Recently, I was chatting with a new friend I’d made on Twitter (and seriously, you should follow us there @FoodAndDINK if you haven’t already), and my Twitter friend mentioned plans to spend part of the upcoming summer in South Florida. Now, it just so happens I grew up in South Florida, and even though I no longer live there, I do visit regularly. And what do I do when I visit? I eat everything in sight, obviously.
I thought this would be the perfect place to share some of my favorite dining choices back in my hometown. From a 24 hour donut shop with some of the best breakfast options in town to world-class seafood, these are the places I absolutely must visit whenever I return home.
During our last visit to Florida, I think we ate breakfast at Dandee Donuts at least four times—it’s that good. They have a couple locations, but the one in Deerfield Beach is about a two-minute drive from my family’s house, making it not only delicious, but convenient. Their donuts are absolutely perfect (though Kathleen complains they are too rich).
But the donuts are just the beginning. They also make a number of breakfast dishes—our favorite being the Jersey pork roll sandwich. If you’ve never had pork roll (also called Taylor Ham), just think of thick-sliced bacon, thrown on a griddle and caramelized to meaty perfection. Add in some perfectly-cooked eggs and melty cheese and you have a breakfast sandwich you’ll never forget.
We tried Sticky Bun for the first time during our last visit, but it immediately made its way on to my must-eat list. This place is typically packed, with good reason. Their homemade biscuits are a marvel, as is their house-made bacon. They also made the best mimosa I’ve ever had—basically a glass of Champagne with just a hint of orange juice. They even have a lot of outdoor seating, for those of you insane enough to want that kind of thing even in the Florida heat.
Home to more than a few transplanted New Yorkers, it’s no surprise that you can find excellent NYC-style food in South Florida. The absolute best example of this can be found at V&S Deli. Beautiful fresh meats, flavorful Italian cheeses, and the most remarkable fresh bread are the hallmarks of this gem. Still the best meatball sandwich I’ve ever had, this place will take you straight back to your favorite classic Italian deli. If for some reason you don’t have memories of a favorite Italian deli, let V&S make new ones for you.
I don’t know why this place is called the New York Grilled Cheese Co., unless it’s an attempt to appeal to the aforementioned NYC transplants. If New York is famous for grilled cheese, that’s news to me. Nevertheless, this place makes fabulously melty grilled cheeses. Stuffed full of a variety of ingredients to please just about everyone, the sandwiches here never disappoint. My favorite is stuffed with mac and cheese—because I am a glutton.
Miami is home to the finest Cuban food in the country. But making the hour plus drive from Broward County isn’t always feasible. Luckily, Little Havana in Deerfield Beach is a more than worthy alternative. For many years I lived in places where it was very hard to find good Cuban food, so I would have to get my fix whenever I visited home. Most of the time, this meant a visit to Little Havana. They satisfy all the Cuban cravings, most especially their amazingly-flavorful roast pork.
Calypso is so damned good, they’re not open on weekends! This is definitely a sign they’re doing something right. The thing they’re doing so right is seafood. Their conch chowder is the best I’ve ever had, and that’s only the start. The famous Calypso Cutter is one of the most memorable sandwiches you’ll ever encounter. Shrimp, garlic butter, melty cheddar cheese, and mushrooms (which I skip), this thing is rich, decadent seafood perfection.
Want to dine on some of the finest seafood anywhere? Head to Seafood World in Lighthouse Point. Now, I should acknowledge my bias here—our family has been going to Seafood World for years. They’ve catered major family occasions, and several dishes on the menu at the adjoining Papa’s Raw Bar are named after members of my family.
That being said, seafood doesn’t get much better than this. Want to feast on Florida stone crab? Hint: you absolutely do! You’ll find the freshest fish, prepared in many delicious ways. Go here and experience the pinnacle of Floridian seafood.
Want to eat like a true Floridian? I’ve got two more suggestions that all Floridians know about and enjoy often.
First, at the local grocery store, you’ll find some of the best subs anywhere. What makes a Publix sub so damned good? I’m not sure, but I have loved them for almost forty years now, and it’s still at the top of my must-eat list when I’m in Florida.
Finally, there’s Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill—another place I’ve loved since childhood. We’ve written about Flanigan’s here before, and I still stand by it as one of my go-to restaurants in South Florida. Is it flashy? No. Is it good? Definitely. There’s a reason you’ll often find a long wait at many Flanigan’s—it’s affordable, it’s delicious, and it’s quintessentially Floridian.
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