By  Mike Miller May 1, 2024

I have lived in Florida since 1960.  During those years I enjoyed dining now and then at famous restaurants.  Some of them are no longer around.  Most times I visited these places two or three times.

Valencia Garden RestaurantValencia Garden, Tampa
Gone But Not Forgotten

It is a sad fact of life in Florida that restaurants come and go.  This is true not only of bad ones, but of some of the very best.  

One time and one meal was a good enough memory to last a lifetime, so let me share some of these places with you and at least one recipe from each one.


Railroad man Henry Plant built and opened the rambling green gabled white wood frame hotel in 1897.  The Biltmore hotel chain bought it in the 1930s and renamed it the Belleview Biltmore.  Our family enjoyed dining there in the late 1960s.

belleviewbiltmore.jpgBelleview Biltmore

Belleview Biltmore Recipe
Cantaloupe Supreme

4 cups cubed canteloupe, chilled
1/2 cup lemon juice, chilled
1/3 cup cognac
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until liquid and foamy.  Serve with one ice cube in each bowl.  Serves 4.

Fort Lauderdale

Casa Vecchia means "old house" and was located in the last house on Birch Road on the Intracoastal Waterway.  It stood out among the many towering condo buildings.

Casa Vecchia Matches

Casa Vecchia Recipe
Trota ala Primavera (Trout Primavera)

2 medium carrots
1 zucchini
handful of snow peas
1 green pepper
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
1 stick sweet butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 12 to 14 ounce boned and filleted trout
1/4 cup milk
flour for dusting
3 cups classic hollandaise sauce
1/2 cu whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the vegetables into thin strips. Heat butter in a frying pan over high heat, then add the sliced vegetables. Sprinkle basil, salt, and pepper for seasoning, and sauté the mixture for 8 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are crisp yet tender.

Coat the trout in milk, then lightly cover it with flour. Fry the trout in a pan until it is golden on both sides. Arrange the trout in a baking dish and top it with the sautéed vegetables. Bake in an oven set to a moderate temperature for 3 to 5 minutes.

Combine hollandaise sauce with whipped cream and drizzle this mixture over the baked trout.

Lake Wales

I was fortunate to be able to have dinner at Chalet Suzanne a few times while in the Lake Wales area.  It was a small resort with an eclectically furnished dining room.  People would fly in their private planes from all over the state to relax and dine here.

Chalet Suzanne Postcard

Chalet Suzanne Recipe
Veal Chops

1 1/2 sticks of butter
2 medium sized onions, sliced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup dry vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dusting
4 6 to 8 ounce veal chops
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1/2 pound cooked pasta
2 bananas, sliced
brown sugar to taste

Melt 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan and cook onions until they are soft. Remove them and set aside. Then, place 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter in the same pan and lightly cook the mushrooms until they are just soft. Season them with celery salt and add them to the onions.

Next, clean the pan with a bit of vermouth, and then pour the rest of the vermouth over the mushrooms and onions. Season the veal with salt and pepper, and lightly coat it with flour. Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in the pan and fry the veal until it is golden on both sides.

Pour chicken broth over the veal, cover it, and cook in an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for around 40 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, onions, and sour cream, and continue to bake until everything is thoroughly warmed. Serve this mixture over pasta that has been seasoned to taste.

In a different pan, melt at least 2 tablespoons of butter and fry the banana slices, sprinkled with brown sugar, until they turn brown. Serve these alongside the veal and pasta on a plate. This dish makes enough for four servings.

Captiva Island

South Seas Plantation is a resort and residential community on the north end of Captiva Island.  The Kings Crown was a very upscale restaurant with stained glass windows and crystal chandeliers.

KIngs Crown RestaurantKing's Crown Dining Room

King's Crown Dining Room Recipe
Plantation Grouper

2 sticks butter
4 8 ounce grouper fillets
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons lime juice
4 ounces Key Lime Butter (recipe below)

Heat butter in a sauté pan until it melts. Coat grouper fillets first in egg wash, then in flour. Fry the fillets on both sides in the butter until cooked through. Drizzle lime juice over each fillet. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and top each fillet with Key Lime Butter. This recipe is sufficient for four servings.

Key Lime Butter:

4 sticks butter
2 ounces Key lime juice
1/2 bunch parsley, minced

Soften butter and mix with lime juice and parsley until well blended.  Yields 2 cups.

Winter Park

For as long as I've been in Florida, Winter Park's Park Avenue has been home to many fine restaurants.  La Belle Verriere was one of these and it was a veritable museum of stained glass throughout.

