This is the time of year in Florida when winter tourists and snowbirds are driving the highways visiting their favorite attractions and friends. If you want to add some unique and different dining experiences in your travels, here is a really diverse listing to consider.
For Fine Dining: Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale
Market 17 at 1850 Southeast 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale looks like a classy American and seafood restaurant and it is. What makes the place unique is it offers diners an option to eat their food in semi-darkness. This is not only intentional; it is why romantics come here.
This room is for “Dining In the Dark”
The Dining in the Dark room is not such a gimmick. You won’t be eating strange plants and animals or even Florida road kill. Most of the menu contains classic dishes, but the waiters are trained to “educate your taste buds” with options and choices. A lot of stressed out business people describe the visit like a trip to a restfull spa.
For A Nostagic Meal: Bob’s Train Restaurant in Sarasota
A little bit north of downtown Sarasota at 2211 Fruitville Road stands a rather odd sight – three former Ringling Brother’s circus railroad cars in a somewhat warehouse environment. When you see the people coming for lunch, you realize this is a food stop.
Bob’s Train Might Not Travel But It Might Grow Longer
It’s Bobs Train Restaurant and customers don’t mind the ugly parking facilities for the food and ambiance of the place is that good. This is more than a food spot – it is a museum of the history of the circus for Bob Horne collected an archive of material in his many years working for Ringling. It is clear from one photo he even served as a ringmaster. A lot of places like this fall short on the menu but read Yelp and other online food reviews and you will see this is a genuine restaurant choice.
For Pizza and Fast Food: Satchels Pizza in Gainesville
To students at the University of Florida, Satchel’s Pizza at 1800 NE 23rd Avenue is more than a highly rated place to get pizza and comfort foodies, it is a place to take friends and parents who are visiting. At first glance, it looks like a dump or at least a poorly designed flea market.
Satchel’s is a cash only place and since it wants to be artsy and full of communication there are no televisions blaring even if the Gators are playing a football game. There are huge salads, but everyone seemed to be consuming pizza and their homemade cane sugar sodas.
The outside area is extensive and very funky with tables in a greenhouse, tables under an airplane, and seats in an old VW bus which is always jammed with diners. I know a PhD student who in three years never got into that vehicle despite many visits.
For Old Florida Dining: Bean Depot Cafe in El Jobean
The Bean Depot Café is found at 4370 Garden Rd off FL 776 near the Tampa Bay Rays spring training camp in El Jobean, south of Sarasota. As my father was the newspaper editor down in Charlotte County, I have seen this building for decades, but never with so many automobiles around it.
This small Cracker cottage is in fact, the historic 1922 El Jobean Post Office. It is a cash only Old Florida kind of place where the menu is limited but the food is quite good. In reality, if the food was bad, Charlotte County’s residents who come from all across the North, would avoid such a tiny place.
The seafood is fresh and delicious. The burgers are popular with kids. There is a mini-museum preserving the story of this little hamlet on the Myakka River. Some evening there is a blue grass band playing, but some nights the place may close early. Try lunch.
For Urban Socializing and Dining: Broken Shaker in Miami Beach
Even in the days when there was no Art Deco district as college students my friends and I would go to Miami Beach to socialize. Here is a place, however, where most local night owls have heard about it but could not find it.
All visitors need to discover the place is to know it is buried inside the Freehand Hotel at 2727 Indian Creek Drive. Some will say the spot is lost back in the hipster 1990’s. The restaurant doesn’t even have a sign. Everything is funky slow and casual.
Good Weather Makes The Garden Setting Best At Night
And since it is a hotel, a lot of residents start their evening prowl at the bar, which has become famous for a wide, wide list of strange drinks. There is often a long wait at the small bar since the monstrous drink list contains stuff you think were invented that evening.
From Strange To Typical Is The Menu
The Beach is all about nightlife and that is when the garden with its pool becomes the main hang-out in good weather. There are heaters for colder nights. You can get a cheeseburger and quesadillas, but expect someone next to you having octopus tacos and artichoke fries.