One of the important Florida economic institutions that are in limbo during this Coronavirus Pandemic is the restaurant industry.
While you can pick up and have delivery of most comfort foods from the large restaurant chains, the stand-alone family restaurants that are most famous for unique Florida favorites are often closed. So I thought it might be time to honor Florida food so much we appreciate it when it is unavailable.
What foods and drinks remind you of Florida?
ORANGE JUICE is more than Florida’s official beverage. The Spanish brought it to Florida in the 1500s although commercial production did not boom until railroads in the 1870s could ship oranges to the North.
90% of Florida’s oranges are grown for juice while California specializes in the hard skin oranges. One of the reasons for this was World War II and the development of frozen concentrated orange juice by a one-time high school science teacher and football coach Cedric Donald Atkins.
KEY LIME PIE is usually an untruth. After several freezes and a plague very few real key lime trees exist. This is probably why Floridians state that key lime pies taste best in the Florida Keys where the real limes exist.
Those large green limes are really Persian limes and even more horribly supermarkets are filled with bitter Mexican green limes. The tiny, seedy, yellowish real Key Limes are rare and prized by tree owners who hide them from neighbors.
FLORIDA STONE CRABS are famous around the world and the last time I looked at Joe’s Stone Crabs on Miami Beach had delivery and take out.
This is the second most profitable family restaurant in the USA, taking in $37,243,159 in the trade or an average check of $80.
APALACHICOLA OYSTERS are struggling to survive due to pollution coming down the Apalachicola River from Alabama and Georgia. The industry is developing new hatcheries and methods and my wife and I support the industry.
Do you know that an oyster will actually clean 50 to 75 gallons of water every day?
CUBAN SANDWICH is not like Havana imports like Fritas, Cafeato, and Mojito. The Cuban sandwich was invented in Tampa’s Ybor City in 1915, and actually reflects Cigar City’s “mixto” heritage. Notice the Genoa salami, Italian pork, Spanish ham, and the German mustard.
I oppose those Cuban restaurants that are using mayonnaise and other foreign ingredients. At least you can still take out Cubans in Florida.
GROUPER SANDWICHES are the food of choice if you are taking in the beach volleyball courts or piers anywhere along the Florida Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, my excursions to Frenchy’s will have to wait until the virus is quelled.
Some people like the grouper blackened and that is OK. Mahi-mahi, once called dolphin or dolphinfish, is the second choice. While on the topic those weird creatures on Disney’s Dolphin Resort are the fish and not the mammal-like Flipper or Winter.
SMOKED MULLET is probably an acquired taste and most people find it extra work to scrape the meat off the fish bones. It is a distinctive Florida experience.
GATOR BITES might not replace Chicken Nuggets, but I’ll challenge people to go blindfolded and see if they can taste the difference. Half of my friend Northern transplants couldn’t tell the difference.
With 1.5 million gators sharing Florida’s real estate, I wish more people would try our big reptiles.
FLORIDA SPINEY LOBSTERS are the same as the Bahamian variety, often called in Nassau crayfish. For scuba divers, it is one of the most popular sports with a July two day season and an eight-month August to March season. Don’t ask me to explain these rules. I do know that you can catch six more lobsters in the Gulf than in the over-fished Florida Keys and Miami areas.
COMMERCIAL FOODS: I guess I should furnish this food excursion with a few man-made examples. A few blocks down the street from my home on Henderson Boulevard is the first Outback Steakhouse. You mention what food icon came from here and you will be shocked to know how many people will say: “Blooming Onion.”
Tim Gannon, one of Outback’s founders, got the idea from a New Orleans restaurant back in 1988. He turned it into a full family appetizer for a few individuals who will tackle a full one. In the last three years, over 40 million Blooming Onions have been consumed, making it to my Florida Food List.