La Belle VerriereLa Belle Verriere
Winter Park History Museum

La Belle Verriere Recipe
Mousse Au Chocolat

14 1-ounce squares semi-sweet choclate
1 quart heavy whipping cream
15 egg yolks
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup Triple Sec Liqueur

Melt chocolate using a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it forms peaks and then chill it in the refrigerator. Combine egg yolks and sugar in another bowl, and beat them with a mixer until they are thick. Manually stir in the melted chocolate once it's thickened. Mix in Triple Sec. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mixture. Chill the mousse in the refrigerator overnight. This quantity serves 15 people.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine will always be one of my favorite cities, and Le Pavillon was one of my favorite restaurants.  The family who owned and operated the restaurant lived upstairs and the restaurant was decorated with lacy curtains, stained glass, and a fireplace.

Le PavillonLe Pavillon, St. Augustine

Le Pavillon Recipe
Poulet Au Fromage

1 8-ounce boneless chicken breast
1 mushroom, diced
1 small shallot, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 thin slices Swiss cheese
2 patties butter
2 thin slices mozzarella cheese
oil for deep frying

Pound the chicken breast flat using a mallet and put it aside. Cook mushrooms and shallots in a pan for a few minutes, then pour in sherry and add parsley. Continue cooking until almost all the liquid has evaporated, then take the pan off the heat.

Season the flattened chicken breast with salt and pepper. Layer it with Swiss cheese, the mushroom and shallot mixture, dots of butter, and mozzarella cheese. Fold the chicken breast in half.

Coat the chicken in breadcrumbs, fry it in hot oil, and then bake it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe is for one serving.


Lili Marlene's was located in Church Street Station, an Orlando attraction that was very popular in the 1970s and 1980s.  It was located in the renovated Strand Hotel which had been built in 1922.  Bob Snow was an aviator who created Church Street Station and its various themes.

Lili Marlene's Recipe
Chicken, Avocado and Bacon Salad

2 to 3 lettuce leaves
4 1/2 ounces cooked white diced chicken meat
1/2 ounce crisply cooked bacon, chopped
1/2 ounce diced avocado
Tarragon Dressing (recipe below)
2 avocado slices
seasonal fruit for garnish
1 tablespoon mango chutney

Arrange lettuce on a plate. Combine chicken with a portion of the chopped bacon, diced avocado, and Tarragon Dressing. Put this mixture at the center of the plate and garnish with the remaining bacon and slices of avocado. Place fruit along the perimeter of the plate and serve with mango chutney. This recipe is intended for one serving.

Tarragon Dressing:

2 ounces olive oil
1 ounce tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

Whip all the ingredients together and pour over salad.  Serves 1.

Winter Park

Park Plaza Gardens was located in the same building as the Park Plaza Hotel, which still exists.  It was a beautiful restaurant where you dined in a transparent glass ceilinged dining room.  I proposed there to a beautiful lady and she accepted but then we both bailed out.  Good memories remain.

Winter Park, Park Plaza Hotel

Park Plaza Gardens Recipe
Red Snapper Bretonne

1 6 ounce filet of red snapper
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz clarified butter
1/2 teaspoon glace de viande
1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley
dash of lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole butter
2 oz fresh mushrooms quartered
1/2 teaspoon capers
1 lemon wedge for garnish

Coat the fish fillet in flour mixed with salt and pepper, tapping off any excess. Fry the fish in hot clarified butter for about one minute on each side, adjusting time based on the thickness of the fillet.

Transfer the fish to a warmed plate and drizzle with glace de viande. Add chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice over the fish. In the same pan, melt whole butter and quickly sauté mushrooms for a minute.

Place the sautéed mushrooms and capers on top of the fish. Heat the remaining butter in the pan until it reaches a light brown color and is foaming, then pour it over the fish. Serve immediately, very hot, with a slice of fresh lemon. This recipe serves one.


Perry's Seafood House was in a historic red house that dated back to 1858.  The dining room here was decorated with a wall containing photos of the rich and famous who had dined there.  Among these were Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, June Allison, Bob Hope and many more.

Perry's Seafood House Recipe
Baked Fish

1 to 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 8 to 10 ounce grouper fillet
parsley flakes for garnish

Mix garlic olive oil with the lemon juice. Rub the fish fillet with a little olive oil and bake at 350 to 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. When the fish is done pour the garlic olive oil and lemon mixture over it and sprinkle with parsley flakes. Serves 2.

St. Augustine

My kids loved Santa Maria because it was located on a pier jutting out into the Intracoastal Waterway along St. Augustine's downtown waterfront.  You could drop scraps of food through cracks in the wooden flooring and watch the catfish below gobble up your offerings.

Santa Maria Recipe
Shrimp Creole

4 16 oz cans tomatoes
1 large onion coarsely chopped
1 large bell pepper coarsely chopped
4 stalks celery coarsely chopped
1 cup olive oil
6 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1/3 cup gumbo file
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp of water
1 1/2 pounds fresh medium shrimp peeled and deveined
4 sticks butter
4 cups cooked rice

Heat tomatoes on medium. In another pan, sauté onions, bell peppers, and celery in olive oil before adding them to the tomatoes. Incorporate all remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch, butter, shrimp, and rice.

