Self Catering in Florida - What did you eat?

(36 Posts)
Perriwinkle Mon 01-Apr-13 18:10:24

I was just wondering whether everyone really only ever ended up eating all you can eat for $5 plates of burgers, pizzas, hotdogs, fried chicken, burritos, tacos and ice cream, followed by more burgers, pizzas, hotdogs, fried chicken, burritos, tacos and ice cream?

What did you end up eating most days you were there when you went self catering and is it true that vegetables really are as scarce in restaurants as I've been reading they are?

What did you find the eating out experience to be like, choice, portion and cost wise?

What about supermarkets too? Did you manage to find most things in supermarkets that you are used to having at home and how were the prices? Were things like pre packed sandwiches, fruit, drinks etc for day trips fairly cheap?

BrunellaPommelhorse Mon 01-Apr-13 18:11:41

i did find the supermarkets a bit bewlidering tbh and i am a good cook.
we ate out always at lunchtime.
For tea we had rotisserie chicken, pasta etc.

It wasnt the best holiday food wise

Budgiegirlbob Tue 02-Apr-13 23:21:59

When we self catered, we bought cereal for breakfast and stocked up on things like cherry toms, preprepared carrots, apples etc, plus things for making sandwiches, juice boxes etc so we could take a fairly healthy packed lunch to the parks with us.

Supermarkets can be huge, and we enjoyed shopping in them, prices are very similar to uk, not really as cheap as we expected. Buy in bulk if you can, ( American fridges are very large!) otherwise you end up shopping every couple of days, which can get a bit tiresome when you just want to get home after a long day at the parks.

We ate out most evenings, then back to the villa for a swim and a glass (or two!) of wine. Veggies can be a bit hard to come by, depending where you choose to eat. But a lot a places will do sides of corn, salad, broccoli etc if you ask.

If you really need a veg hit, the best place is Sweet Tomatoes. It's a chain, with a bit if a canteen feel, but is fab! It has the biggest salad bar I have ever seen, with really great fresh salads, cheeses, leaves, toms, dressings, toppings. Then there are soups, jacket and sweet potatoes with 'fixings', breads such as simple pizza, corn bread, focaccia, a dessert and icecream station, real lemonade. It's all buffet style, all you can eat style.

It was very cheap - we signed up on the website before we went and got vouchers for $25 for a family of four including drinks. We loved it (even th kids who are usually much more into burgers and chips)

I'm very envious, enjoy your trip!

Perriwinkle Wed 03-Apr-13 14:12:26

Hi Budgiegirlbob thanks for that info - really informative. I've just had a look at the Sweet Tomatoes website out of interest and the range of choice is totally mindboggling and sounds absolutely mouthwatering! We'll most certainly be pencilling that in for a visit.

Never mind the theme/water parks - I'm just looking forward to the supermarkets and restaurants. I think that'll be a total experience in itself!

Any more ideas of chain restaurants that are worth a visit? Sad as it sounds, I enjoy looking at the websites and salivating ahead of time blush

Clueless2727 Fri 05-Apr-13 12:17:20

We ate in loads of really delicious restaurants, loads of fish, joe's crab shack is great. Did lots of research on Restaurants before we went and ate really well

ZZZenagain Fri 05-Apr-13 12:23:22

We went to some delicious fish restaurants. The portions were absolutely huge, including the children's portions. Since we were in SW Florida on the coast, the fish was fresh.

I found the supermarkets good. We got excellent steak and had a lot of steak and salad. The only thing I didn't enjoy was an Italian restaurant we went to where the food was rubbish. Nothing was like you'd expect, some mushy overcooked version vaguely akin to the actual dishes. Just yuk. I don't think that can be normal for the US where there are so many Italian immigrants. Think we just struck unlucky there.

Didn't strike me that there were a lack of vegetables in the restaurants. Good selection of both meat and vegetables/fruit in the supermarkets.

Delicious ice-cream at Runagrounds. Dd still talks about that years afterwards.

Budgiegirlbob Fri 05-Apr-13 21:31:20

If you like steak, Outback is very good at a reasonable price, Rib City is great for ribs, and the Cheesecake Factory does amazing cheesecakes! We also liked Millers Alehouse for typical US food, and they do great offers on beer and cocktails.

MisterUdagawa Fri 05-Apr-13 21:32:10

We liked jos crab thing. And ihop obv.
Lots of meat v processed though.

