Back Road Travels: Lake Wales – The Gem of Rustic US-60

Most people going from Tampa Bay to the lower Florida East Coast will take I-4 and the Florida Turnpike although there is I-75 down the West Coast to Alligator Alley.  If you want a more rural route with small towns and different scenery, you can take US60 on the east side of Tampa.

US-60 ends up in Vero Beach but hits the Florida Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction.  There is the phosphate fields of Polk County and the museum at Mulberry plus the historic town of Bartow, where the University of Florida was once housed.  The gem town on the route, however, is Lake Wales with its hills.

LAKE WALES was first surveyed in 1852, but development didn’t really grow until the railroad system began to reach the area by the 1890’s.  Developers discovered the possibilities of lumber operations and citrus production on the fertile ridge of Central Florida,  Lake Wales was close to the end of the Central Highlands of Florida.  Iron Mountain, topped by Bok Tower, is the highest point in peninsular Florida at 289 feet.

floridatraveler BOK TOWER lake wales

Bok Tower and Gardens

Lake Wales’ major tourist attraction is the beautiful gardens of BOK TOWER AND GARDENS, which are particularly a nice visit for Tampa Bay, Sarasota, and Orlando residents this time of year.  There is a restaurant.  Sad to sad to say the famous Chalet Suzanne is gone since 2014.  But SPOOK HILL, with it’s going up hill backwards illusion is still around (look at a GPS) at North Wales Drive, south of FL 17 (Burns Avenue).

floridatraveler SPOOK HILL

Here is a video of the illusion:

When the Atlantic Coastline Railroad reached Babson Park in 1911, C. V. Tillman, B. K. Bullard, E. C. Stuart, and C. L. Johnson formed the Lake Wales Land Company. Seeking Northern residents they hired engineer A. C. Nydeggar to plat a city that was a gem in small town planning.  In 1930 the famous Olmstead brothers landscaped the city of Lake Wales and neighboring Bok Tower with its Mountain Lake resort.

It is appropriate that Park Avenue is Lake Wale’s Main Street started by the ten-story DIXIE-WALESBILT HOTEL (115 North First Street).  Built in the Bust year of 1826, the Grand hotel has seen many lives with a retirement residence being the latest.

floridatraveler DIXIE HOTEl lake wales

At the start of Park Avenue is the town symbol, the 1921 TOWN CLOCK, which once stood by the railroad tracks to welcome visitor.  Now it marks the Town Square.

Nearby at 4 West Park Avenue is the UNITED STATES POST OFFICE (1940), a WPA project with the era’s popular Art Deco design.

Downtown Lake Wales is compact and small, but that has helped preserve its architectural heritage.  At 229 East Park Avenue is the lovely 1924 RODESBILT ARCADE designed by Jesse T. Rhodes in a Mediterranean Revival style.  If you think the arched entranceway is going to reveal a gorgeous interior and ceiling, you are correct.

floridatraveler ARCADE BUILDING lake walesThe Wonderful Arcade in Lake Wales

Next door is the two-story 1920 J. Y. RHODES BUILDING (255 East Park Avenue) and the LAKE WALES PHARMACY (245 East Park Avenue) started by pioneer T. J. Parker.   Lake Wales hasn’t allowed ugly modern buildings break up the downtown profile.

Across the street was one of the centers of Land Boom activity: the 1919 WESTERN UNION BUILDING (340 East Park Avenue).  At 250 East Park Avenue is the 1915 LAKE WALES STATE BANK, a Greek Revival brick structure with powerful Tuscan columns.

On the next commercial street Stuart Avenue are two of Lake Wales most attractive structures: the 1926 two-story GIBSON & LILLY BUILDING with its iron posted Mediterranean style, and the SCENIC THEATER (254 East Stuart Avenue) whose 400-seat capacity in 1920 showed the builders hoped for a high society community.

floridatraveler THE DEPOT Lake-Wales

The Old Depot Has A Nice Museum

Nearby is the block-long two-story 1919 BULLARD BUILDING that at one time housed a drug store, barber shop, post office, and meat market at once.

