The Real Good Eats: Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is famous for race cars and white sandy beaches, but it’s not known as a culinary destination. It should be. On a trip to Daytona, RFT Editor Bobbie Hasselbring explored the culinary landscape and she was pleasantly surprised. Here are some of her favorite places to nosh.
Peach Valley Café
— This small, local chain (four locations) is a great place for breakfast. The cafe we visited had a long, welcoming counter and booths filled with locals.
One of their specialties—and one not to miss – is the mini-apple fritter. These little balls of sweet, fried dough are studded with pieces of apples and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar and served with strawberry yogurt for dipping. They’re made to order so they’re soft and hot right out of the fryer.
Their biscuits and gravy are well worth a taste too—two big, fluffy biscuits smothered with generous scoops of mildly spicy sausage gravy.
They also serve a nice granola, yogurt, fruit plate that comes with blueberry muffins that have been grilled so that they’re buttery with crispy edges. 185 East Granada Boulevard, Ormond Beach, FL 32176, (386) 615-0096
Tomoka State Park
— Why am I listing a camp store as a great place to eat? Because owners Dani and Bill Talo offer some great biscuits and gravy at a bargain price ($1.75).
You can take a hike or rent a canoe or kayak and, after you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in at the Outpost for this rib-sticking fare. 2099 N Beach St., Ormond Beach, FL 32174-2707 386-673-0022
LuLu’s Oceanside Grill
— Another fun lunch spot, LuLu’s offers food with a tropical flare like lobster tacos with sweet potato fries, lobster and mango quesadilla, and shrimp avocado salad.
Ask for an outside table so you can enjoy the soft ocean breezes. 30 South Atlantic Avenue, Ormond Beach, FL 32176-6615, (386) 673-264, www.lulusoceansidegrill.com
The Cellar Restaurant
— Located in the basement of President Warren G. Harding’s former home, this Italian restaurant feels cozy and intimate like dining in a private wine cellar.
Owners Lena (also the wine steward) and her chef husband Sam Moggio, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, have created a culinary destination foodies will love. These are restaurateurs who pay attention to detail from the excellent wine list to the heavenly desserts and espresso.
I ordered the lamb shank, which was rich and tender and was served with perfectly creamy , chewy risotto and al dente tiny green beans, baby carrots, and zucchini shreds.
The mushroom risotto is made with delightfully earthy porcini mushrooms. They make all their own pasta and the seafood ravioli is cooked perfectly al dente and is chock full of sweet seafood.
Do save room for dessert. The Chocolate Torte, served slightly warm, has a rich chocolate flavor with a velvety texture. The chocolate hazelnut gelato is rich with a deep nutty flavor and silky texture. 220 Magnolia Ave, Daytona Beach.. Fl, (386) 258-0011, www.thecellarrestaurant.com
Dancing Avocado Kitchen
— One of my favorite places for breakfast is the Dancing Avocado Kitchen, a fun and funky family-run restaurant located in Daytona Beach’s quaint downtown area. Their tagline is “Where herbivore and carnivore eat in harmony” and they cater to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike with fresh, hearty, home-style food.
Owner Angela says “we make food our family would want,” and it shows. One of their specialties is plantains, that starchy, slightly sweet second cousin to the banana that they fry soft-crisp.
Their shrimp avocado omelet comes perfectly cooked and absolutely stuffed with grilled shrimp and big pieces of creamy avocado (there’s a reason they call this the Avocado Kitchen). It’s served with chunky red country style potatoes seasoned with fresh parsley and cooked until they have just the right crispy edges. 110 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114-4402, (386) 947-2022
— Built in 1901, this former hotel houses an interesting theme restaurant that endeavors to capture the elegance of dining in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Diners eat in several small rooms all decorated with ornate wallpaper and carpets and original wood trim and light fixtures in the three-story building. Waiters wear long-tailed tuxedos and serve classic tableside dishes like crepes Suzette, flaming coffee, and cherries jubilee.
The filet mignon here comes perfectly cooked to order and served with a rich gravy studded with bits of sweet roasted garlic. It is served with creamy scalloped potatoes and baby carrots and asparagus. 43 West Granada Boulevard, Ormond Beach, FL 32174-6302, (386) 615-7673, www.rosevillaormond.com
— This is a high-end sports bar and restaurant owned by pro basketball player Vince Carter. The restaurant features a sleek sports bar with multiple big screen TVs and four separate dining rooms, including the Owner’s Box, an intimate private dining room.
The dining rooms and outdoor seating area, decorated with oversized paintings and a huge indoor wall fountain, feature big windows that overlook a manmade lake and fountain.
While their shrimp and grits aren’t the traditional dish you’d expect, it’s quite good. The dish comes with four good-sized sweet shrimp, a flavorful spicy cream sauce, all served over a grit cake. 2150 Lpga Boulevard, Daytona Beach, FL 32117-7139, (386) 274-0015, www.vincecarters.com
Martini’s Chophouse Restaurant
— This slick, hip restaurant serves local, organic ingredients and is a terrific choice for dinner. They make their own bread every day and the food is as beautiful as it is delicious.
Their tomato basil soup is creamy with a bold tomato flavor. Salad in the Raw comes as a pile of greens, beet and carrot shreds and baby tomatoes all rounded up in thin slices of fresh crispy cucumber. Their grilled salmon is fresh and served with flavorful floral jasmine rice and cooked-just-right veggies.
Their desserts, which change with the season, are special too, with lots of artful sugar work that make them almost too beautiful to eat. Their pumpkin bread, not overly sweet with a nice chewy texture, is served with a rich pumpkin ice cream that makes the perfect fall end to a meal. 1815 S Ridgewood Ave, Daytona Beach, FL 32119, (386) 763-1090, http://martinischophouse.com
Old Spanish Sugar Mill
and Griddle House
— Located in Deleon State Park (about an hour’s drive from Daytona Beach), this pancake house occupies a former sugar mill and features cook-it-yourself pancakes on griddles set right into the tables.
You order your meat, beverages, and pancake toppings (everything from nuts to fruit) and the server brings big pitchers of white and multi-grain pancake batter. They give simple cooking instructions (don’t make the cakes too big or they won’t cook) and then you cook your own.
The multi-grain cakes are especially delicious, perfectly tender and chewy with a slightly nutty flavor (they sell both mixes in the gift shop). 601 Ponce de Leon Boulebard, De Leon Springs, Florida 32130 (386) 985-5644 www.floridastateparks.org./deleonsprings
— by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor