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Florida Restaurants

Santa Maria Suites Resort
1401 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 293 0304

There was much local breast-beating when off-the-beaten-track sushi place Ambrosia decamped from its longtime home for the Miami Modern porte cochere of the redeveloped Santa Maria Suites Resort. Fortunately, it proved a smart move. The new space is much larger—though reservations are still recommended—and the decor whiffs of mid-century with round wicker chairs, black lacquer, and a soothing jazz soundtrack. But most important, the menu of rolls like lobster tempura has been maintained. Any doubters as to the place's authenticity will be silenced by the condiments. They use the real stuff, so the pickled ginger isn't Day-Glo pink and the wasabi is nice and powdery.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm and daily from 6 to 10 pm.

Amici Ristorante & Bar
375 South County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 832 0201

Regulars of this convivial establishment are delighted now that it has relocated up the avenue to a larger space. It still serves northern Italian specialties, and the herb garden behind the new kitchen is probably one of the reasons the pasta dishes taste so good. Antipasti, risotto, or any of the dozen pastas, such as clams sautéed with garlic over spaghetti are standouts, as is the grilled swordfish. The tiramisù deserves special mention, and so does the wonderful service. All in all, a better bet than overrated Bice.

Banana Cafe
1211 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 294 7227

This popular brunch spot, on the quieter end of Duval Street, specializes in nearly 20 varieties of crepes, with fillings that include bacon, mushrooms, and béchamel; goat cheese and walnuts; and sea scallops in white wine and cream. Grab a table on the porch to eat.

Beach Bistro
6600 Gulf Drive
Anna Maria Island , Florida
Tel: 941 778 6444

Hidden among rental properties on the north end, the Beach Bistro is the pièce de résistance of Anna Maria Island's dining scene. The New American and Mediterranean-inflected Floridian cuisine is worth a splurge: Red bell pepper–papaya jam enlivens grouper; capers, caviar, and Key lime crème fraîche dress up Nova Scotia salmon; and roasted duckling is spiked with wild berry sauce. Finish with the decadent chocolate truffle terrine.

Bin #18
1800 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami , Florida
Tel: 786 235 7575

Alfredo Patiño, the onetime wunderkind chef from the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, struck out on his own and opened this neighborhood hangout in December 2006. Patiño's deceptively simple menu consists of sandwiches and salads, plus platters piled high with Italian, French, or Spanish cheese and meats. He griddles figs and pairs them with blue cheese, piles a sandwich with Manchego and Serrano ham, and wraps yet more delicious Serrano ham around a ropelike pile of creamy burrata mozzarella. The space, a few blocks from the new Adrienne Arsht Center, and dressed with vintage wine barrels, crystal chandeliers, and a rotating art gallery, is the best place to grab a casual meal before a show. Plus, there's free parking in the lot out back.

Closed Sundays.

Bleu Provence
300 South County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 651 1491

With fresco wall paintings by local artist Alice Ludwig and authentic Provençal furnishings, this bakery cum grocery feels a bit like France. Breakfast goodies include brioche and croissant and café au lait; the apple tart is the best-selling pastry for good reason. Don't leave without checking out the imported gift items that range from tabletop pieces to caviar to specialty honeys and jams.

Closed Sundays.

Blue Heaven
729 Thomas Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 8666

Caribbean-themed American and veggie fare draws tourists and locals to this legendary eatery, which served its first meal in September 1992. The menu is heavy on the local seafood, with staples like barbecued shrimp or seared scallops Provençale. The building that houses Blue Heaven has been through many iterations—most of the tables are situated in the outdoor courtyard, where Hemingway refereed boxing matches and customers watched cockfights (there are still chickens pecking about). The patio surface is paved with slate pool-table tops from the restaurant's days as a billiard hall and ice-cream parlor. Diners with more risqué tastes should request a seat in the second-floor gallery, formerly a dance hall and bordello (you can still peek through peepholes into tiny rooms). Reservations are not accepted for breakfast or lunch and there's usually a line, especially for Sunday brunch. It's worth the wait for fragrant house-made banana bread.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm.

Blue Moon
4405 W. Tradewinds Avenue
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 267 9888

This massive, upscale eatery right on the Intracoastal Waterway caters to an older, more local crowd than many of the fashionable new joints. Try to snag a table on the terrace, with its superb views (don't worry if you're caught in a Florida thunderstorm, as it's fully enclosed). The menu, unsurprisingly, is heavy on fish; portions are generous and dishes are rich. Try the Hawaiian spiked tuna poki as an appetizer and follow up with an entrée like lobster and shellfish pan roast or herb-crusted swordfish; meat lovers shouldn't miss the dense, sweet, veal tenderloin doused in red-onion jam.

Open daily 11:30 am to 3 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm.

BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 294 9272

This local institution is another only–in–Key West landmark. It doesn't look like much (if you can say that a building that looks like it was cobbled together precariously from wrecked trucks isn't much), but the sandwiches of fresh-caught fried fish are legendary. The best time to stop by is Friday night, when you can enjoy your sandwich and a cheap beer while listening to an impromptu jam session by local musicians.

Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.

The Bubble Room
15001 Captiva Drive
Captiva Island , Florida
Tel: 239 472 5558

A swap meet's worth of Americana on the walls, overstuffed food portions, and affable, khaki-clad staff make the Bubble Room one of Captiva's longest-running hits. It's especially popular with multigenerational families: After ordering "Tarzan"-size prime rib or Guava Gabor (sautéed scallops, green peppers, and mushrooms with a guava barbecue dipping sauce), grandparents can explain wind-up toys and black-and-white movies—as well as the Gabor Sisters—to a generation raised on Wii, HDTV, and the Jonas Brothers. Even with 150 seats, there's usually a wait during the dinner hour: Folks who take in sunset at Turner Beach often drive a further three miles to the restaurant. At lunchtime, however, there's seating available and lighter fare, like pineapple-and-ginger-marinated tilapia, that leaves room for a ginormous slice of homemade red-velvet cake.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 4:30 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 4:30 to 9:30 pm.

Buena Vista Bistro
4582 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 456 5909

Claude Postel, a seventh-generation chef originally from Paris, ran restaurants in Montreal and South Beach before opening this stamp-size foodie haven in May 2008. Located in Buena Vista East, an artsy enclave fringing downtown's Design District, this casual European-style bistro is the kind of place where locals sit at outdoor tables with dogs leashed at their sides and the owner's wife scoots up on her skateboard.

Postel's concept is simple—fresh, market-sourced food at pleasing prices. The menu changes daily and is scrawled on chalkboards and mirrors in the narrow restaurant, an effect that adds to the ambience along with black-and-white photos of the neighborhood hanging on the walls and low crooning tunes from Edith Piaf and Amy Winehouse. Starters might include a carpaccio of scallops sliced razor thin and marinated in lime; main courses are of the French comfort food variety like salmon with ratatouille and steak frites. The wine selection is creative and vast for such a small place, with old- and New World wines priced from $8 per glass.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 12 am and Mondays 1 pm to 12 am.

