Friday, July 31, 2009

Florida Food Favorites

In the past I've blogged a few times about how much I miss Chicago cuisine. There are certain restaurants that I just have to visit whenever I return to the city of my birth. That got me to thinking the other that I am a Floridian, what restaurants in the Sunshine State would I miss most if I were forced to return to the Windy City? I came up with a few:

Sonny's BBQ
Sonny's is a chain, but it doesn't have any locations in Illinois. It's good old-fashioned Southern BBQ at amazingly reasonable prices. We don't have a Sonny's close to Celebration, but my husband and I visit Busch Gardens pretty frequently and there is a Sonny's on the way. When we go to the shopping area at I-4 and 27, we sometimes head a little further down 27 as there is a Sonny's out there too. As an added bonus, we discovered a place that drew us in with a sign announcing "Goats Milk Fudge." The fudge was just okay, but we discovered that they sell wines from our favorite Key West winery.

Most of Sonny's meals are below $10, and that includes two sides. They have crinkle-cut fries, which I adore, and I usually choose corn on the cob as my other option. They also have a salad bar which I typically add even though I know better; the portions are huge, so I end up bringing part of my meal home.

We have a place called Famous Dave's near our Chicago home, but Dave isn't fit to shine Sonny's shoes.

Good Mexican food is one of the things I miss most in Chicago. Abuelo's isn't as good as Pepe's, my favorite authentic Chicago chain, but it comes darned close. Like Sonny's, Abuelo's is amazingly reasonable on many of its prices, especially its lunch specials. I almost always get an enchilada combo, although I like their tacos too. I get 'em with a soft shell and insist that they use corn tortillas, not flour.

We still like Chevy's, although I don't consider them particularly authentic. But Abuelo's is much easier to get to (the Loop shopping area vs. the special hell that is the Crossroads at Lake Buena Vista), so Abuelo's is our latest Mexican food rut.

We used to have an awesome Polish restaurant near our house in Chicago, but alas it closed down many years ago. Polonia is actually better; besides pierogies, it also has kieshka and poppyseed cake, among other authentic delights. It also has chicken paprikas, which threw me off because that is a Hungarian dish. I haven't tried it yet, but it's on my list because my grandma was Hungarian and I ate many a bowl of paprikas in my youth.

Alas, Polonia is all the way out in Casselberry, but it's worth the trip. There is a German restaurant next door that is quite good, too, but I wouldn't miss it if I went back to Chicago because nothing can beat Die Bierstube in my old stomping ground.

I know it sounds crazy, but I would also miss Sizzler. Yes, I know it's a generic steakhouse chain but I love their Malibu Chicken. They abandoned the Chicago area years ago, so when we first moved to Florida it was a real treat to savor my old favorite dish again. I still go there every now and then for lunch, although I am leery of that unsanitary Orlando equation: out-of-control kids + salad bar = germs germs germs.

I would miss the good old Publix grocery store too. Even though I grew up going to Da Jewel's, Jewel can't compare to Publix because it doesn't carry sushi. I was rather surprised the first time I saw the fresh sushi section, but I've come to rely on it as the source of quick and tasty lunches.

The one thing I would not miss is that stinkin' sweet tea that is so pervasive here in the South. I always order unsweetened tea, but my husband can confirm that I still get served that nasty, teeth-jangling sickly sweet stuff at least 20 to 30 percent of the time. Specifically ordering unsweetened tea is so engrained in me that I even do it when I'm back in Chicago. That always earns me quizzical looks, like, "What the heck are you talking about?" Hey, I can't help it...I'm a pseudo-Southern girl now. I know what sweet tea is, even though it never passes my lips whenever I can help it.

1 comment:

Deb said...

love your reading a bunch of it today...

doing research on different areas in Florida, hoping to make the hop like you have south.

Currently in NJ

thanks for sharing your views on Celebration. I tried to find some objective stuff, but the board I found was a tad bit have a nice way of describing the areas, likes, dislikes, details, etc.

Just wanted you to know it was helpful, Cheers