Unique Eats: Dining With a Difference in Florida
By Julie Landry Laviolette
When you think of dining out in Florida, fresh seafood, sunny citrus and just-picked vegetables certainly come to mind.
But if you’re looking for different, even unique dining experiences that will whet your appetite for adventure as well as please your palate, read on.
From elegant, sophisticated surroundings to quirky, uncommon events, the Sunshine State has plenty of extraordinary dining opportunities. (And the photos you share will make your friends back home jealous.)
Meal with a Mermaid
See graceful mermaids glide in an underwater performance through large portholes as you dine at the Wreck Bar at the B Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Kiddies are welcome at the family-friendly show. Looking for a raucous ladies’ night? The Aquamen underwater burlesque show has mermen strutting their stuff to a DJ in an adults-only performance on select nights. Sip crafted cocktails and enjoy happy hour specials with your fave gal pals, then catch a photo op with the Aquaman of your dreams.
Diner en Blanc
Diner en Blanc is an elegant popup picnic started in France 35 years ago that has become a global phenomenon, with events in 80-plus cities on six continents. Hundreds of participants dressed from head to toe in white gather in a public space, set up tables and enjoy wine and gourmet fare. The events all begin with a signature napkin wave and include a DJ to dance through the night. There are events in Orlando, West Palm Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Digging your toes in the sand while dining on a scenic beach with a tranquil tropical breeze is a signature Florida experience. Enjoy a romantic sunset dinner and VIP treatment on the sugar white sand at the Beach Walk Café in Destin. Candlelight beachside dining with white-linen service is available at the Pink Shell Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach.
Dine in the dark
For a sensory dining experience that focuses solely on the food and wine at your table, try Dining in the Dark at One Door East in Fort Lauderdale. Sitting in a darkened, private dining room without the distractions of outside stimulation, a phone or social media, participants are left to savor the textures, aromas and flavors of a six-course dinner. There are no utensils, lots of extra napkins, and an optional wine pairing.
Feed the fish
Robbie’s of Islamorada is a legendary, old-school haunt where you can buy buckets of fish to feed the school of 100 or so tarpon that hungrily line the docks. While you’re there, catch a bite to eat yourself at the low-key waterfront café and visit the homespun open-air market. In Fort Lauderdale, 15th Street Fisheries is a dockside eatery on the intracoastal offering both a refined upstairs eatery and a casual downstairs joint with live music. Buy some shrimp to feed the tarpon that live underneath the dock.
Murder mystery dinner train
Board a train in Fort Myers for a 20-mile journey across southwestern Florida and enjoy a five-course dinner spiced with a side of murder. Live actors will play out an interactive murder mystery during this unique experience, which offers a rotating selection of performances, plus holiday-themed shows for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
Dining on a boat
Enjoy a romantic sunset dinner cruise or a family-friendly brunch cruise on Easter or Mother’s Day on Yacht StarShip Cruises & Events in Tampa Bay. Take a genteel, historic rivership lunch or dinner cruise along the St. John’s River with Rivership Romance. Experience elegant dining with an open-air sky deck with SunQuest Cruises in Destin.
Crystal-clear springs, cool swimming holes and kayaking are part of the fun at De Leon Springs State Park, but some people are just here for the pancakes. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House is a rustic charmer with DIY pancake griddles built right into the outdoor tables. Buy pitchers of all-you-can-eat homemade pancake batter and mix-ins like chocolate chips, bananas or peanut butter to make your own creations.
Fresh catch restaurants
In coastal Florida towns you’ll find abundant fishing and friendly places that will cook your catch. If you want to enjoy fresh seafood without heading out on a boat yourself, try the Fresh Catch Seafood Grill in Stuart, which buys its fish whole daily. The elegant Fresh Catch Bistro in Fort Myers overlooks the beach and offers sunset views. Looking for a basic seafood shack with no fuss but plenty of atmosphere and down-home cooking? No problem.
Lunch with an astronaut or Disney Imagineer
Have stars in your eyes? At the Kennedy Space Center, you can have lunch with an astronaut. The buffet meal includes a presentation by an astronaut on what it’s like to launch, live and work in space. There’s a q&a session and a photo opp too. Disney buffs can have dinner with an Imagineer, one of the creative minds behind the theme parks, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney’s magic is created. Imagineer dinners can be booked at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa or at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Fantasy-themed dinner shows
Cheer on a knight in a rousing jousting match at Medieval Times in Orlando with a feast of hearty fare including roasted chicken and spare ribs. Sit in a ship near a massive Spanish galleon in a lagoon at a Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Orlando with swordplay, pyrotechnics and cannon blasts. Experience living history at a Titanic Gala Dinner in Orlando or enjoy a tropical Polynesian show at the historic Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
Create lasting memories (and capture incredible photos) with a unique dining experience in Florida.