by Eric Barton | May 27, 2021

Florida’s Standout Restaurants, According to Flamingo Readers

We asked you to name your favorite spots, and now we have 18 new places to try.

Our readers submitted everything from homey Southern cafes to ritzy steakhouses. Photography courtesy of The Floridian Restaurant and Sean Kelly Conway.

If there’s one thing we learned in this last year, it’s that many of us have deep attachments to restaurants. We celebrate our most important days in their booths and get to know servers as if they’re family friends.

Proof of that came when we asked you, our readers, for your favorite places to dine. Among the answers came one from Georgia Turner, who’s from Ormond Beach and works in the West Volusia Tourism Office. She told us about Cress, which she says has a “special occasion vibe even if you just go in for a burger at lunch.”

Cress describes itself as a “globally inspired” restaurant in downtown DeLand and won Best Overall Restaurant in the Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards in 2020.  

Turner recalls stopping in for dinner once and giving the owner a hug. People asked her how long she had known him. Actually, they had just met. “I’m still giddy everytime I go,” she wrote.

Over on the Gulf Coast, another reader, Donna Woods, who lives in Naples and works for the District School Board of Collier County, raved about her favorite spot. USS Nemo has continually won accolades, including a New York Times piece that said it’s “almost worth a trip to Naples in and of itself.” Woods recommends ordering the miso-broiled sea bass.

“Everyone thinks they have the best sea bass restaurant until I take them to USS Nemo,” Woods wrote. “Every friend that comes to visit always seems to feel the need to record the experience with a photo.”

These are just two of the 18 places our readers recommended, and you’ll find the full list below. Is your favorite missing? Tell us, because we’re always looking for a new spot to add to the rotation.


Chef Irv Miller of Jackson’s Steakhouse selects all of his beef by hand. Photography by Jessica Edwards/Great Southern Restaurants.

Jackson’s Steakhouse (Pensacola): Midwestern grain-fed beef served in a building that dates back to the 1860s. 

Hunt & Gather Raw Bar & Pub (Panama City): a menu inspired by what’s fresh and available from regional farms and suppliers with an unpretentious vibe. 

The Salt Block (Marianna): chef and owner Nick Rickman made a name for himself and his Marianna restaurant when in 2018 he took home the title at the World Chef Championship, an award likely no surprise to locals. 


In addition to the brick-and-mortar store, 1748 Bakehouse also slings its baked goods at the Riverside Arts Market. Photography by Amy Robb.

1748 Bakehouse (Jacksonville): married duo Allison and Kurt D’Aurizio spent two decades in the industry before opening a spot to serve fresh baked goods in their own neighborhood, Springfield. 

Cap’s on the Water (St. Augustine): a seafood restaurant with bayfront views out back and a more relaxed oyster bar inside with dungeness crab and Mayport shrimp. 

Collage (St. Augustine): owners Mike Hyatt and Cindy Stangby arrived from West Texas a decade ago and have since held down this downtown spot featuring local produce and seafood.

The Floridian’s menu changes with the seasons so frequent visits are a must. Photography courtesy of The Floridian Restaurant and Sean Kelly Conway.

The Floridian (St. Augustine): regionally inspired Southern cuisine described by the restaurant as “fare for omnivores, herbivores and locavores.”

Ice Plant (St. Augustine): a bar and restaurant in an old ice plant that, as you might have guessed, features innovative and creative ways to incorporate house-carved ice into its cocktails.

Marker 32 (Jacksonville): owner and chef Ben Groshell grew up crabbing the waters of Jacksonville and returned home to open this spot in 1992.

Rue St. Marc (Jacksonville): executive chef Scott Alters gave this spot a bistro feel and a “craftsman’s approach to detail” in a spot at the entrance to the historic San Marco Square. 


Black Pearl (Dunedin): artfully plated American and French dishes in a charming Pinellas County historic building that dates back to 1905. 

Cress (DeLand): a “globally inspired” restaurant in downtown DeLand and 2020 winner of Best Overall Restaurant in the Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards.

Pompano Grill (Cocoa Beach): Jacqueline Sampson and her daughter Erika Wollard reopened this spot in January with a new look and a paired-down version of a menu that has long been a Space Coast favorite.


Almond Restaurant (Palm Beach): proprietor Eric Lemonides and chef Jason Weiner brought their popular New York City restaurant from the Flatiron district to Palm Beach, serving the same mussels, meatless Mondays, and gooey-crispy mac-and-cheese.

Indulge in elevated Italian fare at Elisabetta’s. Photography by Think.Shop.

Elisabetta’s (West Palm Beach and Delray Beach): Lisabet Summa took inspiration from her cookbook collection and travels to Italy when creating this spot with the Big Time Restaurant Group.

Mega Sabor (Naples): Chef Julian Cruz Torres was born and raised in Mexico City so you can trust that the nachos, burritos and quesadillas he’s slinging at this food truck are authentic. Save room for the caramel churros. 

Campiello (Naples): rustic Italian dishes, pizzas from a wood-burning oven and meats over open fire daily, along with a new-each-month menu offering a tour of Italy. 

USS Nemo Restaurant (Naples): a place that has continually won accolades, including a New York Times piece that raved it’s “almost worth a trip to Naples in and of itself,” in part for the miso-glazed sea bass.