**** Show Notes ****
On the previous Off The Eaten Path episode, we talked about Florida, specifically South Florida. Today we’ll cover the rest of the state.
Unfortunately, the rest of the list is going to be very Orlando/Tampa centric and here’s why. Towns like Jacksonville, Ocala and Melbourne all have great restaurants but often those destinations are day trips, besides a quick lunch it’s rare that I stay there for dinner.
Hillstone Restaurant – Winter Park, FL
Winter Park, Winter Garden, and Winter Haven still confuse the hell out of me. Hillstone is in Winter Park and it’s located on the banks of Lake Killarney, check Google!. If you go on a weekend evening plan on a wait, but you can wait in their bar. Their bar offers a great wine list, but their classic cocktails will make your wait time disappear.
Start your meal with their Grilled Artichokes. I’ve tried to recreate this at home and haven’t managed to pull it off. One of my favorites is their Famous French Dip. $21 for a sandwich is a bit expensive, but I assure you it’s worth it. Here’s the Hillstone kicker, order an extra drink, pay your bill and then head out back for a lakeside seat.
RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar – Ocoee, FL
My wife gets full credit for discovering RusTeak. I’m trying to expand my libation choices and since Wine is in RusTeak’s name I figured this would be perfect. For the last 3 years, RusTeak has received a Wine Spectator restaurant award. Most of our meals begin with their Tomato Jam Jar – homemade ricotta cheese, spinach almond pesto & cherry tomato jam served w/ toasted bread.
My go to is their Dutch Crunch, Angus beef, Muenster cheese, crispy pancetta served with garlic aioli & baby arugula.
Holy Hog Barbecue – Tampa, FL
Looking at my Yelp profile I seem to frequent wing houses, Mexican restaurants, and BBQ joints. Holy Hog is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, or at least it appears to be. This is one of the places that the BBQ smoke goodness greets you as soon as you open your car door. For me, it’s burnt ends or their 12 hour smoked brisket. I want my BBQ to stand on its own. I want real smoke flavor, I’ll add the sauce as I see fit. Of course, my meal will contain some of their creamy homemade Mac’ N Cheese and possibly a side of collards.
Mount Dora Streat Corner – Mt Dora, FL
Note they’re closed till October, but it’s worth the wait. Located on the corner of 5th & Highland where they repurposed a closed gas station. The menu is very straightforward, burgers, hot dogs, tacos, and sandwiches. The joy of eating with someone else is the chance to sample their food. In this case, it was the Pulled Pork – pit-smoked pork butt, house BBQ, onion, pickles on a killer bun. My meal was the daily special, short rib tacos. This was the most original take on short ribs that I’ve ever tasted. Homemade slaw, short ribs, and fresh warm tortillas. If you’re in the Mt Dora area after September this place is worth stopping in.
First Choice Southern Bar-B Que – Tampa, FL
Tucked in the back corner of a shopping center and located next to the Japanese restaurant this place is easy to miss as well as overlook……… but don’t, you need to stop here.
This is your Uncle cooking in the backyard only now he’s sober and governed by health codes.
As soon as you walk in your olfactory sense will be overcome by this warm smokey smell. Next, you will see fresh slabs of ribs being plated and then finally it will be your time to order. There’s nothing you can order that you won’t enjoy, everything is homemade, even the french fries. I think between all of us dining we sampled most everything on the menu…ribs, beef & chicken…check! Fries, beans & collard greens….check!
Don’t pass up on the baked beans, they add cinnamon that really separates it from all of the other baked beans that I’ve ever tasted.
Ted’s Montana Grill – Tallahassee, FL
It’s rare that I give chains high praise. There’s nothing wrong with chains, but the downside is that they’re all the same. It’s been a few years since I’ve dined at Ted’s and I honestly forgot that they serve a great meal. On the night I was there the place was packed, but I managed to grab a seat at the bar overlooking the cook line. Between passing conversations with the bartender and watching the cooks perform their food acrobatics I felt as if I had the best seat in the house. Their Bison burger and it was a good as any craft hamburger that you’d put up against it. Don’t forget their homemade chips and classic cocktails.
Here’s a link to my Florida Collection on Yelp if you’re looking for more inspiration.
That wraps up Florida, next we’ll head north to my second home, Georgia.
Thanks for visiting!
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