaurant. But there are so many more places to choose from if you are hungry and want to let your foodie side out to play. You just have to be willing to dig.
We can never get enough of the Florida manatees, which is why we love that Jen from ThriftyNorthwestMom.com tipped us off to this fabulous spot in Jupiter for Florida food. Guanabanas restaurant, located right on the Loxahatchee River, is a gorgeous tropical, open-air restaurant with frequent live music, tiki huts & Adirondack chairs.
In the winter, the manatees come up the Loxahatchee River so it’s an easy spot to watch these gentle giants. There are several great restaurants in Jupiter that bring a local vibe to the food. This one is a definite must.
Key West, Florida
Key West is generally thought of as a tourist trap, not a Florida food town. We all picture key lime pie in its’ many shapes and forms. Not true says Carrie from EverythingMom.com! “Sure there are chain establishments in the small yet busy town but we stumbled upon some great local spots that appeased my family’s foodie side.”
With so many people heading to the southern tip of Florida to scuba dive and fish, isn’t it only natural that a few restaurants would be serving up the fresh fish being pulled in and doing something amazing with it?
This article was written in collaboration with Visit Florida. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know. Photo credits: Jacksonville skyline and Jupiter Inlet via Shutterstock.com