Florida Guide > Dining

Although it would be stretching a point to describe American food as haute cuisine, it is both accurate and fair to praise its convenience, general availability, reasonable price and good quality. Portions tend to be large so a great feature of most places is they will pack up leftovers in a “doggy bag” if you just can’t finish it. Also, the concept of sharing (as in ordering one dessert and three spoons!) is readily accepted.

The number of catering outlets in Florida is staggering. There is always somewhere to eat close by, no matter where you are, and the service is unfailingly cheerful, efficient and friendly. There are no access, menu or attitude problems with small children – still a feature of UK dining out – and there is no need to self-cater. Most diners and family restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and many are open 24/7.

The variety is also impressive. Although Indian restaurants are few and far-between and relatively expensive, just about every other example of international food else is represented – particularly Italian.

The food available reflects the cultural melting pot that is America. Despite this, pretty much everywhere serves the staple American fare of steaks, ribs, chicken and seafood, with differences in style and emphasis the main features. For example, at Italian places there are more pastas and pizzas whilst those influenced by TexMex have more chili and tortillas on the menus. Our group had its fair share of preferences and a few food fads, but nobody went hungry at any of the places chosen.

The big fast food places aren’t listed below, but since most are household names and the products are equally well-known, there seemed little point. However, this group’s choice for best place for a snack stop in a hurry was Burger King.

The following is a list of those restaurants and diners we have tried and tested, together with location details and comments where appropriate. Where “keep a lookout” is advised, this indicates there are so many of them that directions are not necessary!

A few extra points to bear in mind if this is your first time in Florida. In common with the other 49 states is a tipping culture that expects 15%. This is not as generous as it seems, as wages in catering are very low and staff depend on tips to make a living. Remember that when you pay by credit card or switch, you will be asked to fill in the amount to be paid as well as signing the slip. This allows tipping by card. Where service is included this is unnecessary as a separate donation, but 15 to 18% will be added on the bill. The exception to the above is fast food outlets and anywhere else without table service.

Finally, a 6% local tax is levied on everything bought in Florida. A minor irritant in comparison with our VAT, and put even more in perspective when you realise there is no state income tax in Florida!

Ponderosa – steakhouse with an impressively huge “all you can eat” set price breakfast buffet. If you want huge platefuls of just about everything for breakfast, then this is the place. Even ice cream is available!

“Keep a lookout.”

Denny’s – waitress service and takeout. Not just breakfast either, Denny’s serves throughout the day with many outlets open 24 hours. Usually at least one great bargain on the menu and great for pancakes.

“Keep a lookout.”

Red Lobster – Emphasis is on “surf,” but plenty of “turf” is still available. Also many interesting combinations of the two. Lobster was never so affordable . . .

7804 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (US 192), at Formosa Gardens.

Bennigan’s – Irish-American themed grill and tavern with a decent range of beers. The ribs are unmissable, fabulous as part of a combo!

US 192, W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, east of International Drive.

Outback Steakhouse – Australian theme restaurant. Huge steaks!

7804 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (US 192), at Formosa Gardens.

Carrabba’s – Italian grill restaurant. You get fresh bread and a herby dip to munch on whilst choosing. Great atmosphere.

7890 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (US 192), at Formosa Gardens.

Randy’s – family-owned diner. Great for a snack lunch.

On US 27 north from the 192.

Bob Evans – family style chain restaurant, with take out.

4971 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee

Key W Kool’s Open Pit Grill – Steak, ribs, chicken, seafood.

US192, 2 miles west of I4.

JT’s – locally-owned. Ribs and BBQ.

West end of US192.

Chili’s – American grill restaurant with a Mexican influence

5340 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee

Dairy Queen – great for takeaway ice creams and sundaes, but also fast food.

“Keep a lookout.”

Cracker Barrel Country Store – could easily be described as “American twee.” Entry is via the covered porch (complete with rocking chairs). Don’t be discouraged by the souvenir store, as one has to pass through here to reach the old-style restaurant. Lots of exposed wood and what could be described as traditional southern cooking.

5400 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (US 192

0pposite the big orange! (you’ll know when you see it).

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Page added on: 30 August 2004
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