Cabbage Key Inn
Cabbage Key , Florida
Tel: 239 283 2278

Rumor has it that the inn's big, fat, juicy cheeseburger inspired Jimmy Buffett to write his hit "Cheeseburger in Paradise," but make up your own mind. Either way, you won't forget your visit to this quirky 100-acre Pine Island home built in 1938, as the walls and ceiling of the dining room and bar are covered with more than 65,000 signed dollar bills. (Buffett himself signed a bill back when he was an unknown piano player). Order the cheeseburger, grouper, or stone crab (when it's in season). The affordable prices here should leave you a spare dollar to sign and tape to the money wall, and when it falls, know that it will be donated to a worthy charity. Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat (call for details about water taxi service). Come early for supper because the kitchen closes at 8:30 p.m.

Hotel Photo
Café Boulud
The Brazilian Court
301 Australian Avenue
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 6060

This is one of the few spots on the Island where the food justifies the sky-high prices. Daniel Boulud opened this branch of his Manhattan restaurant in the Brazilian Court hotel in 2003. The rich menu here follows the four-category setup at Boulud's original: There are classic French dishes like coq au vin or chocolate gâteau under the "La Tradition" banner; "La Saison" features seasonal dishes like chestnut-crusted winter venison. "Le Potager" lists vegetarian options, while "Le Voyage" showcases Boulud's Frenchified take on global dishes (think caramelized salmon, Vietnamese-style; or a brisket-and-beet borscht). The warm gold and terra-cotta dining room has a 60-seat terrace amid the fronded plants of the hotel's front courtyard—book a table there for maximum romance and privacy.

Café Marquesa
Marquesa Hotel
600 Fleming Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 292 1919

With its white tablecloths and hushed ambience, this is one of the poshest places on the island. The intimate, 50-seat restaurant adjoins the Marquesa Hotel, and the food is vaguely Floribbean or fusion. Dishes include a macadamia-crusted yellowtail snapper or conch and blue crab cakes. In addition to the extensive wine list, there's a fun, full martini menu, from Gibsons to dirty to blue cheese–olive versions. Come here if you're craving something a bit more serious than the anything-goes, no-worries-man vibe of most down-home joints nearby.

Open daily 6 to 9:30 pm.

Café Martorano
3343 E. Oakland Park Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 561 2554

Don't stop by for a romantic date here. Chef and owner Steve Martorano is a former DJ from Philly, and he fills his restaurant with loud music and strobe lights every night, not to mention a celebrity-heavy, Sopranos-style crowd of snappily dressed gents like James Caan and Danny DeVito. But as long as you can handle the restrictions (curt staff, no reservations for anyone), it's one of the city's best spots to eat. The South Philly Italian food is served family-style; try the lobster francese, fettucine Alfredo, and Martorano's unmissable meatballs (tennis-ball-sized and drenched in marinara sauce). If you're not a celebrity, expect to wait up to three hours for a table on the weekends. Go on a Tuesday if you want to miss the scene and just sample the food.

Open daily from 5 pm.

California Grill
4600 N. World Drive
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 939 3463

Disney's modern-cuisine showpiece, located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary, overlooks the Magic Kingdom and its Castle and serves elegant fare from an open kitchen. An ample selection of California wines overseen by multiple certified sommeliers, a slate of sushi and sashimi, and season-specific, produce-focused dishes (like warm Delta asparagus with hazelnut vinaigrette, golden raisins, and St. George cheese) make it a splurgy night out. The only downer is the decor, which has the geometric, primary-colors mentality of an early 1990s music video. Reserve three months ahead for the dinner seating that coincides with the nightly fireworks display—the kitchen temporarily halts service so diners can enjoy the show without interruption from outdoor observation decks.

Camille's Restaurant
1202 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 4811

From dive masters to drag divas, every Key Wester knows Camille's. Despite the down-home feel of the cloth-under-glass tabletops and banquettes plastered with palm-frond patterns, the menu is big-city good. Spots like Blue Heaven may get more attention for brunch, but Camille's is just as delicious: Try the eggs Benedict topped with stone-crab claw meat and Key West pink shrimp, or creative twists on homey favorites, like yellow-corn cashew waffles topped with fresh passion fruit and coconut sauce. Dinner is downright gourmet, with good local seafood selections a constant, including cashew-encrusted Florida grouper pan-fried in banana butter or mahimahi with papaya and tomato scallion cream sauce.—Terry Ward

Open daily 8 am to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

Canyon Southwest Café
1818 E. Sunrise Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 765 1950

This unusual Southwestern spot in gentrifying Victoria Park is located at a confusing intersection with the Federal Highway—make sure to follow along Sunrise and park at the rear. The restaurant is done up in tones of mustard and burnished bronze, and the booths are made even more private thanks to the gauzy curtains drawn around them. As for the food, entrée standouts include a shrimp-and-scallop burrito and a marinated Chilean seabass with tomatoes, crab meat and mussels; the white-chocolate-and-berry bread pudding is worth breaking any diet for. Whatever you do, order a signature prickly pear margarita: The Day-Glo pink drinks are made from fresh cactus fruit that's steeped in top-grade tequila for three days.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

2400 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 712 0580

This relatively new spot is a South Florida replica of a buzzy São Paulo steakhouse. The idea is simple—a $44 all-you-can-eat upscale buffet ($25 for lunch). Don't load up too much on the lavish salad bar, though—cheese, prosciutto, and smoked salmon are staples—as the main course is the real draw. Follow your nose as waiters wander through the dining room brandishing massive skewers of more than a dozen different meats, from which they'll carve chunks for any diner. The skewers are all cooked churrascaria-style, over flaming pits; make sure to try unfamiliar offerings like picanha (that's a Brazilian cut of sirloin) or linguica (a sort of chorizo). Use the casino-chip-like baton to indicate whether you're still working on appetizers (leave it red-side up) or if you want the wait staff to serve up the meats (turn it to green).

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

Chops City Grill
837 Fifth Avenue South
Naples , Florida
Tel: 239 262 4677

At Chops, you can get an awesome New York strip or T-bone steak that's been dry-aged in the restaurant's aging room and other house specialties, such as hand-rolled sushi and seafood. Steaks and lamb chops are served with onion rings and a choice of baked potato, French fries, baked sweet potato, or smashed new potatoes; the grilled swordfish in a fresh peach-and-mango barbecue sauce is served with seared diver scallops. A 300-bottle wine list includes 32 vintages served by the glass.

Dinner only.

Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
455 Grand Bay Drive
Key Biscayne , Florida
Tel: 305 365 4500

The large, family-friendly Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne, a posh island community just south of downtown Miami, may seem an odd spot for a superb restaurant, but don't be put off—it's worth a detour, wherever you're staying. A luxe take on a traditional Tuscan trattoria, Cioppino has a warm, homey vibe, and the food is largely made from ingredients flown in from the motherland. Burrata mozzarella arrives twice weekly, and the namesake stew, a soupy seafood mash-up of shrimp, clams, and calamari, is made with imported Italian tomatoes.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

Cuban Coffee

There's a never-to-be-settled debate as to who makes Key West's best Cuban coffee, a sugary shot of espresso called buchi. Inexplicably, the two top rivals for the crown are in a grocery store and a laundromat. Five Brothers is a café and food market crammed with provisions and pots dangling from the ceiling (930 Southard St.; 305-296-5205). Besides buchi and café con leche, they also offer daily specials like ropa vieja (Cuban shredded beef) that go fast—get there before 2. At Sandy's Café inside the M&M laundry, you can linger at one of the outdoor stools and sip a buchi along with one of the killer Cuban sandwiches (1026 White St.; 305-295-0159).

Cucina dell Arte
257 Royal Poinciana Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 0770

This Italian restaurant opens at 7 am, so it's the perfect place to get some fuel for Worth Avenue shopping. The signature egg dishes are the best bet: eggs Imperial (a spin on eggs Benedict with jumbo crabmeat), or eggs with black truffle hollandaise sauce and asparagus. Wash them down with the breakfast Bloody Mary, lavishly garnished with chilled shrimp and Gorgonzola-stuffed olives. The two other meals of the day are solid as well: At lunch, try the chunky chicken-and-Gorgonzola salad. The dinner menu focuses on pastas (homemade ravioli) and pizzas, including a killer spicy tomato and smoked-bacon Romana. After hours, the tables are cleared away and the restaurant becomes a popular all-night bar.

The Dining Room
413 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 397 8444

Brothers Zack and Brian Lieberman—the duo behind popular Ola restaurant in Miami Beach—were looking to bring something with a more local vibe to South Beach's SoFi district when they opened this intimate restaurant in early 2011. The Lieberman family has deep ties to Miami; the brothers' grandmother was social director at the Fontainebleau back in its heyday. The Dining Room has a European café-style interior with Lieberman family photos on the walls and a vintage chandelier. There are only six outdoor tables on the café-packed block of Washington Street and another six tables indoors, so reserving your spot is a must. Inside, all tables face the postage stamp–size kitchen (little more than a set of gas burners and countertop space); miraculously, the tiny galley turns out dishes such as crispy braised pork with a tangy mustard sauce and grilled scallops wrapped in Serrano ham with a foie gras sherry sauce. Don't miss the baked Patagonia (dulce de leche ice-cream with Italian meringue and passion-fruit coulis) for a lovely Latin American dessert.—Terry Ward

Open Tuesday through Sunday 6 pm to 11 pm.

Dock at Crayton Cove
845 12th Avenue South
Naples , Florida
Tel: 239 263 9940

This casual open-air eatery in the center of Old Naples evokes the carefree lyrics of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay." The restaurant dates from 1976 but the crowd-pleasing menu is very current, with items such as black peppercorn–seared yellow-fin tuna niçoise salad, Black Angus cheeseburger, Bahamian conch fritters, banana macadamia nut–crusted grouper, and a raw bar shellfish tower for two. A couple of surefire time-wasters: Order the Dock Walloper, a mix of light and dark Puerto Rican rums, Galliano, Triple Sec, banana liqueur, and Florida orange juice, or the Dock Slider, a concoction of Kahlua, vodka, and Bailey's Irish Cream.

Edelweiss Bakery
2909 E. Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 772 1529

A seemingly nondescript bakery in a beachside strip mall, this spot is in fact a great, low-key find where the German owners offer favorites of their homeland. In addition to the fresh breads and glistening pastries filled with dried fruit or custard, there are jars of pickled sauerkraut, imported chocolate and cookies, and cured meats to take home. The stiff, Austrian-style espresso is also delicious.

Open Mondays through Fridays 8 am to 5 pm and Saturdays 8 am to 4 pm.

Ellington's Jazz Bar & Restaurant
937 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island , Florida
Tel: 239 472 0494

Think New York supper club on a Gulf Coast barrier island. Ellington's is very sexy, with black tablecloths over white, a dance floor, and a white Yamaha grand piano that's been signed by jazz greats, including Dave Brubeck, Sweet Georgia Brown, Mindy Abair, and Johnnie Mae Dunson, one of the first female jazz percussionists. Heavy hitters perform here: Dan Miller, a trumpet player who toured for years with Harry Connick, Jr., plays on weekend nights, and the annual New Year's Eve Gala brings the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (sons of Dave Brubeck). The food's great, too—spiced-rubbed grouper, filet mignon, pistachio dusted duck, and other crowd-pleasers.

El Siboney
900 Catherine Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 4184

El Siboney has been the island's premier Cuban joint since 1984. Located in a low-slung building on a residential corner, the restaurant was taken over by new owners in 2004. Thankfully they haven't changed a thing. The menu still includes staples like ropa vieja (shredded flank steak with a tomato-based sauce) and a fragrant picadillo (ground beef), as well as a perfect Cuban sandwich. Daily specials like avocado salad or grilled snapper are posted on the whiteboard outside by the front door. No matter what you order, you will get a red plastic basket of crisp-toasted Cuban bread oozing with melted butter. The best time to come is lunchtime, when El Siboney doubles as a local gathering place-cum–gossip hub.

Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.

2830 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 573 4681

Ask your hotel concierge where to go for authentic Cuban food in Miami and you'll be sent to the venerable (and worthy) Versailles. Ask a local, however, and they'll point you to Enriqueta's, a greasy spoon that sits next to an auto repair shop on a nondescript road in Wynwood. It's a low-ceilinged shoebox of a space with bars on the windows, an open kitchen, and a small take-out window for cortaditos (tiny cups of sweet café con leche) on the run. The regulars in guayaberas prefer the red vinyl stools at the bar, while the small tables with plastic swing-around chairs (reminiscent of a 1980s Burger King) are filled with doctors in scrubs, office workers, and creative types from the nearby Design District. They all come here for the same reason: cheap, authentic Cuban food. Daily lunch specials include vaca frita (shredded beef) with beans and rice, lechón asado (roast pork), and bistec à la milanesa (breaded steak with cheese). And there's always the Cubano, Cuba's classic pressed sandwich with ham, cheese, and pork. The side of shoestring fries is not exactly an old family recipe, so instead opt for the tostones—plantains pounded and fried golden yellow and served with a zingy lime-and-garlic mojo sauce.

Open Mondays through Fridays 6 am to 4 pm and Saturdays 6 am to 2 pm.

Euphemia Haye
5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key , Florida
Tel: 941 383 3633

The signature global dishes of this romantically lit downstairs dining room include tuna sashimi over rice noodles; citrus-marinated shrimp in coconut curry; and flambéed cracked-pepper steak. The Haye Loft, a casual dessert bar upstairs, serves a wider selection of goodies than you can get in the restaurant—from homemade pies à la mode to made-to-order specialties like bananas Foster and cherries jubilee.

The Floridian
1410 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 463 4041

A glorious holdover from Fort Lauderdale's past, the Floridian (opened in 1937) packs in hungry diners day and night—whether blue-haired retirees or dawn-bruised nightclubbers. It's huge, so you'll never have to wait for a table (except perhaps on Sunday mornings); the interior is reassuringly unfussy, with its original counter, 1980s Formica furniture and walls covered in autographed, if peeling, celebrity pictures. As for the menu, it's diner-vast: you can order French toast and pancakes for breakfast or one of dozens of deli sandwiches and entrées like meatloaf and fried clams all day.

Open 24 hours daily.

