Taste is very personal and there is no point arguing about it. Some people will always say that Italy’s pizza and pasta are the best food in the world, others will be firm about France having the best cuisine with snails and frog legs, and for some of us Florida is where it’s at. Food in Florida is our own and influenced by many different periods and cuisines, so there is a bit of everything.
You will find Latin influence, seafood specialties, comfort Southern food, and Creole cooking. The history of Florida is long, especially in St. Augustine, which is one of the first towns in America, influenced by many cultures from various regions of the world.
Florida is a Southern state, so you will find barbeque, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes.
Colonial-era English and American pioneers settling around St. Augustine were called crackers. They worked cattle in the back country and were seeking comfort foods.
European influence is felt heavily here, brought first with the Spanish conquistadors. They left their mark with wonderful ceviche, empanadas, arroz con pollo, and many others.
And finally, seafood options and Caribbean flavors. Water surrounds St. Augustine from three sides, so seafood is unavoidable. “Catch of the Day” is really caught today here and seasoned to perfection with Caribbean seasoning. Oyster season is legitimately exciting in Florida.
Let’s take a look at 13 delicacies locals and vacationers can enjoy in the beautiful state of Florida:
- Conch Fritters
Conches are giant sea snails. Conch fritters are those snails mixed with batter and fried until golden brown. This is a popular appetizer in many Seaside restaurants because it’s the perfect mix of Southern and seafood. Southern part basically comes from fritters being deep fried and dipped in creamy tartar sauce.
One of the best places to try this delicacy is The Reef in Vilano Beach.
- Fresh Catch of the Day
As we said before, fish here is as fresh as it gets. Most restaurants serve fresh Catch of the Day, which is the best way to sample fresh fish from the Atlantic Ocean or Matanzas River. Fish that you can try in St. Augustine are flounder, snapper, and drum. This menu item is served three ways of your choice: blackened, grilled or fried.
- Shrimp & Grits
This is your Creole dish and close proximity to Caribbean is influencing that. This tasty and healthy meal can be served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it is quite universal. Shrimp and grits combine low-country taste with fresh seafood for a wonderful experience.
Harry’s Seafood, local Cajun chain, is a perfect place for shrimp and grits.
- Gator tail
You are in Florida, where we have gator crossings on the roads, so it doesn’t get much more local than gator tails. Local swamps and rivers are home to about 1 million gators and so there are many restaurants that serve their tails. The tail is deep fried and served as an appetizer.
A lot of people compare gator taste to chicken, some say it’s between chicken and fish. While in St. Augustine, visit Florida Cracker Café and see for yourself.
- Key Lime Pie
You can’t be in Florida and not try the famous Key Lime Pie. It’s everywhere! This baked good originated in the Keys and is beloved here. It is made with key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and pie crust. The real pie should be yellow, because that’s the color of key lime juice. The pie is sweet tart, garnished with whipped cream, and a slice of lime.
Raintree Restaurant and many other eateries in St. Augustine offer key lime pie for dessert.
- Minorcan Chowder
Minorcans setteled in Florida, around St. Augustine in 1777 and brought their culinary specialties with them for generations to come. Minorcan chowder is very popular in St. Augustine and can be sampled in many places, but if you are looking for something truly authentic, head to Sunset Grill.
BBQ styles are different in different parts of America and it comes down to wood available, sauces used, and species of cattle, hog, and other meats.
Florida is known for BBQ chains, and all of them are here, in St. Augustine, including Bono’s BBQ, Woody’s Bar-B-Q, and Sonny’s BBQ.
No BBQ is complete without coleslaw, corn fritters, green beans, cornbread, and more.
Smokin’ D’s BBQ is one of those amazing places where they don’t take credit cards and don’t have any tables – this is when you know it’s good.
When oysters come in, locals and guests head to restaurants to slurp on these gifts from the sea. All the months with ‘r’ in the name are great for oysters – pretty much all, except for summer. There are countless ways to eat oysters – raw, steamed, fried, plain, or with spicy sauces. Try Salt Life Food Shack for some amazing oyster experience.
This Latin appetizer is very popular in Florida and takes advantage of Florida’s citrus abundance. This dish has raw fish and is magically marinated with the help of lime, lemon, and orange juices. This citric acid creation is a perfect mix of science, seafood, and citrus.
Try beautifully styled ceviche at La Pentola.
- Cuban sandwich
Miami and Tampa are birth places of this creation, but by now it’s an unofficial state sandwich of Florida. The flat sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, mustard, pickles, melted Swiss cheese, and pressed Cuban bread. The Cubano goes great with chips, French fries, or best, plantain chips.
Head to ‘A1A Ale Works’ in St. Augustine for a truly amazing Cuban sandwich experience.
- Fried green tomatoes
Green tomatoes are horrible on their own, but dipped in batter and fried are a totally different story. It’s totally up to you what you will dip them in next: spicy mayo, blue cheese, ranch, or your own sauce creation.
The Blue Hen has some wonderful fried green tomatoes as an appetizer or part of Fried Green Tomato BLT.
Empanadas are part of Florida’s culture and have become popular nation-wide. If you want an authentic experience, try Spanish Bakery’s empanadas in St. Augustine, where all parts are made from scratch, hand rolled, and cooked in an old fashioned stone oven with real flames.
- Arroz con Pollo
This simple yet delicious meal is offered in many Florida restaurants and has Spanish and Puerto Rican roots. The spiced chicken and rice can be served with peppers and black beans.
The Columbia is a good place to go for an authentic plate of arroz con pollo.