The first foreign cuisine to appear in Florida was Spanish, courtesy of explorer Ponce de León in 1513 and the Spanish colonists who remained in Florida through the early 1800s. Today, while Spanish-influenced Caribbean and Latin American food is better-known in Florida, a few local restaurants specialize in authentic Spanish cuisine.
We think that a leisurely dinner of tapas (small plates), paired with wine (or house-made sangria) is the perfect way to cap off a day of sun and surf at the beach. The Spanish traditionally eat later in the evening, so there’s no need to rush — the ideal time to arrive for tapas is 7 p.m. or later.
Expect a warm welcome, and plan to start your meal with a drink while you peruse the menu of small plates. At IM Tapas Spanish Resto Bar (965 4th Avenue N.) you’ll find a long list of classic tapas, including salads, cold tapas and warm tapas, as well as house specials. Some of these dishes may be larger and heartier that you expect, such as the duck, lamp, and beef tenderloin. (If some in your party prefer more traditional dining, there are also “platos grande” and paellas.) Mouthwatering desserts include cheese plates, flan with coffee liquor, arroz con leche, and almond tart.
You’ll also find authentic tapas and paellas in Naples at Cafe Barcelona (336 13th Ave. South, near the Naples Pier). Cafe Barcelona focuses on Catalan cuisine. They serve lunch as well as dinner, which means you’ll have the opportunity to try traditional Spanish sandwiches on fresh-baked baguettes as well as savory Spanish omelettes.