Fratelli Lyon
4141 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 572 2901

Fratelli Lyon lures Design District denizens, European expats, and members of the Latin American art world for some of the best Italian food in town. Dapper servers in gray henleys lend knowledgeable advice as you choose which Italian cheeses to round out a sampler appetizer (semihard montegrappa pairs well with triple-milk la tur and gorgonzola di montagna) or the best selection of marinated vegetables for an antipasto. Main dishes include the house specialty ravioli evelina (homemade pasta stuffed with herbed ricotta, asparagus, and brown butter) and branzino alla francesina (Mediterranean sea bass with lemon-caper sauce). The restaurant is located at the front of design shop Driade, which means the haute-design salt and pepper shakers, French café–style wine tumblers, and whimsical spongy place mats on the tables are all available for purchase. The long utilitarian tables mirror the open ductwork and high ceilings in the main dining area, which can be noisy at capacity. There's a more intimate dining room off to the side and seats in the bar area, but the place to be is obviously the outdoor patio.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 11 pm, and Saturdays 12 to 11 pm.

Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market
398 N.W. North River Drive
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 375 0765

Located on an out-of-the-way stretch of the Miami River (the reason even some longtime residents have never heard of this place), this very basic restaurant with an outdoor patio right on the river serves some of the freshest and most reasonably priced seafood in town. Dolphin sandwiches; grilled, fried, or blackened shrimp; and stone crabs are among the specialties. Go on a Sunday afternoon, when local families tend to congregate, and there's a lively feeling on the patio. That will help you pass the time while you wait for a table.

Lunch and dinner daily.

Grocery Shopping
Key West , Florida

Stock your minibar or condo kitchenette with gourmet groceries from Fausto's Food Palace. There are two branches, but the Fleming Street location will deliver as long as your purchase is over $25 (522 Fleming St.; 305-296-5663 and 1105 White St.; 305-294-5221). If you buy delicious mangrove snapper—or catch it yourself—the Schooner Wharf Bar will grill, broil, or fry it up for you.

Gulf Drive Café
900 Gulf Drive
Bradenton Beach , Florida
Tel: 941 778 1919

Hugely popular, kid-friendly, and informal, the Gulf Drive Café serves up Reubens, tuna melts, Greek gyros, rib-eye steaks, crab cakes, and all-day breakfast with waterfront views of Bradenton Beach. Grab a seat in the breezy patio area, even if the clouds look menacing overhead—when the sky opens up, shades roll down to keep out the rain.

Hamburger Heaven
314 S. County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 5277

This local staple has been dishing up diner favorites like burgers, shakes, fries, and wedges of home-baked cakes for more than 60 years. The classic green awnings and tin-sign-cluttered interior are charmingly retro, and it's one of the places you're likely to rub elbows with year-round residents. Be aware that early afternoon brings a swarm of tony teens dressed in navy blazers and pastel uniforms from nearby Palm Beach Day School.

Hotel Photo
Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1103 N. Mills Avenue
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 237 0606

Orlando's Little Saigon district has long drawn adventurous eaters to its authentic Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai restaurants. But Hawkers Asian Street Fare, which opened in 2011 on the edge of downtown's Asian zone, wins for both authenticity and atmosphere. Co-owned by Malaysian and Cantonese families ("and one white guy," as the waitstaff likes to tell you), the restaurant has an industrial feel. There's corrugated iron on the walls, along with black-and-white photos of Kuala Lumpur food hawkers; tabletops are covered with Chinese newspapers under a shiny coat of resin. The large menu incorporates Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and Thai flavors with a spread of small, shareable plates that are actually quite ample, and best of all, overwhelmingly affordable. Pass on standard items like lettuce wraps and pad thai in favor of more interesting fare such as the Korean bulgogi beef sliders wedged in a crunchy baguette, and Malaysian-style prawn mee, a spicy soup laden with boiled eggs, jumbo shrimp, and egg noodles. There are a few outdoor tables under umbrellas on an enclosed patio, if you don't mind the din of passing traffic with your dinner.—Terry Ward

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm, and Sundays noon to 10 pm.

Hogfish Bar and Grill
6810 Front Street
Stock Island , Florida
Tel: 305 293 4041

You'll get some of the freshest fish at this waterfront bar and grill on the working shrimp docks of Stock Island, the next island up from Key West. But the challenge is actually finding it. You wind through rows of trailer parks—dodging the odd dog sunning itself in the middle of a quiet street—before happening upon an open-air, tiki-roof restaurant surrounded by bobbing boats. The next challenge, of course, is leaving: With so much great food and a bar scene that draws in tipplers no matter the hour, your picnic table is likely to become a permanent perch for the better part of an afternoon. Named for one of spearfishing's tastiest Florida catches, the restaurant specializes in the tender white-meat fish. Hogfish comes in tacos piled with fresh cabbage and a tangy sauce, or blackened in what's arguably the best fish sandwich in the Keys. Shrimp's on the menu, too, in the form of po'boys and the beloved lobster and shrimp pie.—Terry Ward

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Javier's Restaurant
6621 Midnight Pass Road
Sarasota , Florida
Tel: 941 349 1792

Decorated with bright tapestries and murals depicting llamas and villagers bearing flowers, this Peruvian-American restaurant in Sarasota draws a devoted following, so call ahead. The traditional Peruvian dishes such as tacu-tacu con pollo, a succulent chicken breast over black beans and rice, or seafood puteria, a spicy broth laden with shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, olives, and capers, are best paired with an imported Peruvian beer.

Joe's Stone Crab
11 Washington Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 673 0365

What started as a lunch counter in 1913 is now a block-long institution with a who's-who history—everyone from J. Edgar Hoover to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has come to Joe's. The restaurant is open only during stone crab season (mid-October to mid-May) and doesn't take reservations; we recommend going for lunch to avoid the horrendous wait at dinnertime. Be warned, though, that crab quality can be inconsistent—sometimes fabulous, other times waterlogged and mushy. One Miami chef divulged that you sometimes get better stone crabs if they know you. (An alternative for out-of-towners: Monty's. It's not as famous, but the quality is consistent: 300 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-672-1148;

Open Mondays 5 to 10 pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 4 to 10 pm, mid-October to mid-May.

Hotel Photo
Johnny V's
625 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 761 7920

Johnny Vinczencz is one of the boldest boldfaced names from South Beach to make the move north. After reigning over the menu at the Hotel Astor for several years, he decamped to Fort Lauderdale to open a namesake eatery downtown. Vinczencz was an early champion of so-called Floribbean cuisine (think bikini-friendly combos of meat or fish plus fruit), and the menu here features favorites like cinnamon-crusted pork tenderloin as well as his signature dish, a short stack of meaty Portobello mushroom "pancakes." Both service and furnishings are understated and flawless; the latter features dark walnut, backlit mirrors, and plush red upholstery.

Open daily 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 11 pm.

2850 N. Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 567 3333

More Alessi than O Sole Mio, this contemporary Italian restaurant is industrial chic, with raw concrete floors, bright orange and lime green furniture, and a red-and-yellow tiled open kitchen. Owner Vincent Foti's modest menu is more conventional. Classic Italian pastas and entrées are served in single or family-size portions and include authentic ingredients like house-made mozzarella and flour flown in from Naples. A chalkboard of specials changes daily depending on what's fresh, but you can't go wrong with the classic hearty meatballs or gnocchi with a rich Gorgonzola cream sauce.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 pm.

