When you imagine Florida, you think of white sandy beaches, cruise ports and theme parks, right? However, the Sunshine State is, in fact, a great cruise destination for foodies. From conch fritters to key lime pie, Florida has plenty of unique dishes. Whether you have some time to kill in Miami before embarking on your cruise or you’re in port for a short time, here are the Floridian dishes you simply must try:
Food to eat in Florida
Ceviche is a popular seafood dish with links to the Caribbean and South America. It is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers. Many versions include chopped onions, salt and coriander. Although the origin of ceviche is widely debated, most believe the dish came from Peru. Ceviche is often served with a Floridian twist on the coast, incorporating conch and grouper. Though you can find ceviche on the menu in any seafood restaurant, make sure you try it at its best on the coast.
Conch has been a Floridian seafood staple for many years. Conches can be served in many different ways including cracked conch, conch chowder and conch ceviche but perhaps most popular are conch fritters. Deep-fried in a golden, crispy batter, the conch is typically combined with onions, peppers and garlic. Conch fritters are served at seafood restaurants throughout Florida but you’ll find the freshest at specialist eateries along the coast.
During the time of Fidel Castro’s governance in Cuba, around one million Cubans emigrated to the US, with many settling in Florida. As a result, an official Cuban neighbourhood known as Little Havana was established in Miami. With the birth of the city’s Cuban enclave, bakeries, shops and Cuban-influenced restaurants began to emerge, introducing authentic Cuban cuisine to Florida.
The Cuban sandwich is perhaps the most iconic Cuban-Floridian dish, made with Cuban bread, ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and salami. Some believe that this sandwich was a common lunch food for workers in the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba, making its way to the factories of Key West with immigrants by the 1860s. As the cigar industry shifted to Tampa in the mid-1880s, the Cuban sandwich made its way across the state.
Today, you can get delicious Cuban sandwiches in various restaurants across Florida. Columbia Restaurant, established in the historic Ybor City in Tampa, is Florida’s oldest restaurant and was founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr. If you’re visiting Tampa on your cruise holiday, be sure to stop by.
Along with Cuban sandwiches, fritas have become extremely popular in Florida. This traditional Cuban dish, which is often referred to as a Cuban hamburger, is made with ground beef and pork on authentic Cuban bread topped with shoestring fries and spicy tomato sauce. You can try this tasty dish in Miami during your cruise.
With approximately 1.3 million alligators in Florida, it perhaps comes as no surprise that alligator meat is on the menu. In the United States, the meat can only be legally sourced from alligator farms and can even be found in some supermarkets. If you’re curious about trying this unusual meat, there are a few excellent restaurants creating everything from alligator hash browns to deep-fried alligator meat bites. It has been described as healthy as it’s naturally low in fat and high in protein. As for the taste? Many say it’s just like chicken but you can decide that for yourself.
There’s no shortage of grouper fish off Florida’s coast, which is fortunate as fresh and fried grouper sandwiches are one of the state’s best-loved dishes. Originating on the gulf beaches, the dish is usually made by combining a tasty, flaky piece of fried or grilled grouper in a fresh roll with tartar sauce, tomato, onion and lettuce. You’ll find these delicious sandwiches in seafood restaurants across Florida.
Key lime pie
Key lime pie is one of the most celebrated dishes in the USA. It is believed the key lime tree, which is native to Malaysia, arrived in the Florida Keys in the 1500s with the Spanish. The limes are similar to a golf ball in size and often have a yellow/green hue. Made with real key lime juice, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk, this classic pie dates all the way back to the 1930s, when the first written recipes appeared. It’s said that the reason for using condensed milk is that fresh milk wasn’t common in the Florida Keys before modern refrigeration distribution methods were introduced in the state.
In a bid to preserve tradition, attempts were made to introduce legislation to hand out fines to those believed to be marketing key lime pie not made with authentic key limes. Although this did not go ahead, the Florida State legislature did recognise the key lime pie as an important symbol of Florida in 1994. So, when you’re visiting on your cruise, it’d be a shame to miss out on this state dish. It’s pretty easy to find this tasty treat throughout Florida but if you happen to be visiting over June and July, be sure to stop by The Key Lime Festival.