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Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch (Deland, FL)

As I mentioned in my review of Smoke Shack, I always enjoy a trip to the South for some culinary treats, one of these being a classic Southern breakfast joint. We were visiting Daytona Beach, which doesn’t have the greatest selection of the breakfast joints, but on a previous trip, I had discovered Deland, FL. While driving out of town after a splendid dinner at De La Vega, I had spotted a rather charming little place on the south end of downtown Deland called “Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch”, and made a note to check it out on my next trip. So, this time, I made it a point to go over there on my last day in town for breakfast.

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Betty’s A1A Cafe (Ormond Beach, FL)

Back in my recent review of The Gnarly Barley, I met up with my friend Leslie from My Adventure Bucket, who used to live in Ormond Beach, Florida. Ormond Beach, being essentially a one block wide town on a barrier island, doesn’t have a lot of restaurants, but Leslie spoke quite highly both of Betty’s A1A Cafe, and its friendly owner, Betty. So, my coworker and I decided to do the short drive up there from Daytona Beach to get some dinner. Interestingly, in my last review, I mentioned that one of the things I like about traveling is getting different cuisine than at home, so, ironically, I arrive at Betty’s to find two things: (1) that, sadly, Betty passed on in 2015, although the restaurant is alive as well, and (2) that Betty’s actually features “New England Cuisine”. While “New England Cuisine” is definitely a thing (baked beans, brown bread, clam strips, Lobstah rolls, etc. Mmmm.), it’s not one that usually gets a lot of love outside of New England, so I’m actually happy to see that someone so far south is offering it up. Indeed, the night’s specials were meatloaf and New England clams with bellies.

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Smoke Shack BBQ (Daytona Beach, FL)

I’ve always been a big fan of barbecue (heck, it is one of my top categories), but one of the drawbacks of living far in the Northeast is that almost nobody up here understands good BBQ. For every rare place up here that can make a decent barbecue with some tender texture, good moisture, and a nice smoke flavor, there are dozens that serve up truly mediocre barbecue, usually some sort of overcooked, tough meat (or even worse, boiled meat) served up with a cloying sauce. It’s happened to me enough that I treat any sentence containing both “New England” and “BBQ” in the same sentence with extreme skepticism. But when I’m traveling, it often gives me a chance to actually score some decent BBQ, since I can get down South where folks actually understand that “barbecue” means “smoked” and not “grilled” or “sauced”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also important to do some research: the various BBQ regions of the US all have their specialties (Brisket and sausage in Texas, pork in the Southeast, and ribs in Memphis and St Louis), and that’s usually what they do best. So with that in mind, a recent trip to Daytona Beach had our group searching out lunch, and we decided to try out the Smoke Shack, across from the Daytona Speedway.

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Zaza New Cuban Diner (Orlando, FL)

Much of my recent business travel has been to Florida, and that generally gives me a chance to get one of my favorite cuisines: Cuban food. However, while Orlando is a relatively short drive from Miami (which is loaded up with Cuban places), it only has a smattering of Cuban places itself, but there’s at least one small, local chain (~3 restaurants) that’s attempting to remedy that… enter Zaza New Cuban Diner.

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The Gnarly Barley (Orlando, FL)

My work has had me traveling a lot to Daytona Beach to meet with a collaborator at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and it’s always a bit enjoyable traveling down there (usually via Orlando), since while I’m not always the biggest fan of large metro areas, the greater Orlando area has a lot of things going for it. First of all, it’s a distinctly different climate (half of the year, that’s an advantage). Second, it has a relatively good selection of ethnic restaurants, especially for things like Cuban food and Southern food that aren’t really around in NH. And, on this trip, it was also a good opportunity to meet up with fellow traveler, in this case Leslie from My Adventure Bucket. While she’s often away touring the world in the way only a retired funeral home director with a random number generator can, for our visit, she was still in town prepping for an extended trip to Sri Lanka. So, after arriving in the early evening, we decided to meet with Leslie at a nearby joint: The Gnarly Barley.

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De La Vega (Deland, FL)

You know, I get a lot of odd requests in life. One of the odder ones in recent history was, “Hey, can you send me a bunch of photos I can use for a training funeral?”. Since yes, among the various colorful people I know are not only legislators, lawyers, professors, Lords, and actual rocket scientists, but funeral home directors as well. My answer was, of course, sure. I assembled an eclectic selection of photos of myself (you know, like the one with the horse mask, or the bathtub one, or the creepy cowboy one) and thus, the legend of Paul Crawford was born, a man who bears a shocking resemblance to myself, but, alas, departed this world late last year. Sniff. It’s like I know the guy. In any case, part of the deal was that I would get pie (dutifully delivered via Fedex), and, if I found myself in Florida, dinner. Thus, on a somewhat recent trip to Daytona for testing at Embry-Riddle, I found myself with an opportunity to meet up with my friend Leslie, have a nice dinner at De La Vega with her and her husband, and raise a glass in memory of poor Paul Crawford.

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Versailles Cuban Restaurant (Miami, FL)

If there’s one good piece of advice about dining in the greater Miami area, it’s “you can’t have too much Cuban food.” While previously dining on Cuban food twice this trip at Latin American Bayside Cafe and Puerto Sagua, I was still craving one of the classic Cuban dishes: Vaca Frita (literally “fried cow”, it’s a shredded twice-cooked flank steak heavily marinated with citrus and cooked to a crisp). However, one of the better places for a good vaca frita is Versailles Cuban, on 8th Street (Calle Ocho) in Little Habana, which was, unfortunately, a bit of a haul from our hotel in Miami Beach. Luckily, TivoCommunity.com’s EddyJ (a genuine Cuban!) and Hot4Bo agreed that this was a great excuse for a mini-gathering, and EddyJ graciously offered to drive us to Versailles.

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Front Porch Cafe (Miami Beach, FL)

Like any good vacation, ours needed at least one seriously righteous breakfast. After consulting several online sources (Chowhound, Yelp, etc), we decided that Front Porch Cafe was a good place to try (and it had looked good as we passed it the day before). I’m glad we did. Situated on the north end of South Beach (i.e. the mellower and more-relaxed end of the beach), inside the Penguin Hotel (one of the apparently older Art Deco boutique hotels, albeit one that’s obviously been refurbished recently), the Front Porch is well named, since the vast majority of their seating is, well, on the front porch, or the sidewalk in front.

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Puerto Sagua (Miami Beach, FL)

Cuban food has several signature dishes. In addition to the previously discussed Ropa Vieja, plantains, puerco, and such that we had at Latin American Bayside cafe, both roasted pork and ham served on a Cuban-style French roll (slightly more airy and less crusty than a traditional French baquette), served with cheese and, most importantly, pickle, all pressed and toasted to perfection. Unfortunately, while South Beach used to be a pretty good area for Cuban Sandwiches, most of the Cuban places I used to frequent in the early 90s are gone. However, Puerto Sagua is still there, and still good, so while enjoying the sites and sounds of a friday night in South Beach, we stopped by Puerto Sagua for a late-night snack…

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Mattarello Bakery Cafe (Miami Beach, FL)

he one thing about getting back from a 4-day cruise is that you’re not terribly hungry. After several days of heavy dinners and the like, Carol and I were ready to tone it down a little bit, and go explore South Beach while finding a nice snack to tide us over to dinner. Luckily, South Beach has no shortage of restaurants, pizza joints, and food stands, so it was mostly a matter of wandering around until we found something that tickled our fancy. What we found was Mattarello Bakery Cafe…

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