OTHER BUILDINGS:  Driving along the Scenic Highway (ALT US 27), you will locate other spots but you should go first to the Depot Museum at the 1928 ATLANTIC COAST LINE DEPOT (325 South Scenic Highway), one mile north of downtown.  The Depot has a historic guided tour map of Lake Wales and lots of interesting artifacts.

LAKE WALES ART CENTER (1099 Hesperides Road) was the Church of the Holy Spirit, a Spanish Colonial masterpiece with a bell tower.  Located on the crest of a hill, the views of the region are beautiful.

floridtraveler LAKE WALES Casa_de_Josefina

Casa de Josefina

The most spectacular house is two miles northeat on Lake Amoret: the 1923 mansion of realtor I. A. Yarnell known as CASA DE JOSEFINA.  The 25-room estate looks more Moorish than Mediterranean and has an exotic parapet.


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Florida’s Fall Food Festivals Start The Season

I did my annual pilgrimage to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  It seemed a little calm after Irma, but a visitor can pile up a huge food and beverage bill shelling out almost ten dollars a booth.  I often wonder what Walt Disney would think about all the food and drinking clubs that visit this festival.

You don’t have to go to Orlando to enjoy some weekend activities related to Florida food and entertainment. There are lots of fun alternatives this fall for Florida residents and visitors and with the weather slowly getting cooler and the big winter crowds not here, it is a great time for a weekend trip.  Here are some of the better events.

Naples’ Stone Crab Festival – Naples, FL – Oct 27 to Oct 29, 2017
A weekend of food and fun with activities both on land and in & around the water starring the stone crab.  Despite the damage in Naples by Irma, one of Southwest Florida’s favorite food festivals is still on the books.

floridatraveler STONE CRABS naples

Floridians Just Love Them Stone Crabs

The opening of the stone crab season is something that Floridians who love seafood crave all year.  This big charity raising event features over twenty of the top restaurants in Naples, lots of bands, special hotel rates, and fun for the entire family.

Micanopy Fall Festival – Micanopy, FL – Oct 28 to Oct 29, 2017

One of Florida’s oldest and most unique towns is Micanopy where the film Doc Hollywood was filmed.  This is small town Florida at its best for the historic old downtown stores seems the perfect place for an old-fashioned arts and crafts festival under the oak trees.


There’s lots of good time music, regional foods, an old-fashioned auction, buggy rides, and strict rules that only original arts and crafts are on sale.

Cooter Festival – Inverness, FL – Oct 27 to Oct 29, 2017
I may have a bias for small town showcases which bring out the best of a community and this three day music festival with entertainment, carnival rides and vendors makes that category.

floridatraveler COOTER FEST

Liberty Park alongside Lake Henderson will be packed with 100+ vendors, fireworks, lot of food and kids events, and a long list of bands. And the festival has no admission charge.  By the way, a cooter is a turtle (or is it a tortoise?)

Native Rhythms Festival – Melbourne, FL – Nov 10 to Nov 12, 2017
For something very different, there is this three and a half day festival during Native American Heritage Month  which honors the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas through native music.

floridatraveler Native-Rhythms-Festival-Flyer

Located at Wickham Park the festival has its food and arts and crafts, but showcases some 16 flute maker vendors and jewelry vendors.  The Native American flute is the festival focus and visitors have been amazed ever since this festival started.

Downtown Festival & Art Show – Gainesville, FL – Nov 11 to Nov 12, 2017
This is a monster of a festival visited by over 100,000 people who fill the streets of historic downtown Gainesville from City Hall to the Hippodrome State Theatre.


Art Not Football Packs In This Gainesville Crowd

This is a major celebration of art and creativity with live music, performing arts and a diverse selection of drink and food. Four stages for music and over 240 selected artists make this a big family event.