GingerPCatt Fri 05-Apr-13 21:40:30

Try a Cuban sandwich. Publix is a good supermarket. Their deli selection is good and they pack you shopping and take out to your car. smile

gallicgirl Fri 05-Apr-13 21:44:30

I love Joe's Crab Shack but beware, because most seafood comes battered. It's like that across Florida I think which is a shame because they have amazing sea food. It's also difficult to get plain and simple salad or veg. It's often creamed or covered in dressing or Bacon bits. On the plus side, service tends to be good and restaurants will adapt orders if what you want isn't on menu.

Please make sure you tip because restaurant staff aren't covered by minimum wage and survive on their tips.

I think Florida is quite good for farmer's markets, if you Google, you'll probably find one close by.

You should try a traditional home restaurant too, particularly for a full breakfast with biscuits, gravy and grits.

Bartlebee Fri 05-Apr-13 21:56:21

iHop is revolting but amazing.

Our kids love Joe's Crabshack. Strangely, they do the best broccoli I've ever had.

As a rule, we avoid the chain places such as Olive Garden, pretty easy to do as on Gulf Coast - loads of great restaurants here.

Agree, Publix is a great supermarket.

MisterUdagawa Fri 05-Apr-13 21:57:19

I found veg over boiled

Bartlebee Fri 05-Apr-13 22:00:25

Gallicgirl - we did just that a couple of days ago. We had gravy for breakfast. It looked like vomit with bits of sausage in, but tasted great! The biscuits - not so good.

Suzieismyname Fri 05-Apr-13 22:01:12

Only thing that annoyed me about the supermarkets was that I couldn't find any free range eggs!

SorrelForbes Fri 05-Apr-13 22:19:16

We did two supermarket shops in the two weeks we were there (Walmart and Publix) and bought staples (milk, bread, cheese etc), lots of salad, veg, steaks, mince (to make burgers) and chicken. We ate at the parks some days, took sandwiches/wraps to the beach on others and bbq'd most evenings.

TBH, if you watch the dressings and portion sizes then it doesn't have to be any more unhealthy than eating over here during our summer.

We like Joe's Crab Shack, Salt Rock Grill (Clearwater), Three Fishermen (Fort Myers). Outback and Longhorn are good for steaks but share starters as they are huge!

MisterUdagawa Fri 05-Apr-13 22:21:26

It's like finding milk in France

noisytoys Fri 05-Apr-13 22:29:27

IHOP, tgi's, Denny's, mc Donald's. bought bits from Walgreens and 7-eleven. Don't think we saw a vegetable for 2 weeks grin

Bartlebee Fri 05-Apr-13 22:35:40

We took the kids to Denny's here the other night as they had never been. It was (just about) edible and they had bacon ice cream.

Groovee Sun 07-Apr-13 12:33:09

I plan to do IHOP for pancakes, but have also been recommended Cracker Barrel for pancakes too.

Bob evans looks fab too. I plan to do chilli's and Applebee's as they will be near our villa.

This is the list I have compiled from reading food reviews on The Dibb

Golden Coral
Sweet Tomatoes
Manny's Chop House
Panda Express
Bob Evans
Copper Canyon Grill
The Melting Pot

Would have liked to have tried 5 guys but they cook their fries in peanut oil and ds is allergic.

2fedup Sun 07-Apr-13 12:39:12

We loved 5 guys burgers. We also found some great sushi, if you eat it. Other thing we found were great were snow cones. grin
Lots of great places to eat out, but if you're not careful it can end up being a bit of the same thing everyday.
One day DS had 3 burgersshock

We also bought healthy food to make up as snacks to take with us.

Thought the food was pretty rough when eating out, especially if you wanted lots of veg. We did hotel the first week and by the second week when we moved and went self catering I craved steamed veg, plain veg not with some sweet crap shaken over it or dripping in dressing!

2fedup Sun 07-Apr-13 12:42:02

The other top tip we were given was to freeze drinks and they will still be cool later in the day otherwise they warm up quite quickly.