La Spada's
4346 Seagrape Drive
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea , Florida
Tel: 954 776 7893

Every visitor should make a pilgrimage to this stellar sub shop. The loaf-sized sandwiches on bakery-fresh rolls come in regular (8") or large (12") sizes and start around $7. The brave and the hungry should opt for the Monster, stuffed with wads of wafer-thin ham, roast beef, and roast turkey breast, plus cheese, pickles, vegetables, and dressings. The only downside is the somewhat surly staff, but at prices like these, no one dares complain (and they'd throw you out if you did).

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 8 pm, Sundays 11 am to 8 pm.

Le Coq au Vin
4800 S. Orange Avenue
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 851 6980

In a neighborhood better known for burgers than blood sausage, this French kitchen, installed in a onetime private home, has become a beloved city institution. Festooned with quirky rooster memorabilia, it is run by chef Louis Perrotte and his wife Magdalena, who have been brandishing the pans here for over 30 years. Their perennial threats to hang up their oven mitts are finally being taken seriously, so the dining rooms are packed most nights. Service may be as casual as any local joint but dinner can take up to three hours. The namesake dish—chicken stewed in white wine—is as flavorful as expected; other standbys include the duck garnished with lavender honey and breast roasted, and a range of soufflés that runs from Gruyère to chocolate.

Lighthouse Café
362 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island , Florida
Tel: 239 472 0303

It's all about breakfast at this easygoing East End eatery, which has been slinging hash (as well as more upscale seafood frittatas) since 1969. Locals and longtime visitors crowd the cozy, 60-seat spot, which is festooned with pictures and posters of lighthouses from around the world. Most prominently featured is Sanibel's iconic 1884 beacon, which stands less than a half mile away—making it a perfect stroll after a platter of whole-wheat hotcakes smothered in homemade blueberry sauce or eggs Benedict topped with a Key lime hollandaise. At dinner, expect hearty fare like baby back ribs and mahi mahi, or you can bring in what you caught that day, and they'll be happy to prepare it.

Open daily 7 am to 3 pm and 5 to 9 pm, mid-December through April, 7 am to 3 pm only, May through mid-December.

Louie's Backyard
700 Waddell Avenue
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 294 1061

An oldie but goodie, this Key West institution frequented by Jimmy Buffett—and just about every upscale tourist who comes to Key West—is housed in a historic oceanfront home. Norman Van Aken got his start here along with Susan Ferry of Café Marquesa, but these days, its executive chef Doug Shook who whips up steaks, chops, and seafood with a Caribbean flair; lobster braised in truffle butter is a popular appetizer. It's expensive; lunch is the best buy. Channel your inner Buffett and order a margarita at the romantic outdoor Afterdeck bar, which serves until 2 a.m. Reservations for dinner are essential.

Luma on Park
290 S. Park Avenue
Winter Park , Florida
Tel: 407 599 4111

At Luma on Park, floor-to-ceiling glass doors fold open to views of leafy Central Park, the leather banquette seating is accented with omnipresent candlelight, and diaphanous curtains catch the breeze. This is one of Orlando's most sophisticated dining experiences, and there's a focus on Florida-sourced vegetables, sustainable seafood and meats, and prowess for presentation that holds its own with any world-class establishment. The menu, which changes daily, might feature Key West wreckfish with walnut-braised scallions and apple chutney, housemade conchiglie with Florida spiny lobster and Zellwood corn, or for more daring foodies, pig head terrine with foie gras. Even the condiments are made in-house, combining interesting flavors into basil aïoli, vanilla salt, and lemon verbena butter. The building itself was once a bank—you'll find a nod to its financial past in the subterranean wine cellar, where LED-lit bottles glowing blue and green surround a private dining area in what was once the vault.—Terry Ward

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 9 pm.

163 N.E. 39th Street
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 572 1400

Design District denizens come to Maitardi for affordable (for the neighborhood, at least) northern Italian fare and an atmosphere that balances between superstylish and pretention-free in a way that's rare for Miami hangouts. A tiled wood-burning oven dominates the small dining room, which shines with an antique mirror and polished concrete floors. But on balmy Miami nights, a seat on the patio under sweeping oak trees and Moroccan lanterns is the hottest ticket. (An alcove fronted with concrete columns and backed by a mosaic wall is a particularly sexy spot to settle in.) On Friday nights, a DJ spins Motown and funk and patrons linger after meals of perfectly crisped flatbreads and pizzas fired in the open hearth or risotto with fresh scallops bathed in squid ink and tossed with crispy leeks. The jazz brunch on Sundays draws families; while the parents sip prosecco, the kids run around the courtyard. The restaurant's name, by the way, means "never late," and its slogan—"a place where time is not of the essence"—happily does not apply to the spot-on service.—Terry Ward

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 12 am.

Bal Harbour Shops
9700 Collins Avenue
Bal Harbour , Florida
Tel: 305 864 8600

Restaurateur Stephen Starr of Buddakan and Morimoto fame opened this high-design restaurant inside the Bal Harbour Shops (across from Versace, next to Marc Jacobs) in March 2011. The accolades—not to mention ridiculously good-looking patrons—keep rolling in. For the best people-watching as you dine, snag one of the curved wooden booths near the front of the restaurant (there's outdoor seating on the back patio and in the open-air mall's courtyard). Executive chef Makoto Okuwa's Japanese cuisine hits the right note between classic and modern. Robata (grilled specials) include Japanese eggplant topped with bonito flakes, chicken, king crab, and tiger prawns that arrive sizzling on a slate of river stone. The sushi and sashimi platters pair rolls with hamachi and chutoro (medium fatty tuna) as well as orange clams, sweet shrimp, and live scallops.—Terry Ward

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to midnight, and Sundays 11:30 am to 10 pm.

Mama Della's Ristorante
5601 Universal Boulevard
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 503 3463

Your friends (especially anyone with Italy in their heritage will call you crazy for suggesting an authentic dinner from the old country at a theme park hotel's restaurant. But the food at Mama Della's Ristorante, inside the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, is so good it's worth tolerating the kitschy tableside appearance of "Mama Della" herself—a theme park character who makes the rounds during dinner, trading ciaos. The restaurant was modeled on a trattoria in Italy, yet the resulting look is more like Nonna's house, with floral wallpaper, antique-looking mirrors, and random family portraits. And just like at Grandma's, don't come here looking for a light meal. Start with the delicious antipasto platter, an authentic spread of prosciutto, soppressata, fontina cheese, and marinated vegetables and olives. The enormous pasta platters are served family-style, and the frutti di mare overflows with fish and shellfish. By the time the group of musicians come around to your table to serenade you with Italian opera, you'll be ordering a round of limoncello and crying out mama mia.—Terry Ward

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

700 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 292 4606

This always packed eatery is all about location, location, location; diners regularly compete for patio tables to watch the human carnival on Duval Street. The fruit-infused Floribbean cuisine (standouts include shrimp in a mango barbecue sauce, filet mignon with chimichurri, and jerk pork) is a bit overpriced but worth it.