Miami Harvest Festival – Miami, FL – Nov 18 to Nov 19, 2017

In its 43rd year is this large, urban arts and crafts and music festival that starts the Miami tourist season.  This festival has an admission charge for it had many indoor facilities, but is oriented for kids with free petting zoo, railroad and pony rides, and lots of games.

floridatraveler MIAMI ART FEST.jpg

Will be featuring all the major Florida winter festivals and events, including some that are not well advertised.  MCL




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Marco Island and Goodland Have Survived The Wrath of Hurricane Irma

Hurrican Irma arrived at mainland Florida at the island community of Marco Island and a fishing village of GoodlandWhile there was extensive damage, particularly to the coastal facilities it looks like most of the area will soon be ready for the great influx of winter tourists and snowbirds.

Floridatraveler marco_aerial

As An Island Filled With Waterways, Marco Island Survived Irma

MARCO ISLAND , the site of a famous archaeological expedition in 1895, is a six by four mile island at the southwest corner of Florida. It has seen a lot of storm but taking a direct hit by Irma tested the endurance of the area.

Fishing and farming dominated Marco Island life even after 1870 when Captain W. T. Collier and his son William D. Collier of Tennessee arrived in their schooner Robert E. Lee.

FLORIDATRAVELER -marco-island-20170914

Downed Vegetation and Flooding Were The Main Problems

In 1922 New York advertising executive Barron Collier (no relation) brought his Fort Myers to Southern Railroad to Marco Island and a few hotels were built.  It was not until after World War II when developers like the Mackle Brothers turned most of the pristine tropical island into an upscale retirement community and resort, with a maze of canals and roadways. There is little of the wilderness left on Marco Island although the island is still surrounded by the hundreds of virgin islands great for exploring, fishing, and boating.

WHERE TO START: One usually enters Marco Island from the north and in winter there are ninety minute trolley tours will give newcomers a good look at the developments. Sadly there is little of physical buildings of historic note to see the local historical group does a good job of erecting historic signs, but this makes a tour even more disturbing to a historian like myself.

If you drive west on Capri Boulevard to the (1) ISLES OF CAPRI, you’ll see the remains of a quaint fishing village which most of the area resembled prior to the 1950’s.

On the island, at 1102 North Collier is the (2) MARCO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE , which has brochures and often a historic display.

The north end of Marco Island contains the last remnants of the fishing community, including (3) MARCO ISLAND CEMETERY where the graves of pioneers like the first Colliers reside. I like the tropical remains of the northern tip of Marcos Island more than the crowded beachfront.

The SNOOK INN has survived and will open to the thrill of winter visitors.  They might see that the docks required repair.  In fact, boats and docks seem to be the most damaged items on the island.

floridatraveler SNOOK INN

Marco Island Landmarks Like the Snook Inn Are Being Repaired

The Northern tip also contains the (4) W. D.COLLIER HOUSE, on North Bald Eagle, not far from the site of Olde Marco Ferry Landing, which brought in visitors from 1920 to 1938. The Village School (1889) was located at this spot. At 100 Palm Street is the (5) OLDE MARCO INN(1883), a restaurant occupying part of W. D. Collier’s Inn and Victorian sections converted inbto suites with complete kitchens.

floridatraveler OLDE MARCO INN front

Marco Island’s historic Olde Marco Inn

Return to Collier Drive, head west to the Gulf of Mexico. A good diversion is (6) TIGERTAIL BEACH, off Seaview Circle. It is the only large public beach on Marco Island, but it is lovely tropical setting.

Traveling south on Collier, you will pass condominiums and large resort hotels. Except for extensive damage to vetegation, they seem in good shape. At the tip of Collier is (7) POINT MARCOwith a good view of the thousands of coastal islands stretching into the Everglades.

Drive east on Winterberry and then right on Inlet Drive. On your left is the (9) SITE OF THE CAXAMBAS CLAM FACTORY (1904), off Osceola Court and (10) INDIAN HILL CALUSA MOUND. Not much of the fifty foot site where the Cazambras School survived huricanessurvived civilization.

floridatraveler STANS temp closed

Goodland’s Stan’s Idle Hour Will Be Ready For The Winter

Returning to Barfield Road you’ll pass the (12) SITE OF THE PINEAPPLE PLANTATION and if you continue westward, you’d reach (13) GOODLANDa small fishing town with a good mix of old buildings and seafood restaurants which I’m sure people feared might be destroyed.

