My idea of a great choice for a place to eat on vacation is a restaurant with a story behind it. Here are seven historic restaurants that fit that criteria — from Prohibition rum-runners to 1980s drug-runners; from authentic 1920s grand hotel to an authentic 1950s diner.
Unique Eats, Bars & Seafood Shacks
Three of my favorite stops in the Keys are a little hard to find, and that’s part of their charm. They’re off the Overseas Highway in neighborhoods — and they’re worth discovering.
FORT LAUDERDALE — The Southport Raw Bar is a favorite of locals, and you’ll love it, too. The water view down a canal filled with sailboats is awesome, and the seafood is fresh and tasty. This well-known, yet hidden, eatery is filled exudes ‘Old Florida’ ambience. A great place to wile away an afternoon, or take a friend to dinner.
Everyone wants to discover that funky inexpensive spot where locals go. In Key West, that would be Hogfish Bar & Grill on Stock Island, which wins raves for fresh off-the-boat seafood.
Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda is a true Florida crab shack; they don’t come more authentic than this. From its 1927 Cracker cabin to the buckets of fresh blue crabs, it’s a little piece of old Florida.
Fort Lauderdale’s Rustic Inn is a classic. Their “world famous garlic crabs” draw hundreds of people every night to this old Florida restaurant, tucked away on Ravenswood Road, just west of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. You’ll find it from the sound of wooden mallets pounding on the table every few minutes.
Lionfish are gobbling up native species on Florida Keys reefs. Now you can gobble them up instead. Several Florida restaurants are serving lionfish, said to be delicious.
FORT PIERCE — This iconic beach bar draws an amazing mix of bikers, tourists, locals and retirees to the north end of Hutchinson Island, and the staff here really hustles to deliver the food and drinks with chaotic precision.
Howley’s Diner has been there for 60 years. It’s not just retro, this West Palm Beach diner is the real deal — from its terrazzo floors to its tin ceiling.
TITUSVILLE — Some say it’s touristy; some say it’s authentic. But pretty much everyone agrees that the hushpuppies at Dixie Crossroads are irresistible.