Meat Market
915 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 532 0088

Meat Market is the only upscale restaurant on Lincoln Road, a popular pedestrian mall lined with casual outdoor cafés, art galleries, and clothing stores. The interior is a cool mix of leather, marble, and distressed wood furnishings with whimsical horsehair wall panels and Lucite sculptures. During stone crab season (mid-May to mid-October), start your meal with a few of the meaty claws served with the restaurant's tangy mustard sauce. First and foremost, however, chef Sean Brasel's menu is about steak. From Niman ranch filets to Japanese Kobe tenderloins, à la carte beef cuts are either grilled in an infrared oven or seared over a wood fire. Side dishes are of the heavy variety, such as truffled creamed corn and Gouda tater tots. Arrive with an appetite.—Terry Ward

Open Sundays through Thursdays 6 pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 6 pm to 1 am.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Atlas Plaza
130 N.E. 40th Street
Design District
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 573 5550

The latest spot from chef Michael Schwartz—of Nemo fame—is this industrial-chic indoor-outdoor space with a raw-concrete floor and simple dark-wood fixtures. Schwartz's signature focus on fresh and locally grown food is in place, and the zingy modern American menu includes meant-to-be-shared standouts such as a mouth-puckeringly spicy beef with chile salad and wood-roasted black grouper. On a cool evening, the sheltered, leafy patio is the best place to eat, but try to hit Michael's for lunch. That's when the tables are filled with iced tea–drinking, heavy spec–wearing, black-clad arty types from the Design District's neighboring offices and galleries—and you can eavesdrop shamelessly for tips on who'll be the next Damien Hirst.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm.

6927 Biscayne Boulevard
Biscayne Corridor
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 759 2001

In 2006, local-girl-made-good Michelle Bernstein opened this homey neighborhood spot on the Biscayne Corridor and tricked it out with whitewashed thrift-store chairs, orange-and-cobalt walls, and crisp white tablecloths, like a '60s beach house. The lunch menu is standard modern American appetizers and entrées; it's better to stop by at dinner, when every dish is offered in half or full portions—a brainwave of her husband-cum-maître d' David Martinez—that allows multiple tastings. The simple yet flavor-packed menu might include a meaty mixed-fish ceviche; blue cheese and shredded duck croquettes; and conch doused in garlic, like escargots. Unlike other celebrity chefs, the charming Bernstein really does work on the line—usually at the sauté station. The chef recently opened Sra. Martinez, a buzzy tapas restaurant in the Design District; the food doesn't quite live up to Bernstein's reputation, but the atmosphere—a two-level former post office with tables on the front patio—is enjoyably buzzy (4000 N.E. Second Ave., Miami; 305-573-5474).

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 6:30 to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

Miss Yip Chinese Café
1661 Meridian Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 534 5488

This trendy Chinese spot in South Beach, owned by scenester Jenny Yip, has the feel of an Indiana Jones–era Shanghai bistro: dark, bentwood furniture; tiled floors; and huge glass jars of exotic ingredients displayed in the windows. There's a full dim sum menu that includes Shanghai soupy dumplings and shrimp wontons; lunch specials (try the General Tso chicken) ring in under $11. For dinner, expect Chinese-American staples like cashew chicken, Mongolian beef, and Hong Kong-style lo mein. There's a delivery menu for ad hoc room service, but if you eat on-site, head upstairs after dinner for a drink at the Buck 15 bar, with its Tokyo-style graffiti decor—it's most popular on Tuesdays for hip-hop night (

Lunch and dinner daily.

Nine One Five
915 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 0669

Make your way to the quiet southern end of Duval Street, and you'll find the blue-and-white classic Key West bungalow that houses Nine One Five. Chef Stuart Kemp captures the city's Old Town, tropical vibe without falling into the touristy culinary trap of so many of his counterparts fixated on conch fritters and Key Lime pie. The dome of tuna tartare spiked with pickled cucumber and avocado sashimi is a favorite starter to share; crispy whole yellowtail snapper from local waters is a menu standard and arrives sizzling in Thai chile and garlic sauce. After dinner, pop upstairs to the Point5 Lounge. They've got you covered for late-night dining, with a menu of Key West pink shrimp, Asian baby back ribs, and veggie paninis with chèvre served well into the balmy night.—Terry Ward

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 6 to 11 pm.

Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando
4012 Central Florida Parkway
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 393 4333

Chef Norman Van Aken, a hero among Florida foodies, oversees the flagship restaurant of the Grande Lakes development. The decor may be of the un-noteworthy convention-hotel type, and the clientele rigorously expense-account, but the menu is gutsy and phenomenally flavorful. Van Aken's "New World Cuisine" adds an inventive Latin and Caribbean (and sometimes Asian) twist to classic ingredients. Popular options include a Cuban-style roasted pork marinated in citrus sauce for two days, and a gently fried jumbo shrimp stuffed with yuca and habanero-infused tartar. Rounding out courses: ceviches, tapas plates, and ice creams so rich (chocolate with chilis, cinnamon) that they're served by demi-scoop.

OLA (Of Latin America)
Sanctuary Hotel
1745 James Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 695 9125

This onetime Biscayne Boulevard staple defected to a prime spot on the beach in fall 2006, inside the Sanctuary Hotel in South Beach. The clubby, fairly formal space has large, modernist uphosltered chairs and crisp white tablecloths, but the menu's much zanier and more laid-back. Chef Douglas Rodriguez cooks up fish-heavy, pan-Latin selections (hence the name: Of Latin America) that jump from tapas-sized ceviches (try the Ecuadorian shrimp) to fusion appetizers such as foie gras-and-fig empanadas. The mojitos are superb, too.

Dinner nightly.

Ophelia's on the Bay
9105 Midnight Pass Road
Siesta Key , Florida
Tel: 941 349 2212 or 877 229 9601

Amid water lily ponds, swooping seabirds, and gardens of tropical flowers, this elegant restaurant overlooking Little Sarasota Bay prepares fresh and flavorful New American fare. The menu changes nightly, but you might find black grouper with coconut-macadamia panko crust and tropical fruit jam; Malpeque oysters baked in black truffle and Parmesan butter; Kobe beef rubbed with garlic paste; and slow-roasted poulet rouge with blackberry-balsamic syrup.

Palm Beach Grill
340 Royal Poinciana Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 835 1077

You'd never guess that this is part of the Houston's chain since there's no visible signage. The owners localized the name to honor the unwritten rule against chains on the Island (tell that to the Starbucks on Worth Avenue). The food is a few steps above casual-restaurant fare as well. Start with the house-smoked salmon or grilled artichoke hearts (soak up every drop of the remoulade it's served with) and don't miss the pan-seared tuna burger. The bar's sceney on weekends, so linger there after dinner for a martini and some people-watching.

Pizza al Fresco
14 Via Mizner
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 832 0032

A bargain rarity on Worth Avenue, this restaurant tucked into a hidden courtyard serves amazing thin-crust pizzas (try the mozzarella-smothered, anchovy-laden Margherita). The decor—bare wood tables shaded by white umbrellas and towering palm trees—is simple enough, and afternoons are crowded with shoppers refueling with a pie and a glass of red wine. If you can't break from the shopping marathon, you can grab some pizza by the slice at the attached deli.