Goodland took the most direct hit of Irma and the storm damaged the popular waterfront.  STAN’S IDLE HOUSE survived and is being reopened although the fish house looks in worse shape.  People around here have lived with many a bad storm and will rebuilt the fishing industry.

Closed thanks to Irma repairs is the LITTLE BAR & RESTAURANT whose main dining room is the interior of the Star of the Everglades, a boat used in movies and by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to tour the Everglades.

Going northward on Barfield Drive, it is heavily residential with (14) THE ESTATES, rows of large mansions off the road. Off Inlet Drive is the (15) GEORGE YOKE ESTATE, an early estate whose stone fence angered the neighborhood. Before you return to FL 951, you’ll pass the Marcos Island Golf and Country Club with its (16) ISLAND CLUB.

By November most of Marco island and Goodland will be ready for the prime winter season.


Posted in attractions, conservation, dining, environment, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, Hurricanes, marco island, mcbobleonard, museums, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants, small towns, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Food Truck Movement Rolls On

As our society becomes more mobile with cell phones and robotics and nanotechnology more and more people on the move to work or recreation stop to eat at fast, efficient food trucks.   In Florida the food truck revolution has not declined; it has matured.

With the beach months of tourism slowing, food trucks are less seen around parks and beaches, but they will show up in mass at Florida’s major events and are regular fixtures wherever large gatherings of people are found.  Even Disney has theme food trucks at their huge shopping community Disney Springs.

floridatraveler TAMPA FOOD TRUCK RALLY huge

Food Trucks Pour Into Downtown Tampa

The State of Florida licenses two types of outside restaurants: the good old hot dog cart that still is found in city parks at lunch time and the MFDV (Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles).  The latter have to have full dish-washing capacity, a commissary or water/sewerage system, and refrigeration while the former must just meet refrigeration, power (often LP-gas tank), and plumbing rules.

floridatraveler TAMPA FOOD TRUCK SHOW

Tampa Truck Rally Attracts People

MFDVs have become high tech vehicles operating complete bakeries and restaurant services.  Still, since MFDVs are far cheaper than starting a regular restaurant, they have become a great opportunity for people who cater to niche audiences and offer an incredible diversity of ethnic and trend foods.  And if the location doesn’t attract enough business, you can more in elsewhere.

Food trucks develop a following and since some have a change of location, most have Facebook and Twitter accounts or rely on mega-search websites like or to help diners find their location.  The major food trucks in big cities in Florida are featured in all these search sites.  You can even look up food truck reviews on Yelp.

floridatraveler SMOKE SHACK tampa on gandy

Open For Business On Tampa’s Gandy Blvd.

I first became a food truck fan in Tampa with the old Taco Bus and the original site just off I-275 on Hillsborough Avenue is still the place to drop in for good Mexican dishes and Horchata drinks.    If you love burgers track down the Burger Culture Truck.   I found a food truck at the cell phone lot at Tampa International Airport.

In Tampa, look for: Hott Mess (hot dogs); Los Comparres (Mexican), South Pacific Grill (Asian Fusian), The Smoke Shack (BBQ).


Food Trucks At Disney Springs (AllEars Photo)

Orlando claims over 200 food trucks most located in the vicinity of the 70 million tourists that hit Central Florida and the theme parks.  Some of the best trucks to track down are: Kona Dog (Hawaiian), La Empanada (Cuban), Treehouse Truck (burgers and famous), and Arepas El Cocao (Latin Ameriucan).

Miami, with its great international atmosphere, has been able to educate hungry travelers with the favorite dishes of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Food trucks dot the routes to the beaches, but also serve downtown Miami and even Miami Beach visitors.


The Purple People Eatery has been a legendary food truck.  Other trucks to find include:  Cilantra 17 Gastro Truck (Peruvian, Puerto Rican), El Toro Loco (Brazilian), and Che Milanesa (Argentine).

