Florida CuisineNovember 2022
By Terry Gibson
You can find almost any type of cuisine in gourmet restaurants in southern Florida’s coastal cities. But to experience authentic Florida cooking with complimentary Latino and Southern soul flavors, take a ride inland through the pastoral farm fields of the peninsula’s southern interior.
Whether you work up an appetite enjoying outdoor activities such as fishing, skydiving or bird-watching, or choose to dine for dining’s sake, culinary adventures await you at these Okeechobee restaurants.
Lightsey’s has served the most authentic Glades food for several generations. If it walks, crawls or swims in Florida, they probably serve it. Located on the bank of the Kissimmee River, just above where it pours into Lake Okeechobee next to the Okee-Tante Recreation Area, the view could not be prettier. Here’s where you expand your palate. Try the catnips for an appetizer, along with succulent oysters. Order frog legs and shrimp by the pound. Dig into fresh Gulf grouper or catfish caught in Lake O. Gator tail is always available, and you have to try the “cooter,” which is freshwater turtle.
Café Tropical in Clewiston serves outstanding Cuban food at bargain prices. You can’t go wrong with the Cuban sandwich or medianoche. The oxtail is excellent. Enjoy yuca as well as black beans and rice as sides. The Sunrise Restaurant, also in Clewiston, offers excellent Mexican cuisine and some of the biggest, tastiest margaritas on earth. Pueblo Viejo Restaurant in Okeechobee is a local favorite that makes a great avocado salad and carne asada among many other great Mexican dishes. The margaritas are also awesome.
The Banyan Tree Café in Belle Glade serves soul food delicacies including collard greens, incredible fried chicken and candied yams. The collards come fresh from the fields of the Everglades Agricultural Area. You may also want to try the ribs or pork chops with cream of corn and beans. The beans and corn were grown nearby, and you haven’t tasted sweet corn until you’ve tried sweet corn from the Glades.
Okeechobee is a cattle town, and you can bet that the beef you’ll enjoy at the Speckled Perch Steakhouse was grazed nearby. It’s known for the sound of the “saw” coming from the kitchen where all steaks are cut, trimmed and cooked to order. The Bream Room gets a little wild most weekend nights with great bands playing.