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Florida Food and Drink

Reflecting the indigenous, Spanish and African influences of the original populations that settled the state, Florida’s cuisine is a mix of traditional Southern dishes with Caribbean and Latin flavours added for extra spice.

Southern “pit” barbecue (beef, pork or chicken smoked in brick barbecue pits or large metal drums with tangy sauce added before and after cooking), garlic-seasoned prawns and crab, black-eyed peas, baked or candied sweet potatoes, cornbread, fried frog’s legs, fried alligator tail and fried conch (better known as “conch fritters”) are some of the old-style classics that Floridians native to the state have been eating for much of the Florida’s recent history.

Transplants from other states and immigrants from the British West Indies, Haiti and Spanish-speaking Latin America have added yucca, plantains, mangoes, rice and beans, spices like curry and jerk, and other tropical delicacies to the state’s palate. Many of the more authentic flavours can only be found at local barbecue joints, “soul food” restaurants and seafood shacks in out-of-the-way corners of the state; it’s best to ask a long-time resident where the best place is to get whatever you’re looking for.

Meanwhile, the gastronomic scene in Miami is becoming world-class, with international and local chefs lending their names and expertise to the city’s increasingly sophisticated culinary offerings. Gourmet and fusion Cuban, Mexican, Haitian, Jamaican and Brazilian restaurants abound, as do upscale pizzerias, vegetarian diners and seafood salons with price tags to match, the latter almost always offering fresh stone crabs - a delicacy available nowhere else in the USA.

Of course, Florida is overrun with national chain eateries, from fast-food franchises on every corner to ethnic-themed mega-restaurants to all-you-can-eat buffets. But if you can stomach the grease, some of these less-salubrious options can be quite tasty. Chicken Kitchen in Miami is home to a mean chicken-veggie-rice combo called the “chop-chop.” Wendy’s crushes the two other big burger chains hands-down, not least of which because there is always a filling sandwich on offer for 99 cents (Five Guys are actually better, but they aren’t nearly as ubiquitous). And warm, luscious Krispy Kreme doughnuts fresh from the oven are about as close to heaven on earth as one can get.

Specialities


• Seafood.
• Key Lime pie (lime, egg and condensed milk dessert topped by meringue).
• Cuban sandwich (Cuban bread filled with cheese, ham, pickles and mustard).

Things to know

In many parts of the state, alcohol is not sold on Sundays.

Tipping

In the USA, tipping is customary for good service. Servers in restaurants, bars and nightclubs usually receive 15% of the total bill (before tax) for good service, or 20% for excellent service.

Drinking age

21.

Regional drinks

Cuban drinks like the mojito (white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint) and the Cuba Libre (a rum-and-Coke, plus lime juice) are very popular at bars across Florida. The margarita (tequila, flavoured liqueur and lime juice), the hurricane (rum, fruit juice and grenadine) and the caipirinha (cachaça, sugar and lime) are also popular "tropical" drinks.

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