Prime One Twelve
Browns Hotel
112 Ocean Drive
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 532 8112

Detractors—probably those who've had to wait a long time in the bar even with a reservation—say this restaurant in the Browns Hotel is just a steak house. True, but what a steak house it is. The prime beef is spectacular and carefully cooked, as are all the sides, such as four-cheese truffle mac(aroni) and rum-baked sweet plantains (for 11 bucks, they should be baked in gold). Sometimes, the excess is really excessive: a one-pound Kobe beef burger for $30! But then, everything about the place is oversized—particularly the portions, which are enormous. Even though you practically have to take out a bank loan for dinner here, it's been mobbed, including a large celebrity contingent, since the day it opened in 2003. Some of the overflow is now going to Prime Italian, which opened across the street in late 2008. The menu is much the same, with the addition of pastas, pizzas, classic Italian dishes, and ridiculously large meatballs stuffed with cheese (101 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-695-8484).

Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 3 pm and 5:30 to midnight, Fridays noon to 3 pm and 5:30 pm to 1 am, and Saturdays 5:30 pm to 1 am.

Ravenous Pig
1234 N. Orange Avenue
Winter Park , Florida
Tel: 407 628 2333

Orlando's current must-have reservation may be accented by a few pubby touches—such as naked Edison bulbs and a ceiling of pressed metal—but it's a stretch to call it a true "gastropub," as chef-owners James and Julie Petrakis do. Still, if the decor merely evokes the spirit of English tradition, the dining amplifies and Americanizes it, offering an ever-changing roster of fine fish and meats, including grilled duck, flatiron steak-frites, and barbecued leg of lamb. Some of the sides, like house-made gnocchi, Gruyère biscuits, and truffle fries served in a pint glass, are delicious enough to have become signatures dishes, but the specialty of the house, which appears on the menu at monthly intervals (usually on the first Saturday), is suckling pig, roasted whole on the premises. Reserve ahead or miss out.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm.

Rino's Tuscan Grille
1105 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 766 8700

Chef Rino Balzano is a local character (don't be surprised to hear him break into song in the middle of the restaurant) and one wall is lined with snaps of the celebrities who've enjoyed his cooking in the past (De Niro and Demi Moore among them). His food is simple hearty Italian, much of it cooked in the wood-fired oven. Try veal scallopine or black lobster ravioli. Best tables are on the palm-tree-filled garden patio that overlooks the waterway, where there's music Thurs–Sat.

Open daily 5 pm to midnight.

Santiago's Bodega
207 Petronia Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 7691

Most travelers hear about this diminutive restaurant in the Bahama Village neighborhood thanks to a local's tip, and Key Westers aren't exactly forthcoming with the Duval Crawl crowd about their favorite places to eat. So consider yourself lucky to know where to find the most atmospheric tapas bar this side of Miami. Favorites include grouper fillets with fennel seed and coriander, Haloumi cheese flambéed tableside, and goat cheese–smothered dates wrapped with prosciutto. Portions are sized for sharing, so start with a couple of tapas per person. And if bread pudding is on the dessert menu, be sure not to miss its gooey, cinnamon-y comfort-food decadence. There are a few tables inside in a candlelit space, but on a balmy Key West night, the best place to be is on the front patio, surrounded by banana trees and tropical foliage.—Terry Ward

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Scotty's Landing
3381 Pan American Drive
Coconut Grove
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 854 2626

Coconut Grove is one of the oldest neighborhoods in town, and tucked in among the expensive homes and mini-malls you can still find vestiges of Miami the Way It Was: ancient banyan trees, Bahamian-style wooden cottages, and the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse (where Waiting for Godot had its U.S. premiere). Scotty's isn't particularly old (it opened in 1991), but it captures the right feeling: Right on the waterfront, between the Chart House and Miami's incongruously sited City Hall, it's an unpretentious locals' joint that stands as a sharp counterpoint to the commercialized surroundings. Sit outside, order a cold beer with conch fritters and a grilled dolphin sandwich (the fish, not the mammal), and watch the million-dollar boats dock at the marina. The menu warns, "We are not responsible for well-done orders, special requests, or natural occurrences"—how much more laid-back Miami can you get?

Lunch and dinner daily.

Seasons 52
7700 Sand Lake Road
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 354 5212

This burgeoning chain is a tonic for diners sick of the deep frying that dominates the area's kitchens. The gimmick is to change the New American menu weekly (hence the name) as new harvests come to market, and none of the choices have added fats or more than 475 calories. That means natural cooking methods (mesquite-grilling, stone-hearth-roasting) are favored, and side dishes are chosen to nutritionally balance the entrées, with portion controlled desserts served in oversized shot glasses. The atmosphere is as breezy as a California ranch house, although wait times can run steep.

Sea Watch
6002 N. Ocean Boulevard
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea , Florida
Tel: 954 781 2200

Beachfront restaurants are rare in ocean-centric Fort Lauderdale, for some reason, but this salty old favorite sits right on the sand in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The menu of solid seafood staples like lobster rolls, crab claws, and Florida red snapper is exactly what you'd expect, as is the crowd of young families, tourist couples, and sun-kissed teens, After dinner, grab a beer on the upstairs deck and, yes, watch the sea. If only everything in life were so simple.

Open daily 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm.

Seven Fish
632 Olivia Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 2777

This little bistro, housed in a former luncheonette on a quiet street in Old Town, is easy to miss. But the Asian fusion menu, ranging from meat loaf to mahimahi, is worth seeking out. Try the Asian-style yellowtail snapper, banana chicken, and shrimp salsa with chile lime chips. Reservations are recommended.

Shari Sushi Lounge
621 E. Central Boulevard
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 420 9420

Thornton Park hipsters treat Shari like their own little Nobu and pack the restaurant during happy hour, from 5 to 7 pm daily, for a $3.95 menu of sushi rolls, cocktails, and Japanese beers. The crowd may come for the scene, but the food is actually worth it. There is the expected range of rolls, plus a nigiri/sashimi menu that encompasses quail egg, conch, and scallops plus duck tacos, melt-in-your-mouth Kurobuta pork belly, and Japanese lobster tail fried tempura-style with a spicy Asian aïoli. The high-backed metallic booths and sea of halogen lights dangling from a high ceiling coupled with the easy flow of sake and the constant preening and flirting give the restaurant a nightclub feel, and that's part of the fun.—Terry Ward

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 5 to 10 pm and Thursdays through Saturdays 5 to 11 pm.

112 Clematis Street
West Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 833 3335

This small chain of old-fashioned parlors serves the best ice cream in town. Even if you don't have kids in tow it's worth a stop into the bright-pink shops for handchurned flavors like cherries jubilee and gooey treats like caramel marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate. They've also become famous locally for their Alice-in-Wonderland bathrooms, whose clear doors fog up at the turn of a door handle.

Snook Inn
1215 Bald Eagle Drive
Marco Island , Florida
Tel: 239 394 3313

Watch dolphins play and pelicans dive while you dine on peel-and-eat shrimp, conch fritters, baby back ribs, local soft-shell blue crabs, crab-stuffed and beer-battered grouper, or your own catch-of-the-day if you bring the fish, cleaned and ready to cook. Eat outdoors at the thatch-roofed Chickee Bar, which has water views and hosts live music seven nights a week, weekend afternoons, and weekday afternoons in high season.

