Orlando doesn’t really have a signature dish per se, and contrary to what Orange County may have tried to convince us a few years ago, it’s definitely not Honey Nougat Glace. Though the dish was delicious, nobody really got to try it before the business that created it closed up shop. 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the county held a little competition in 2017 to figure out what our “signature food” was for the Orlando region, but drifted off-mission when then county mayor, Teresa Jacobs, told her staff it had to involve honey. Because she loved bees. I love gochujang, but that doesn’t mean I should make everyone center a Florida iconic dish around it.

While I fully believe that our signature dish is a turkey leg (please don’t email me) there are a number of other local, iconic foods that should be on everyone’s Orlando Foodie Bucket List, including:


Most strawberries in Florida are grown in Plant City, which is allegedly the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.” And I believe that because Willie Nelson plays concerts there during the Strawberry Festival, and he’s an icon. The Florida strawberry season runs from Thanksgiving to Easter, because Jesus clearly loves strawberries. The two most popular varietals are “Florida Brilliance” and “Sweet Sensation.” Which sounds exactly like what a wholesome 50s strawberry scientist must have exclaimed when they first bit into them. 


Florida’s oysters are actually native to the entire eastern seaboard, sprawling from the Yucatan Peninsula (that’s in Mexico if you don’t have a globe) all the way up to the St. Lawrence River in Canada. But I like to think there’s a little something special about the ones they get from the Florida coast. Maybe it’s Manatee pee. Maybe it’s water from the Everglades. All I know is, there’s something really sexy about eating oysters in the Florida-dappled sunshine with a bunch of friends and a cold beer. They’re good for the environment too, so the more farms we can support on the coast, the better we’ll be. 



There’s a reason why so many local, fit, handsome men spend all their free time on the water, y’all. Because Florida fish is delicious and fun to catch. Just like fit, handsome Florida men. The most popular Florida fishies are undoubtedly Black and Red Grouper because of their sweet, chunky flakes of meat. There’s nothing quite like a blackened grouper sandwich with a little lemon and some dank, dark fries with an ocean breeze to make you forget about that email from your boss yelling at you for taking another long weekend to go fishing. Chirp, chirp, chirp. I can’t hear you over the crunch of this toasted hoagie roll holding my fish together. Red Snapper comes in a close second, especially if it’s grilled with some local citrus and garlic and washed down with some ice-cold Jimmy Buffett. 


Yell at me all you want, but everyone loves Dole Whip, and the fact that they’re really only available at Disney World makes them that much more special for visitors and locals. While it’s really a simple soft-serve of frozen pineapple with cream and sugar, I’m starting to see some regional variations off the Disney campus that are getting a bit more creative using coconut cream or local honey to shake things up a bit. Some people are even using other fruits like strawberries or watermelon. After a long day of walking in the sun and dodging Brazilian tour groups, nothing quite hits the spot like a Dole Whip. 


This coveted crustacean can be found everywhere from North Carolina to Mexico but Florida’s fisheries provide almost 99% of stone crabs on the market. There are strict fishing regulations in place to protect the crabs that limit harvesting to the claws only. Crabbers scoop them up, snap off one of their claws (leaving one for defense), and then release them back to the ocean to regenerate and do it all over again. While that may sound morbid, it’s at least sustainable and allows for their numbers to stay fairly constant while still supporting their demand. The claws are usually just boiled and chilled and served cold with mustard sauce, though some restaurants like to mix their meat with dishes like mac-and-cheese or in buckets with other proteins like gator and catfish. 


Key lime pie is for the pirates down south. We like things a bit more civilized up here, which is why Sour Orange Pie should be on your list of things to shove in your, well, pie hole. They use Seville oranges, which are sometimes called Bitter or Sour oranges, that have thick, yellow-orange skin, with a very sour/bitter taste that’s too gross to eat on its own but some weirdos have been known to down them with salt or hot sauce. But that’s ridiculous, as their flavor goes really well with chutney, candying, or liqueurs, and yes, in pies. Cubans like to use them in Mojo sauce too, but back to the pies. They use the same setup as a Key Lime with the graham cracker crust and crown of peaked meringue, but the custard of tart, tangy orange is an experience all its own. Don’t like sour oranges? Don’t worry, try kumquats or loquats for something less loud.

Click HERE for a recipe we shared with Orange County Regional History Center during the pandemic.


I don’t want to hear any guff about this. Gideon’s Bakehouse is a treasure and they’re managing to do something that Visit Orlando and City Hall have been trying to do for years; they’re getting vacationers to leave the Disney bubble and come downtown. For cookies. Gideon’s specializes in massive, ingredient-smothered cookies that weigh in at almost half a pound. They have lines around the block at their Disney Springs store, but rather than wait for hours in line, shoppers are braving the interstate and driving their butts all the way to Audubon Park where they find themselves surrounded by a handful of small food startups at East End Market. I like to think they end up walking around the district and picking up a weird VHS tape at Stardust Video and Coffee or buy a vintage dress at The Lovely. Gideon’s has captured a little bit of magic in its cookies and it’s sending out ripples into the larger Orlando community. Now that’s iconic. 

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of Bungalower.com

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