The only think I like better than going to a great restaurant is going to a great restaurant located in a restored or unique structure. There is nothing wrong with your standard Florida restaurant architecture and I like places located on wharfs with great Oceanside views, but as a historian I love how some restaurant owners have proudly integrated a popular restaurant into a historic structure.
One should place is the Ice Plant Bar on Riberia Street in Saint Augustine. The 1927 “Ice Plant” building is a major part of the bar and restaurant. A huge bridge crane on rails hovers over the main bar in the same location where it lifted giant blocks of ice onto shrimp boats.
Instead of removing all the ice equipment, the restaurant t has made ice a major component in the menu as the staff freezes purified water and actually ice harvests their creation into a wild assortment of drinks. But Ice Plant is not just a popular bar with a limited menu.
The restaurant’s imaginative food menu has gained tremendous ratings ever since in opened and the crowds reflect that success. Of course there are burgers and Florida seafood on the menu, but I love their Roasted Flat Iron Steak and exciting Lamb Shoulder made with faro, roasted grapes, and curried yogurt.
Here in Tampa I have already paid tribute to the famous Gonzmart family that opened Ulele on North Highland Avenue, on the Hillsborough River, in an old factory building in the Water Works Park. The building combines original plant fixings with the Gonzmart collection of art and sports collectibles.
This is a native-inspired menu, utilizing fresh Florida fruits, vegetables, and seafood often in unusual combinations. At night at Ulele can be very special if you rent a water taxi to take you there from a downtown hotel.
To really have a change of pace, I’d like to mention a popular University of Florida pizza and comfort place in Gainesville called Satchel’s Pizza. Started in a NE 23rd Avenue storefront, Satchel’s has grown into a very funky pad with live music most evenings and a weird souvenir shop filled with nostalgic nothings.
The important part is the food is great whether you eat inside surrounded by a junkyard of quirky items or outside in a beat up bus.
I love fish camp restaurants located in rustic cabins along Florida’s scenic rivers and none is more unusual than Clark’s Fish Camp Seafood Restaurant outside Jacksonville off Hood Landing Road. The huge seafood menu filled with Florida favorites is great and the prices are designed for the natives not the tourists. Ever try gator jalapeno poppers?
What makes Clark’s different is it is also a gigantic museum of stuffed wild animals. I don’t mean just bears and moose. You might have a tiger or lion staring at you. There are animals outside and on every wall and roof in the place. If this scares you than this might not be the spot despite its scenic river views, but if your kids like Rainforest Café this place is the rural, natural version.