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.
Since 1948, grills have kissed aged steaks from Chicago and Kansas City with open flames to take center stage on Gene's Steak House's menu bolstered with select classics dishes and fine wines. Cuts of beef range from 6-ounce petite filet mignons to 28-ounce porterhouse-steak behemoths, each carved from corn-fed, immaculately aged meat. Diners can relive fishing trips or nightmares about aquariums with plates of char-grilled stuffed grouper, lobster tails, and salmon. A list of over 200 fine wines from around the world lends bouquets to balance every smoky flavor, highlighting steaks with French red bordeaux and complementing seafood with German white varietals.
Don’t be misled by the last part of name—it's much more than just Steak and Salad. In addition to the two headliners—in the form of rib eyes and racks of ribs—the primary draw is the traditional Turkish cuisine. Stuffed grape leaves and grilled-eggplant dipping salad acclimate diners, then the cuisine of Turkey shines through, such as grilled meatballs, gyro platters, and pita bread. The kitchen even turns out desserts such as cheese cake and baklava—the dessert used most by teachers when teaching kids about the importance of vowels.
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.