Sprinkles of Palm Beach
279 Royal Poinciana Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 659 1140

Sprinkles is the perfect pit stop for delectable, dreamy homemade ice cream concoctions and other sweet treats. The triple-chocolate supreme was voted best ice cream in the country by People magazine, but save room for a taste of one of the dozens of other ice cream, fat-free yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, and soft-serve flavors. The Palm Beach Special is a jumbo cookie served with two scoops of your favorite ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge sauce. A bakery counter tempts with four varieties of cookies, from chewy oatmeal raisin to peanut butter, and brownies—and if you're in the mood for something savory, there is a full lunch menu with delicious sandwiches on bread from local bakeries.

1431 N. Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 539 9000

It may be vegan and organic, but don't be afraid to bring your meat-eating companions to this low-key Zen-like spot, nestled among the casual dining chains on Federal Highway. The enthusiastic staff makes a strong case for dishes like the outstanding "tenderloin" (rounds of portobello mushroom au poivre served with crunchy onion rings) or the "picatta" of grilled asparagus with a lemon caper sauce. While many vegan eateries opt to go liquor-free, Sublime's cocktail list has healthy mixers like pomegranate juice and organic vegetable juice blended with vodka and sake. The standout is the green tea martini, a potent combination of green tea vodka with green tea liqueur.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Shops at Midtown Miami
3250 N.E. First Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 786 369 0353

Introduced in January 2009 by the folks behind Sushi Samba, this wildly popular spin-off restaurant's innovative tapas-meets-raw-bar menu and stunning warehouse-style space (reclaimed wood floors, soaring windows embellished with curving wrought iron) whisks you far from its strip mall location. Chef de cuisine Timon Balloo's Miami history includes stints at Design District hot spot Domo Japones and the Mandarin Oriental's celebrated Azul restaurant; his menu is a melting pot of fresh flavors inspired by Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian palates. Making the meal last all night approaches art-form status here: Cozy into one of the horseshoe-shaped booths to share small plates such as goat cheese croquettes, duck egg with beef-tongue stew, and flopping fresh Florida snapper sashimi with your fellow foodies. Then relax with a mojito before summoning the stylish servers for the next round—perhaps White Water clams on the half shell plucked from Sebastian Inlet, up the coast, or steak tartare with pickled shallots. A surprisingly affordable bill at the end of the night is a sweet finish.—Terry Ward

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 12 am, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 2 am, and Sundays 11:30 am to 1 am.

Ta-Boo Restaurant and Bar
221 Worth Avenue
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 835 3500

It's an institution—and feels like it—but don't be put off: Ta-boo is a locals' favorite. For six decades, this lively café-style restaurant has been holding court smack in the middle of Worth Avenue, and is bustling at both lunch and dinner. Expect American bistro food at lunch (pizzas, huge salads, sandwiches); come dinnertime, the menu morphs into fancier fare such as prime rib and osetra caviar. If the gazpacho is on the menu, order it. When it comes to dessert, try the witlessly named but delicious Ta-boo Lust—coconut cream custard served in a walnut graham-cracker crust. There's live piano music Sunday through Thursday, and a DJ spins on Friday and Saturday.

Tap Tap
819 5th Street
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 672 2898

This longtime South Beach standby, decorated with brightly colored murals, serves some of the best—and best-presented—Haitian food in Miami. It's a welcome break from Cuban fritters and toxically sweet cafecito. It's a bargain, too: You'll struggle to spend more than $10 for an entrée. (Our favorite is the goat in a peppery tomato broth.) Go on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights for live jazz and folk music.

Dinner only.

221 Royal Poinciana Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 832 0092

This casual café has been a lunchtime fixture since 1921. It's open for breakfast and dinner, but lunch is when it sees a cross section of Palm Beach—office workers, society ladies, and students—hole up at the white-clothed tables for unfussy food. The Maryland jumbo lump crab cake sandwich is outstanding and you can't go wrong with solid pasta staples like penne à la vodka. Though the wood-paneled interior is comfortable and cozy, the sidewalk patio tables under an awning and dangling ferns are best.

Todd English's Bluezoo
1500 Epcot Resorts Boulevard
Lake Buena Vista , Florida
Tel: 407 934 1111

Now that Orlando has proved to be fertile ground for celebrity chefs (Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck both have locations in the busy tourist corridor), seemingly every culinary marquee name is unpacking his utensils in O-Town. Todd English, the Boston-area impresario behind Olives, is pulling the strings at the seafood-oriented BlueZoo, located at the Michael Graves–designed Dolphin Hotel near Epcot. In addition to a selection of simple, fish-first dishes such as miso-glazed Chilean sea bass and raw-bar oysters and clams, English adds fusion touches, such as Cantonese lobster with a sticky soy glaze, plus a selection of flatbreads. The dining area, done by Jeffrey Beers, is a bit "Disney-fied"—a pleasing but intense environment of cobalt neon, twisting glass sculpture, wooden slats, and copper light fixtures.

Hotel Photo
Atlantic Resort
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 567 8070

An expensive hot spot inside the beachfront Atlantic Resort. Trina's Chef Don Pintabona is an alumnus of New York's Tribeca Grill; the sommelier, Nick Mautone, is a veteran of Gramercy Tavern. Together, they've come up with an eatery that's allegedly Sicilian (the name is derived from the Trinakria, Sicily's signature three-legged Medusa head). Diners will likely label it Mediterranean Rim, though, thanks to the spicy Arabic touches—try the tagine of baked Florida grouper, or one of the airy flatbreads served doused in unusual toppings like arugula pesto or wild mushrooms with Taleggio cheese. The interior has dark woods, leather banquettes, and crisp white tables, though the best touch, of course, is the seafront view from the wraparound terrace.

Open daily 6:30 am to 10 pm.

2122 Second Street
Fort Myers , Florida
Tel: 239 332 2065

A romantic downtown landmark with Continental and regional Southern dishes, the Veranda occupies two turn-of-the-century houses with pale yellow walls, antique paintings, sconces, a piano bar, and a garden courtyard. Regulars recommend the tableside-prepared Caesar salad, grit cakes with pepper Jack cheese and grilled andouille sausage, mixed grilled fish with saffron fettuccine, and herb-encrusted salmon.

Closed Sundays.

3555 S.W. Eighth Street
Little Havana
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 444 0240

This Little Havana standard will win no awards for decoration—it's actually an avalanche of kitsch with chandeliers and mirrors meant to emulate the French palace. But all the movers and shakers in the Cuban community still congregate here. The kitchen turns out well-prepared classics such as ropa vieja and Cuban sandwiches well past midnight.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

West Palm Beach Green Market
2nd and Narcissus
West Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 822 1515

More than 60 local vendors set up on this downtown West Palm Beach side street during the fair weather from October to April. The makeshift stalls sell fresh produce, cheese, and flowers and draw even the toniest part-timers who populate the Island. No wonder, with all the goodies on offer. Standouts include homemade guacamole at Anita's, raw milk cheese at Siggi's, and fresh ravioli at Pasta Amore. The Green Market Café serves made-to-order breakfast and lunch so you can grab something before heading over to the Island. Free parking is available at the adjacent Banyan Street Garage during market hours.

Open Saturdays only, 8 am to 1 pm, mid-October through late April.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.