Part of the Florida For Grown Ups Blog.
Ok, so America isn’t generally known for its fine cuisine and most people think that eating a meal in Florida means double-cheeseburgers, donuts and Disney character dining. Not so!
There are so many restaurants I have found that are surprisingly good (too many to mention, in fact) – and all without the blandness of burger joints and the expense and predictability of plastic park food.
Take these for example:
Cafe Tu Tu Tango, International Drive: Orlando
This brightly coloured restaurant can be found on International Drive. Go inside and you’re immediately greeted with art, art and even more art, which is sold on the premises and painted by local artists whilst you sit and soak up the ambience. Of course, it goes without saying that the food is delicious (posh sliders, fancy flatbreads, taster-plate tacos – and all finished off with gooey chocolate dipped cheesecake lollipops) – and it’s very reasonably priced. For even better value, sign up to Cafe Tu Tu Tango’s website if you want to be the first to get offers and a free meal on your birthday!
Fourth Street Shrimp Store, St Petersburg: Tampa
Like seafood? Head to this little beauty, on 4th Street, St Petersburg. You’re more likely to sip soup from a beaker rather than a bowl and receive your meal in a wire basket – but hey, that’s part of the charm! No frills, no fuss with the Fourth Street Shrimp Store – just great lobster, crab, clams and oysters, straight from the sea.
Cheap, cheerful and really good. Give the posh places a miss and go where the locals go!
Tapa Toro, International Drive, Orlando
This is a fantastico Spanish restaurant, in the heart of tourist-ville. Despite its prime location, the food does not suffer at all – not one bit. Their cooked-from-fresh paella dishes are gigantic and more than enough for two people to share. Tapa Toro is not the cheapest place (a sharer paella and jug of sangria with a tip was just over $100) – but it’s definitely somewhere to consider for a treat. You’ll also be treated to some flamenco dancing whilst you eat. Have another glass of sangria and you may well think you’re in Spain!
Manny’s Chophouse, Haines City: Polk County
If there’s one food that American’s do better than anyone, it’s steak. There are loads of steakhouses in Florida but for a unique environment and first-class fillet, you must try Manny’s. If you stay in Haines City, the original chophouse is right on your doorstep – otherwise there are other restaurants now opened up in the nearby Winter Haven and Kissimmee. This is a big hit with me and an even bigger hit with my partner who is more of a steak connoisseur than I! I have to confess that steak doesn’t usually top my list of choices when I dine out, but this place does it like no one else. If you’re in a group and someone’s vegetarian/ vegan, there’s plenty of choice for them too. Every time we go, it’s super-busy so you’re well advised to book ahead. There are no airs and graces in Manny’s Chophouse – just good hearty grub in seriously cool surroundings.
What about dieting on holiday? – is it even possible?
The answer is yes – sort of.
I know what you’re thinking – who goes on holiday and wants to diet? True enough – nobody, not ever. However, as I’m getting older, keeping the dreaded weight off is becoming more difficult. So, I tried to make a few healthier choices during my last visit.
If you’re planning on being a little bit good when you’re on your holiday, here’s some ‘tried and tested’ meal tips that may help:
When your other half wants a Denny’s pancake stacked high with bananas, cream and lashings of dulce de leche, you opt for the veggie skillet.
Tempting as it is to opt for the sweet treats, these loaded pancakes will set you back in excess of 1200 calories! That’s crazy. The ‘Fit Fare Veggie Sizzlin’ Skillet’ on the other hand, comes in at just 390 calories! To be honest, I really enjoyed this meal once I got going; a tasty plate of red-skinned potatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and broccoli, finished with scrambled egg and tomato. I couldn’t even manage it all – it was that filling!
Looking for a quick fix for lunch? Put your willpower to the test and have a McDonalds salad instead of a Big Mac.
There are inevitably those times when you just need a quick, simple and inexpensive lunch – and McDonalds seems the obvious choice as there are so many of them dotted about. But what about ditching your favourite value meal for a salad instead? Granted, this is a tough call for any burger-lover, but the salad is actually pretty good. I opted for the bacon ranch grilled chicken salad and saved myself 700 calories (had I have opted for a Big Mac meal) for the effort. The iced coffee without sweetener is also a good alternative to a full-fat coke, at just 80 calories.
Low calorie food tastes rubbish doesn’t it? Not always!
To those who have never had snow crab legs, this may not sound that impressive – however, for me, this is the best news since sliced bread! Snow crab is common in Florida and once I discovered it a few years back, it put my usual lobster firmly in the shade. Yes, it’s THAT good. You can get crab legs in many restaurants in Florida, from independent seafood restaurants (including Fourth Street Shrimp Store), to chains such as Red Lobster and Joes Crab Shack. At just 400 calories for a whole pound of these monster legs, they are not only a healthy meal choice, but also great fun to eat! Ok, so the clarified butter (which is essential, by the way), may ramp that calorie figure up a bit, but overall, 10/10 for taste and diet points!
Swap that Ice Cream Sundae for a Slimfast when you’re sunbathing (no, really).
Ok, this one is a bit extreme and it might actually be illegal to buy slimfast when you’re on holiday, but nevertheless, it’s a good hunger suppressant and reasonably palatable. I opted for ‘Cappuccino Delight’ and whilst the name may exaggerate it somewhat, it was a good stand in for the ‘Cafe Latte’ flavour back home in the UK. It also comes in at almost 40 calories less than its UK counterpart, at just 180. You can buy slimfast products in any Walgreens, Walmart, Publix or Target.
….but don’t forget, you’re on holiday – don’t be too strict on yourself!