At Little New Orleans Kitchen & Oyster Bar, the piquant seafood staples of Louisianan Cajun cuisine quell robust belly rumblings. Diners silence stomachs by sinking spoons into New Orleans jambalaya or cracking into snow crab legs and shrimp smothered in butter sauce. A side of Cajun fries complements the flavors of Cajun fried shrimp, and french bread po' boys contain gravy-slathered roast beef as opposed to rich boys, which are stuffed with $100 bills.
At Fresh on the Fly, chefs elevate classic comfort-food recipes with top-tier ingredients. They stuff po’ boys with wild-caught shrimp and creole rémoulade, for instance, and serve corn-flake-crusted, hormone-free chicken atop homemade waffles. Though seafood is Fresh on the Fly’s specialty, its chefs also serve up thick burgers made with grass-fed beef locally sourced from De Leon Springs. The emphasis on sustainability extends to the dishware, which swaps out plastic and coal-powered forks in favor of reusable china and plant-based utensils.
Diners can devour entrees in the cool-toned, streamlined dining room, which features corrugated-tin wainscoting that echoes the grays and silvers of sharks and swordfish painted on its walls.
Garlic Crabhouse's menu overflows with shrimp, crabs, and Caribbean fare festooned with garlic or bathed in alfredo sauce. Diners can anchor fork tines in tilapia or catfish ($7.99 for lunch; $8.99 for dinner) prepared fried, steamed, grilled, blackened, dipped in a brown stew, or doused in curry. A sextet of garlic crabs ($18.99 for dinner) shares plate space with red-skin garlic potatoes, whereas a lobster tail conducts a singing quartet of blue crabs ($27.99) in spirited renditions of doo-wop classics. Caribbean-style meals include the spicy punch of jerk shrimp ($8.99–$10.99) and the less belligerent flavors of curry chicken ($4.99–$7.99).
Every day until at least midnight, the floor of Bananas Diner is bustling. Often, it's for the bounties of reinvented diner food. Stuffed french toast coated in rice crispies, chicken 'n' waffles, and unusual benedicts—such as the eatery's signature Funky Monkey topped with fried goat cheese, sun-dried tomato jam, and hollandaise—add an element of novelty to the morning. Lunch and dinner bring surprises as well. Take the Garbage Plate, for instance, which smothers burger patties, hot dogs, or grilled chicken breasts with a tower of hash browns, macaroni salad, cheese, onions, and salsa. Nine burger varieties grant the option of an Angus beef, turkey, chicken, or veggie patty, while an array of classic sandwiches pay homage to deli tradition better than a bagel stuffed with take-a-number tickets.
But sometimes, the crowd is there for something else entirely. On weekends, when the diner stays open 24 hours a day, servers dressed in drag ferry eclectic breakfast dishes to customers while female impersonators hold court on stage for the Sunday Gospel Brunch. Other past events have included Queengo (the diner's own take on bingo), Broadway-themed drag shows, and the competition known as Bananas Got Talent. No wonder Bananas Diner has won multiple best-of awards from OpenTable diners.
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.
It's not much of a leap to guess that chef Eddie James is the head cook and owner of Chef Eddie's. Along with his wife, Bess, he cooks up tangy barbecue and traditional soul food with all the southern-style fixings. Whether cooking for diners in the laid-back eatery or catering for a private party, chef Eddie aims to please with his red-wine-marinated beef ribs and seasoned barbecue chicken, slow-cooked and smothered in sweet, mildly spicy barbecue sauce. His restaurant's walls sparkle with history, adorned with memorabilia from the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. Motown nights and Sunday gospel brunches keep the eatery echoing with song, and poetry nights fill in the gaps when instruments take a break to fill up on waffles and fried chicken.