When a food truck gets super-popular, they often add bricj and mortar buildings which has happened to some of Miami’s favorite cheese food trucks like Ms. Cheezious and Hispanic eateries on wheels.


A Food Truck In Jacksonville

You will find food trucks in all large Florida cities.  The Aviator, a Jacksonville food truck, won the Travel Channel food truck contest.


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Florida’s Most Romantic Bed and Breakfast Spots

We hope that Key West can rebuild by the last winter tourist season for the island city challenges Fernandina Beach and Saint Augustine for the most romantic vacation spots with outstanding bed and breakfast houses.

Here are some of our favorite Florida bed and breakfast spots for sheer romance and relaxation.  Visit the links for added information!

The Williams House Bed and Breakfast, Amelia Island – Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island in Northeast Florida is a Victorian wonderland of forty city blocks of Victorian mansions and rustic cottages, carriage rides, a neat downtown, and even a beach with a fort.   The award-winning Williams House B&B has eleven rooms located in the main house and a historic carriage house.

floridatraveler WIlliams House b&b

There are several dozen nice b&bs within walking distance of downtown, including the oldest functioning hotel, but the Williams House rates highest, and is famous for its wedding packages.  The gourmet breakfast is famous amonbg Florida visitors who select b&b locations.

The St. Francis Inn, Saint Augustine – I could have chosen a half dozen of the delightful b&b’s that dot the real estate south of the Cathedral and Square.  Unlike the historic district which is 70% reproductions, this is a trip into Victorian tourism when Northerners came by steamboat and railroad to winter in the Oldest City.

floridatraveler ST FRANCIS INN st augustine

The St. Francis is just down the street from the Oldest House and is my choice of “the most literary b&b” in Florida.  Van Wyck Brooke finished his Pulitizer Prize winning The Flowering of New England in the cottage by the pool and a few years later Edith Pope almost got a Pulitzer for her novel Colcorton written in the cottage.

If you don’t like ghosts, don’t stay on the third floor which was an attic where the nephew of Confederate Major General William Joseph Hardee hung himself after his love affair with Lilly one of the slave girls at St. Francis was revealed.  It’s Lilly looking for her lover that visits the b&b.

The Harrington House, Holmes Beach – If you want beach front property on one of Florida’s most laid back islands, Anna Maria Island north of Sarasota, Harrington House has been the place for years.  There are three houses and some beach bungalows now that make this neat b&b and once people visit this island, they tend to be too lazy to leave the island which has nice beach-side restaurants and recreational facilities.

floridatraveler HARRINGTON HOUSE holmes beach

The Black Dolphin Inn, New Smyrna Beach – Not on the beach but the Indian River, the Black Dolphin is a four diamond AAA b&b that ranks every year in the top ten most romantic b&bs in the nation.  It’s 14 rooms are unbelievable, the service divine, and it has pet lodging.

floridatraveler BLACK DOLPHIN INN new smyrna inn

The Farnsworth House, Mount Dora – For people who like Florida’s Lake District, there is no better romantic village than Mount Dora with its great shops and restaurants, old fashioned railroad trips, and antique auctions. The 1887 Farnsworth House captures the early charm of the Old South as it started to become a winter vacation spot.

Farnsworth House Bed & Breakfast (2014)

 The 1872 John Denham House, Monticello – If you want to visit the Old South than five miles off I-10 is the classic town of Monticello, complete with opera house.  The Denham House, built by a Scotch cotton trader, embodies the traditions of Southern hospitality.  This National Register building is surrounded by an acre of history.

floridatraveler JOHN DENHAM HOUSE monticello

 The Gibson Inn, Apalachicola – In a historic port town famous for its oyster houses and history stands this 30-room inn complete with bar and restaurant and full tourist facilities.  The 1907 inn even stages a Mystery night with the location to fit the crime.

