How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Part of the fun of a dive trip, or any trip, is sampling local cuisine! While some people really like to stick to what they know; we really like to branch out and explore and try new dishes and eateries. Sometimes you can plan ahead where you want to eat, and sometimes, it’s fun to get into the area, then either talk to locals for recommendations, or look around for local dives – I mean – local restaurants.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

On a recent dive trip to Key Largo, we took Interstate 95 all the way down the East Coast of Florida. We started by patronizing an off-the-beaten-path breakfast spot in Palatka, FL. Using Yelp, we found a small local breakfast spot, This and That Cafe. While driving, Yelp is so easy to use; you can look ahead for interesting places to eat, check their menu and prices, and read other diners’ reviews. Fresh baked goods! Coffee and Tea! Fun! Different! We headed right there. They presented the biggest bagels and croissants on Earth to us, with generous helpings of bottomless coffee.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Your attitude when you walk in a restaurant makes all the difference – to you, to the server, to the chef, to the owner, and even to your dining partner! You’d be surprised what a friendly manner, an enthusiasm for their offerings, and some personal interaction will produce. When faced with a menu where everything (or nothing!) sounds great – asking, “Which dish are you most proud to serve?” is almost a compliment even before the food arrives, so very likely to produce a positive response. “What do your regulars order?” is another way to ferret out which dishes are the best in a new place.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Simply asking a few questions and complimenting what you see in a display case or on other people’s tables does wonders. Also, if you have a good experience, don’t feel shy about posting a photo of yourself at the restaurant, with or without the food, and a compliment. I’ve done it while sitting, waiting for the bill, and the owner was so happy, and recognized that I was still sitting in the restaurant, and brought me a dessert – on the house! Instant gratitude!

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Once in Homestead, we took the recommendation of our NAS Jax Skin and Scuba Club Members, and all met up at Mario’s Cuban Cuisine –  also known as Mario’s Family Restaurant, that boasted the “best churrasco on Earth.” Funny enough, we followed an old Chevrolet right to their location, already feeling like we were close enough to Cuba to have a little part of the Cuba Experience!

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

And that was not an idle boast! It was! Everything else we ordered was equally great, especially the whole fish. And the flan. There’s nothing so wonderful as fresh flan!

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Sandwiched in between every chain restaurant you’ve ever heard of was this jewel, where every dish sounded fantastic. Some of our group opted for the whole fish, others the churriscuro. After sampling each others’ plates – Mario’s menu here – we still hadn’t experienced enough, and vowed to come back the next night.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

The next morning, due to being in a group with a history of diving the area and following a set routine, we ate at an IHOP – a very old International House of Pancakes. The parking lot was packed – a very good sign. It was so tight and filled that it felt like a dining car on a train! Since we hadn’t eaten “on the chain” in so long, we made the best of it and enjoyed a whopping plate full of food, along with the banter of the locals and the wait staff.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

When travelling, some people like to do their big eating out at lunchtime when crowds are thinner and prices lower. However, on dive trips, lunch is usually something you either prepare in advance, or pick up at a grocery, like a sub to go, and eat on the boat since you’re out diving. So, dinners are key to hungry divers!

For dinner, we returned to Mario’s for more of the local cuisine. It was excellent, again. They recognized us from the night before, and were flattered that we had returned.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

The next morning, for breakfast, we convinced the group that we really needed to return right back to Mario’s because we had peeked at their breakfast menu, and that Cuban coffee was calling to us heartily. Due to travelling plans that day, we got an early start, pre-dawn, and were the first people to arrive for Sunday breakfast at Mario’s. The menu was sublime.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

Now, in our group were some adventurous sorts, and some not-so-adventurous sorts. Bill’s Cuban coffee came as delightful as we imagined – teeny coffee pot, pitcher of cream, chunky big-grain sugar, and the elixir. However, a couple in our group received their coffee, and were just not excited about trying something new. They asked if they could have “American coffee,” and with good humor, that was produced right away.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

With a bit of friendly chatting with the waitress, and a bit of rudimentary Spanish, next thing I knew, I was invited into the back to see and select some of the freshly-baked pastries! Guava… sapodilla… pineapple… ohhhhhh they were light, flaky, and divine! I chose a selection for the table, and we made such a fuss over them that when our cheques arrived; the pastries were not on any of the tickets. I did insist they put them on mine – they were so worth everyone’s enjoyment!

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

This place is so serious about their traditional pastries and Cuban coffee, that they have an actual drive up and take out window just for pastry and Cuban coffee. We saw that the locals took full advantage of, and they were sold out of fresh pastries even as we finished our breakfast.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

With our bellies filled, and a few more dives with great friends under our belts, we headed to begin the drive North on I-95, already planning the next meal – and dive.

, How to Eat Well in Homestead, FL – or Anywhere

What we learned: Treating everyone like your family instead of your servant pays off in food, friendship, and fun on your trips.

Also, we learned to get a SunPass so you can take any road you wish in Florida, and even some in Georgia. You might run out of change, and some don’t take anything but change! Not even bills, and then, you have to mail I the amount. Other roads take a photo of your license plate, and you don’t have to have any money with you – but they bill you the .60¢ PLUS a $2.50 handling charge – adds up after three of those! Less expensive, easier, and faster to just whiz through the toll gates, and you can add more funds into the pass online.

What to Read Next: Diving the Florida Keys – Packing and Planning

Or: Jules Verne Undersea Lodge – Salvaging a Dive Trip

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