What are the Best "Southern Cooking" Restaurants in Florida?

L. Cane

Florida is known for many things - its beaches, its theme parks, its weather, and, in some circles, its cooking.

Many southerners - and therefore many Floridians - have a very strong preference for what is called "southern cooking." Although this type of cooking encompasses many traditions and regions, some of its well-known dishes are fried green tomatoes, red rice, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, okra, po' boys, peach cobbler, Brunswick stew, and shrimp and grits.

As you might imagine, there is no shortage of restaurants in Florida that offer this type of cooking, and determining which are "the best" is subjective. Everyone will have their own opinion and preferences.

But food and travel websites often list what they feel are the highest quality choices, and quite often, the same restaurants are listed over and over again. Here are some that are regularly mentioned.

Florida Cracker Kitchen, Brooksville: Although this is a small-town restaurant, it has a large following. Some visitors seek out Brooksville with the sole purpose of trying the restaurant's famous dishes like its shrimp and grits, the "cracker crisco sandwich," and the po' boy.

Fred's Market / Southern Kitchen, Plant City: If you find bad reviews of this place, they are sometimes due to wait times because of its popularity. Fred's is probably best known for its buffet, which often includes meatloaf, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and collard greens.

Granny's Southern Smokehouse, St. Cloud: This joint specializes in southern barbeque, and many reviewers rave about the brisket, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, and corn casserole. Portion sizes are large, so it's doubtful you will leave hungry.

Farmer's Market Restaurant, Ft. Myers: This place has soul food that is praised far and wide. It's Ft. Myers' oldest restaurant and its dishes that have stood the test of time include fried chicken, collard greens, ham hocks, and sweet potato pie.

Josiah's Southern Cooking, Panama City: Many visitors rave about the restaurant's signature dish - of fried pork chops, which come with your choice of cornbread, rice and gravy, macaroni and cheese, yams, corn, or collard greens.

O'neal's Country Buffet, Madison: This restaurant isn't fancy and some might call it a hole in the wall, but the buffet is known to be delicious, plentiful, and reasonably priced. They serve smoked and fried chicken, green and butterbeans, and collard greens. Some days feature ribs and wings, as the menu changes daily.

Yearling, Cross Creek: Again, if you are looking for something fancy, this may not fit the bill. But if you are looking for "old Florida" food that has been cooked the same way for generations, look no further. You'll find frog legs, Florida gator, venison, and conch fritters. Sides include cheese grits, tomatoes and okra, and collard greens. Note that this restaurant isn't open daily. Check the restaurant's website for hours.

Cracker's, Miami Springs: This place serves great southern food that you can eat on the tropical outdoor patio if you'd like. One very unique item here is the bacon jam, but they also serve chicken fried chicken, jambalaya, and peach cobbler.

Southern Fresh, Safety Harbor: You may need patience at this restaurant if you're going to order the fried chicken (since it is made to order,) but many believe that it is more than worth it. The dessert selection is also a standout.

Great Southern Cafe, Seaside: This restaurant serves southern cooking with a fresh twist. The chef enjoys mixing his "taste for international cuisines" with southern cooking, so you'll find classics like crab cakes and fried green tomatoes on the menu mixed with delicacies like lobster tails.

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