Floridatraveler GIBSON INN


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BOCA GRANDE – Fishing Village Turned Resort

I have returned to my Tampa house on the Interbay area and everything is fine.  The electricity did not turn off.  However, my home office was without Internet, telephone, or TV so I had to wait until the people at Spectrum got their show on the road.  I don’t know many people in the Florid Keys which took the biggest hit but in prayer to them I am featuring Boca Grande, my favorite little West Coast island.

BOCA GRANDE, on the dual county island at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, is best known as America’s tarpon fishing center. Other than a small phosphate export port, Gasparilla Island was famous for its fishing plutocrats until the construction of a private toll bridge by Robert Baynard in 1955 and the discovery of the isolated island’s charms by successful Tampa Bay area professionals who could build expensive beach villas a few hours from metropolis.

floridatraveler BOCA GRANDE

WHERE TO START: Start in front of the island’s pride, at the corner of Fifth Street and Palm Avenue, the: (1) GASPARILLA INN (1912), a large pale yellow frame Victorian hotel with a Classical portico and a colony of cottages and rooms built around the golf course. An Arcadia phosphate executive Peter Bradley allied with James F. Gifford, President of the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad, to build the luxury winter resort. It’s hotel registrar may read like a “Who’s Who”, but you won’t get to read it for low key privacy is the rule here.

floridatraveler BOCA GRANDE INN

DRIVE EAST ON FIFTH AVENUE along the golf course toward Boca Grande Bayou.

TURN RIGHT ON BAYOU AVENUE toward HARBOR DRIVE and the yacht basins. There’s charter boat centers and places to stop for lunch. In tarpon season there will be fishermen from around the world. In the peak of the winter Katherine Hepburn could be seen eating with some retired school teachers.

I once went into the Railroad Depot for a snack and Barbara Bush was devouring an ice cream cone.

CROSS WEST AVENUE past the  (3) COMMUNITY HOUSE and the (4) COMMUNITY CENTER. PASS PARK AVENUE and TURN RIGHT ON GILCHRIST. THEN, if your car fits, TURN RIGHT ONTO (5) BANYAN STREET, an amazing gnarl of shady banyan trees planted on both sides by Peter Bradley.

floridatraveler BOCA GRANDE STORES

Millionaire dollar beach houses and simple stores is Boca Grande.

TURN LEFT ON PARK AVENUE. On your right is the interesting: (6) OUR LADY OF MERCY MISSION CHAPEL,  a replica of a Spanish style mission with brick floors, but featuring a circular entrance way. You should stop to go inside to admire the fine woodsmanship and the real Madonna Icon of Russian design.

GO TO THIRD STREET. On the corner to your right is the (7) BOCA GRANDE THEATER (1924), now used as a restaurant and sometimes showplace. If you enter you’ll see an unusual open atrium, an odd theatrical design.

A few doors down is the (8) CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. At the end of the block on your right is the POST OFFICE. On your left is (9) FUGUTES(1916), the town’s mini-everything store founded by Jerome Fugate Sr., and visited by everyone sooner or later.

Across Fourth on the right is the famous (10) BOCA GRANDE RAILROAD DEPOT (1910), an impressive two story structure which now houses antique and gift stores and an ice cream parlor/restaurant. The brick structure with the arcaded loggia was the last depot for the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway.

floridatraveler Boca_Grande_depot

TURN LEFT ON FOURTH AND LEFT ON GILCHRIST AVENUE, the route to the southern tip of Gasparilla Island. On your left is the (11) ST. ANDREWS EPISCOPAL CHURCH, a country-style church. Go inside to view the round stained glass window over the alter and notice the communion rail kneelers in needlepoint.

At the end of the block is the (12) UNITED METHODIST CHURCH with a plaque to Mary Frances Thompson. A HALF MILE DOWN Gilchrist you’ll see the (13) COAST GUARD LIGHTHOUSE (1927), a narrow electric beacon designed to replace the notable antique. at the island tip. Across the street was the site of the BOCA GRANDE HOTEL (1930), a three story, 200 room resort by Italian immigrant Joseph Spadara. Hurricane Donna destroyed it in 1960.


