Had a meltdown at the Ritz Carlton Di Lido Beach Club on South Beach. Been there 4 times now for business or just sitting around staring at the beach and the beachwalk traffic and the place is really good (Western Mediterranean and American stuff), plus it's one of the only places to eat really well and be basically on the sand on the Beach. But when you eat at any Ritz four times in a month it's time to get out of town. Here are the highlights:
Ft. Pierce - Dale's BBQ on US-1, worth getting off of 95 for, big crowd, sliced pork and beef with a bunch of good sauces to choose from, Sweet Tea to go by the gallon. Get the platters, the rolls for the sandwiches are sort of average.
Mt. Dora - Pisces. Higer end, but more or less worth it and worth the stop for sure for the pastry chef who has a special Orange Cake (maybe made with one of the orange muscat grape dessert wines?). Fish dishes tasty, steak so-so, lots of Carribbean/New Orleans crossover. Live music on weekends and a great view of the Lake.
Apopka (North of Orlando) - got stuck on 441, but found Robinson's for breakfast. Go for the breakfast sausages, pray for a parking space somewhere near the A-frame that's the front of the restaurant.
Winter Garden - Go before Team Rodent buys up the whole town! It's still pretty special and has a great rail trail for riding around on called the Orange Blossom Trail - and it really smelled of Orange blossoms without the assistance of the Rodent. Choctaw Willy's unusually fine BBQ is indeed unusually fine. Great smoky pit stuff, and get the Choctaw Stew. It's basically a Brunswick stew, but their beef and pork bits are perfect for the job. it's in the hotel in the middle of town with the original hand operated elevator and the first fire sprinklers in Florida, or something like that. Didn't get to try the other restaurants, ate too much at BBQ
La Belle (Okechobee area) - Counted at least five different breadings on the fried stuff at Flor and Ella's. They're Serious about breading right, and nothing was greasy. Catfish was right on, Hush puppies, too, but go for the pie. When they say 5 1/2 inch merangue, they mean that's the minimum! About 9 or so different cream pies fresh every day. Peanut butter, coconut cream and chocolate all great, then I got sick and had to stop. Not the sweet merangue, the lofty airy kind not burnt on top.
Yankeetown - Izaak Walton's Lodge (yes, the restaurant is called the Compleat Angler). Go for the mission (the town brings new meaning to backwater, literally) and the people if not the food, which is a little pricey and ambitious in a wedding food kind of way. They're serious about the table prepared ceasar salad for a minimum of two (feeds at least 8) which is fun, and serious when they ask you what it's like in the big city (meaning Homosassa).
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