A lonely fire flickers in the night, punctuating the vast expanse of Brazil’s southern plains. A spitted side of Nelore beef roasts over the flames; from that famed beast and this timeless fireside scene, Nelore Churrascaria takes its name, recipes, and spirit.
Nelore Churrascaria’s chefs draw inspiration from the gauchos of South America, piling plates high with carvings of 15 spit-roasted meats. The spirit of the southern plains remains alive and well in the dining room, where wrought-iron chandeliers and a dark hardwood floor evoke rustic elegance as a warm breeze filters in through the front doors. Veggies, fine cheeses, and pastas fill more than 40 basins at the salad bar, whose glistening glass protects the trays from grazing cattle and errant horseshoe tosses.
In the midst of nightly live jazz, diners feast on a plethora of dishes made from premium ingredients, including Japanese Kobe beef and hand-foraged mushrooms, while sipping sommelier-recommended wines from an award-winning selection. To gear up gustatory glands, patrons can dive fork-first into the sesame pepper-crusted Hawaii bigeye ahi tuna partnered with pickled cucumbers and seaweed salad ($18). Served with french fries and chimichurri sauce, the Kobe skirt steak ($29) comes from cows raised according to the strict laws in Hyogo Prefecture, which forbids cattle to date until they graduate high school. Alternatively raised in free-spirited rivers and music festivals, the wild-caught salmon shares plate space with tuscan potato salad, capers, arugula, and a citrus-fennel purée ($34). Similarly sating, the double cut Australian lamb chops are bathed in a zinfandel reduction sauce and paired with rosemary-garlic mashed potatoes ($44).
The DeLand Stockyard is renowned for its steaks, which earned the “Best Steakhouse” vote from Hometown News readers in 2012 and a Best of the West award from The Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2010, 2012, and 2013, as well as for its history. The restaurant’s structure was built in the 1920s, and its rich wood paneling and stately décor, replete with black and white photos and mounted portraits on the wall, reflects this storied history. Atop dark wood tables, the wait staff sets down steakhouse staples, from juicy burgers and grilled seafood to the hefty porterhouse, which weighs in at 24 ounces of char-grilled goodness.
• For $10, you get $20 worth of steakhouse fare for lunch. • For $15, you get $30 worth of steakhouse fare for dinner. The chefs at Durango Steakhouse man an oak fire grill to seal the aromatic flavors of the Old West into their collection of meats, which include USDA Choice grain-fed beef. With menus for both lunch and dinner, diners can snag the delectable Southwestern pork chops for midday meat munching ($7.50–$12.95), or schedule a blind dinner-date with the 8-ounce sirloin steak seasoned with a blend of secret spices ($10.95–$13.95). Durango's sandwiches such as the margarita mahi-mahi with lettuce, tomato, and chipotle ranch ($8.50–$13.50) quell aggressive belly bellows; a selection of fajitas, quesadillas, and burritos encourage taste buds to straddle borderlines. Children ages 12 and under can delve into the kids' menu to polish off a plate of sirloin steak ($6.49), wreck a rack of ribs ($6.95), or name each noodle of the mac n' cheese after their favorite Supreme Court justices ($3.95).
Loyd Have Mercy has earned praise from Metromix and FloridaToday.com for its original southern cuisine. That's because the family-owned eatery's cooks whip up their dishes from old family recipes. The menu teems with southern favorites, such as barbecue ribs, creamy grits, and chitterlings, plus seafood baskets, oxtails, and smothered chicken. The end result is satiated customers who gain all the benefits of home cooking without such tiresome tasks as prepping and cooking the meal and throwing the dirty dishes out of the window when it's over.
Merritt's Table welcomes diners into a converted historic home, built in 1926 and offering ideal acoustics for clinking glasses brimming with boutique wine. Seated around white-linen-capped tables set across multiple small dining rooms, patrons savor selections from the day's small plates, which in the past have included hon-shimeji mushrooms—sautéed in butter, shallots, and porcini-mushroom stock—and roasted chicken and black-eyed-pea stew imbued with toscano kale. Among previous farm-fresh entrees, highlights include a braised osso buco ragout with buttermilk turnip puree, grilled flat iron steak with smoky paprika pasta and cheese, and Canaveral white shrimp drizzled with a Monterey mushroom and heirloom-tomato pan sauce and paired with Anson Mills cheese grits, one of chef Bolton's signature sides. To accompany entrees, owner Laura Farrelly scours the globe to stock Merritt's sprawling wine list with such selections as a flowery Alois Lageder pinot grigio and rich Cartlidge & Browne cabernet sauvignon.