CONTINUE DOWN TO THE SOUTHERN BEACH to the 13 acre Gasparilla Island State Park. You’ll have to walk down the beach to the beautiful (14) GASPARILLA ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE (1890) and its matching keeper’s house. By the parking lot is a little seaman’s CHAPEL popular for waterside weddings.  This is my favorite lighthouse in Florida, not just because it was near where I lived in Englewood, but because there is a museum inside and it has two neat structures. A 145-mph hurricane went across the island ten years ago and sucked goods out of the gift shop, but did not hurt the structures.

floridatraveler BOCA GRANDE CHAPEL

A Chapel For Sailors

SHELL COLLECTORS SPECIAL: STOP BY THE JOHANN FUST LIBRARY (1949) on Gasparilla on 9th Street to see the shell collection donated by winter resident Henry Francis DuPont. Another interesting spot is JOURNEY’S END (1914), on the Gulf at 18th Street, a complex of four two story cottages built of virgin pine from Arcadia.


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Not Your Typical Florida Restaurant

While I’m busy preparing for the coming hurricane here in Florida, I thought I would cover a little less violent topic – food.

Once in a while, you want something different when you go to a restaurant.  A gander at one of those television shows where the prime mouth takes on a challenge to eat enormous burgers and whole turkeys and ice cream sundaes so large they look like they are in a toilet bowl reminded me of some of the unusual restaurants I have seen in my Florida travels.

The Meatball Shoppe in Orlando is the stepchild of the popular New York chain, but the Florida place on Lake Underhill Road has gained high ratings from all the food spots and even a 10Best status on that travel website.   The fact there is a Guy Fieri Veggie Meatball tells you the famous TV chef visited here on his Diners and Dives food show.

floridatraveler MEATBALL SHOPPE sausage meatballs

Meatballs every way you can imagine.

I went with the Mediterranean Lamb Balls topped in Tzatziki sauce, but other table favorites was Jeff’s Crab Balls in Roumalaude and the Chicken Buffalo Blau balls just covered with a sea of blue cheese crumbles.  I guess they serve a few other dishes, but I just didn’t even look.

Floridatraveler pork, chicken and vegetarian meatballs on one plate

This plate as pork, chicken, and veggie meatballs!

There are loads of places serving alligator in Florida and the old reptile tastes a lot like chicken to me.  But Florida also has over one million feral wild pigs roaming about, sometimes causing harm to Florida’s winter vegetable crop.  It is not shocking that wild boar pops up in many hunting lodge places, but I had wild boar in a Disney restaurant that ranks in the top five dining establishments in Central Florida – Jiko: The Cooking Place at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

floridatraveler JIKO wild boar

Jiko’s Wild Boar is just the warm-up on their unusual menu.

Their wild boar tenderloin appetizer is the first thing half the diners order at Jiko.  The dark meat has a sweet pork taste.   Down the road at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge’s Artist Point, they often serve wild boar agnolotti, which is pasta with braised boar.

I love gelato and whenever I see a small shop or a food truck, I have to take a look.  Dolci Pecatti Food Truck in Miami serves 47 incredible flavor combinations and 12 sorbets.  At night the truck is a blazing violet which is appropriate since they have a “hot gelato” made of strawberry mixed with jalapeno.  I decided to have a milk shake although the gelato sandwiches made with whoopee pie or brioche was real interesting.  They also make for parties – shotpops – with alcohol of course.

floridatraveler dolci pecatti miami

Even the food truck is cool in Miami.

Over  on  South Kirkman Road in Orlando is Mrs. Potato, a place that takes the Brazilian rosti potatoes to a new level.  This place specializes in jamming everything you could cook on a menu into roasted hot potatoes – hash-browns, pizza, beef stroganoff, Philly cheese steak, even creamy shrimp.  And it all tastes so good (but sometimes not so pretty looking).

floridatraveler Mrs Potato has many friends

Do you believe that potato is the star in this kitchen?

floridatraveler Mrs Potato chicken catipury rosti potato

This is the chicken catipury rosti potato

I have to get back to my hurricane preparations here in Tampa so see you soon.










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