AnnoyingOrange Sun 07-Apr-13 12:51:49

We found Publix very good. You can buy fresh meat and veg and cook whatever you want to cook. We had a Sunday roast one Sunday smile

Sometimes we would stop off on the way home and pick up deli bits and a cooked chicken to make a fast and simple dinner

GingerPCatt Sun 07-Apr-13 14:40:39

If you can add Popeyes to your fast food list. Good fried chicken and try the red beans and rice.
Americans tend to be friendly. Ask a local near where you're staying to recommend somewhere. If you can find a non-chain restaurant, they tend to be good. If you want a nice night out, try the Colombian. It's upmarket Cuban food and they do the best coffee. In fact any Cuban place will do coffee better and probably cheaper than Starbucks.

theoriginalandbestrookie Tue 09-Apr-13 02:56:31

We are in Kissimmee at the minute staying in a condo. Usually eat breakfast in although we went to Cracker Barrel this morning and its true their pancakes are awesome.
DH had a bad experience at Wal-Mart as could not find fresh produce or bread without glucose syrup added but we found Public supermarkets and they have everything you need and loads of fresh fruit and veg.
We have been to the olive garden three times so far and actually think it's good as you get salad thrown in with your meal. Worst experience so far was Boston Lobster and that was more to do with the buffet style and layout of the restaurant.
The thing I like is that even upmarket restaurants have a children's menu and they contain sophisticated choices like crabs legs and steak although our son sticks to the pizza . Johnnie hideaway is our fave so far excellent fillet mignon not cheap but top quality and nice vibe.
Portions are bigger than at home - I will be cutting back when I get home sadly but it is possible to get your five a day.

TheCatInTheHairnet Tue 09-Apr-13 03:20:20

theoriginal Sorry, but LOL at holding up the Olive Garden as a good place to eat, compared to buying fresh at Walmart!!

TheCatInTheHairnet Tue 09-Apr-13 03:37:11

Ok, having read the whole thread, if you're not going to cook for yourself,the food is all shit. It's entirely marketed to people who will never go back. No one who lives in the US would ever recommend the Olive Garden, Outback or Applebee's as a place to eat. In fact, I'd probably judge you if you did.

There is a Walmart in Kissimmee that has just enough fresh food to get by. Or don't. But, fgs, don't presume that's his Americans eat.

TheCatInTheHairnet Tue 09-Apr-13 03:37:59


janji Tue 09-Apr-13 03:40:56

When not eating out we bought lots of salad and cold cuts etc with wraps and sort if dud a bit of a buffet style pick & mix.

Bartlebee Tue 09-Apr-13 04:01:43

I'm in Florida and I'd avoid Olive Garden or places of that ilk. Cheap does not necessarily equal good, sadly.

Steer clear of chain places - they might be a fun experience once but probably not to be repeated.

We tried iHop once - ridiculous quantities of really quite unpleasant, processed crap. Interesting as an experience, but the thought of 2 weeks of eating at most of these places makes me bilious. Likewise Denny's.

The only cheapo place I'm happy(ish) to go to is the Crabshack. If you're careful with the menu, you can get a good, cheap meal that doesn't involve batter or chips.

4 of us had dinner there last week, we all had fresh crab with broccoli or asparagus and it was only about $80.

theoriginalandbestrookie Tue 09-Apr-13 12:53:31

Strange how I heard US voices at Olive Garden then - perhaps they were not naice Americans .

Look i am not saying it was a gourmet experience but its within walking distance to our hotel , childrens menu comes with broccoli to DSs disgust and adult meals come with fresh salad. Oh and the house wine is drinkable. Kobe japanese steakhouse is somewhere else we liked.

I would avoid eating in the parks food is v expensive and a very rushed experience although characters made it worthwhile for us.

I guess food is very personal and everyone has a different focus.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 09-Apr-13 16:50:57

Of course Americans eat at Olive Garden and other chain restaurants. We live in a non-touristy part of Florida, and all of these chains are busy with local patrons.

MOSagain Sat 20-Apr-13 12:14:17

Sizzler great for breakfast lunch and dinner, good prices and lots of choice for fussy kids. Ponderosa similar but we prefer sizzler. Look for coupons in magazines (free outside most supermarkets). If you take back your receipt next trip you get discount.

Outback great but get there early as it gets busy.

Kobe is exceptional, our favourite restaurant. A very nice Japanese in celebration too which is a nice place to go in the evenings.

A good supermarket is marketplace at Formosa gardens and there is also a good Italian restaurant there as well as the outback.


I would also recommend you try Hanamazuki on I Drive (its south of Sandlake Road at the shopping plaza where Goodings supermarket was located).

suebfg Sat 20-Apr-13 19:32:42

We found the supermarkets to be well stocked but expensive for healthier items such as fruit and veg. We went to Florida a couple of years ago and it was reasonable but went again more recently and prices were through the roof.

suebfg Sat 20-Apr-13 19:34:30

Only ate out once in Orlando and it was very poor so we didn't do it again.

Food in the parks is expensive but what is also overlooked is the length of the queues. Take your own picnics in and you will save lots of time and money.

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