Let the mixture simmer on medium for two hours. Mix cornstarch with water until dissolved, then stir into the tomato base. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, stirring now and then.

In a separate pan, sauté shrimp in butter until they are tender, then add the shrimp and the butter to the tomato sauce. Cook for an additional five minutes. Serve the dish over rice. This recipe makes enough for 8 to 10 servings.


When I lived in Tampa, a trip to Siples Garden Seat was always a treat. It was a many time winner of Florida Trend magazine's Golden Spoon award for fine dining restaurants.

Siples Garden Seat Exterior

Siple's Garden Seat Recipe
Curry of Seafood Chad Richard

1 quart mayonnaise
1 cup chutney
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Curry
8 ounces fettuccine
6 shrimp, cooked
6 scallops, steamed
6 langoustine

Make a sauce by mixing mayonnaise and chutney.  Add lemon juice and curry and blend well. Refrigerate the sauce. Prepare fettuccine according to package directions. In a greased oven-proof dish combine the fish with fettuccini and stir in 12 ounces of the sauce until well combined. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Serves 4.


The Golden Pheasant was a favorite of Florida legislators and lobbyists because of its location near the state capitol building. It was owned by Lawton Chiles III, whose father was a United States senator and Florida governor.  It was part of a small hotel.

The Golden Pheasant Recipe
Duckling Laperouse With Muscatel Wine Sauce

1/2 oz oil
1 breast of duck
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 oz grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1 oz toasted bread crumbs

Heat oil in a skillet until it starts to smoke. Place the duck in the pan, skin side down, and continuously drain off the fat as it renders. Gradually lower the heat to ensure the duck skin becomes crisp without cooking much of the meat.

Once cooked, remove the duck from the skillet and set it skin side down on a towel to cool. After it cools, brush the skin with Dijon mustard, cover with cheese, and sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the top.

For the final cooking step, place the duck on an oven-proof dish, skin side up, and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. The duck should be pink and juicy on the inside.


1/2 cup Muscatel wine
2 oz game or chicken stock
1 sage leaf
1 shallot chopped
1/2 cup demi-glace or plain brown gravy
salt and pepper to taste

Pour fat off the same skillet and return to heat. Pour wine into the hot skillet and scrape all the drippings off the bottom using a wooden spoon. Add stock, sage and shallots to skillet. Reduce to about 3 oz and add the demi-glace or gravy. Season to taste. Cook on low heat about 5 minutes.

Strain sauce through a fine wire strainer and pour on cooked sliced duck. This recipe serves one.


The Primrose Inn was in a historic house that became a small hotel and restaurant on West University Avenue.  When I was a student at the University of Florida, a friend took me to dinner there.  I remember having good old Southern fried chicken.

The Primrose Inn Recipe
Salmon Croquettes

1 15 1/2 ounce can pink salmon
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 cup or more mashed potato mix
2 cups or more vegetable oil

Drain the liquid from the canned salmon.  Mix the salmon with onions, eggs, and seasonings, and add potato mix to thicken. Form into small cakes about the size of a silver dollar.  Deep-fry in oil for a few minutes until brown.  Serves 4.


The Sovereign Restaurant was in a restored livery stable built in 1879.  It was located near the Hippodrome Theater building in what is now trendy downtown Gainesville.  It was furnished with Victorian era antiques and stained glass.

The Sovereign Restaurant
Beef Cayenne

24 ounces sliced beef tenderloin
salt to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces sliced almonds

Put sliced tenderloin on a plate and sprinkle it lightly with salt, cayenne pepper, and flour.  Saute in a hot skillet until medium rare.  Sprinkle the beef with white wine, then add heavy cream and almonds and bring to a boil.  Serve immediately with rice or noodles.  Serves 4.


When I lived in Tampa, Valencia Garden was one of several Spanish and Cuban restaurants I enjoyed.  It was on West Kennedy Boulevard and was decorated inside with murals of the owner's hometown in Spain.

Valencia Garden Recipe
Caldo Gallego

1 1-1/2 pound ham hock
1/2 pound lean beef
1/2 pound salt pork
1 bunch turnip greens
dash of nutmeg
1 cup Great Northern white beans, soaked
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons bacon grease
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 chorizos
salt to taste

In a 4 quart pot, place all the meat.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Skim fat off the surface several times.  Cook over medium heat until tender for 1 hour.  Chop the turnip greens and add to meat.  Add nutmeg and beans (drained).  Let simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes.  In a pan, saute onions, green peppers and garlic in bacon grease.  Add this to the meat soup.  Add potatoes and chorizos and salt to taste.  Cover and cook another 45 minutes until potatoes are done.  Serves 6.

Many of these recipes were inspired from the pages of a wonderful book published in 1987: "Florida's Historic Restaurants and their recipes."  The book is still available on Amazon.

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