Finding a great place to eat in Lake and Sumter counties is never a difficult task. However, Style tried a few to aid your search for that delicious meal you’re craving, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Keep this issue nearby so you know where you’re headed next when you’re dining out!
STORY: Michelle Clark+James Combs+Shemir Wiles PHOTOS: Fred Lopez
Get Up and Grub
It’s been said breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Style enjoyed 11 different breakfast spots in Lake and Sumter counties just to be sure.
Bloom’s Baking House & Restaurant
610 W. Main St., Leesburg, 352.787.1004
Homemade, down-home cooking is the name of the game at this downtown Leesburg gem. The food is fresh, filling, and flavorful. Plus, it’s always served with a smile. The breakfast menu features all the classics, such as omelets, pancakes, and waffles. However, if you feel like having something a little outside the norm, try the spicy breakfast wrap. Just one is enough to leave you feeling happy and satisfied.
Chuck’s Odd “Cup”les Café
117 W. Belt Ave., Bushnell, 352.568.0408
This quaint and quirky café gets its name from the countless coffee cups that decorate the walls. The space isn’t a large one, but that’s fine because the staff at Chuck’s makes you feel like you’re just extended family. Their menu has everything from fluffy pancakes to real hash browns, but the true star is their three-egg omelets. Order the farmer’s omelet; it is packed full of sausage, peppers and onions, and it’s even better when smothered with cheddar cheese.
What Customers Are Saying: “My mother and I love to come here during the week. I often get the fried chicken sandwich…sometimes I order it for breakfast. And the people [who work here] are so nice. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy each other’s company.”—Gary Connelly
Rae Rae’s Restaurant
2468 U.S. Highway 441/27, Fruitland Park, 352.323.1595
Even though it’s new on the block, Rae’s Rae’s is slowly gaining popularity. Their made-from-scratch blueberry square biscuits are a must try. Served warm and packed full of blueberry goodness, these baked delights are truly a ‘Rae’ of sunshine on the breakfast menu. But if you’re a fan of chicken and waffles, order the Fly Me to the Moon. It comes with a good-sized waffle topped with powdered sugar and juicy fried chicken wings.
918 N. 14th St., Leesburg, 352.787.6777
Ask long-time Leesburg residents where the best breakfast is and many will tell you to head to Wolfy’s. There are tons of great choices on the breakfast menu, but consider having something that’s a twist on an old classic: Wolfy’s famous crunchy French toast. It’s dipped in a special batter, coated with cornflakes, and fried until it is a golden brown. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of whipped butter and syrup, this dish is decadent but oh-so-delicious.
Cheeser’s Palace Café
707 W. Montrose St., Clermont, 352.404.9431
Cheeser’s is more than just a cheese and chocolate shop. They serve some of the yummiest breakfast in all of Lake County. If you love Eggs Benedict, Cheeser’s offers seven different types with delectable ingredients, such as grilled smoked salmon and citrus-sautéed shrimp and crab. They also have freshly made crepes and hearty Belgian waffles that are too divine to pass up.
What Customers Are Saying: “I really liked the Belgian waffle, and they have great tea.” —Kendy Menelas
Mason Jar Restaurant
37534 State Road 19, Umatilla, 352.589.2535
There’s a reason why people flock to the Mason Jar for breakfast: it’s comfort food at its finest. Their breakfast menu is broad, so it may prove hard to settle on one thing. However, you can never go wrong with Uncle Bubba’s three-egg omelet. It comes stuffed with cheddar cheese and plenty of corned beef hash. With a copious side of home fries and a biscuit to boot, this meal is simply scrumptious and satisfying.
15939 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis 352.589.0510
Chances are you’ve passed this restaurant on U.S. 441 when heading to or from Mount Dora. Well, next time be sure to stop in for a breakfast that’s home cooked and reasonably priced. While their steak and eggs are a local favorite, don’t overlook the Dueces Wild breakfast special. It comes with two golden brown pancakes, two eggs cooked how you like them, two slices of bacon, and two sausage links. And don’t forget a glass of orange juice to wash it all down.
What Customers Are Saying: “The wait staff is helpful and friendly, and the food is consistently good.” —Chuck Garland
Cottage Inn Restaurant
340 S. U.S. Highway 441, Lady Lake 352.753.3533
Harkening back to a time when poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and ducktail haircuts were all the rage, Cottage Inn embodies the hometown diner spirit of the 1950s. The staff is super friendly and makes the earnest effort to turn strangers into family. The food is simple but done well, which may explain why most of the customers who come through the front door are regulars. If you decide to go, be sure to get the country fried steak. Topped with warm sausage gravy, this dish brings the flavors of the South to your mouth in a good way.
What Customers Are Saying: “One of the reasons I like to come here is nothing is greasy. I don’t know what they do back in the kitchen but their eggs aren’t greasy, their bacon isn’t even greasy. I also like it here because it’s like the old diner setting. It’s old fashioned.” —Maryanne Horner
“All house-made food and super friendly service.” —Susan O’Brien
World of Beer
994 Alverez Ave., The Villages, 352.633.4787
You may think that beer and breakfast don’t go together, but the World of Beer in Spanish Springs is daring patrons to think outside the box with their “Beerunch” on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Don’t know what to have? May we suggest the bottomless booze brunch, which comes with your choice of endless mimosas, beermosas, or regular Bloody Marys paired with one of the many tasty breakfast items.
Highland Street Café
185 S. Highland St., Mount Dora, 352.383.1446
For those who feel breakfast should be an all-day affair, keep Highland Street Café in mind. They serve it every day, all day. And while the menu is chock full of good breakfast standards, their best dish isn’t listed on the menu—the stuffed strawberry French toast. Why is it so great? Well first, it’s French toast. And second, it’s French toast that’s been deep fried, stuffed with strawberry cream cheese and topped with glazed strawberries. There’s just enough there to satisfy any sweet tooth without being too heavy.
Mary’s Kountry Kitchen
15945 County Road 448, Tavares, 352.343.6823
Fresh ingredients and good flavors means great breakfast at Mary’s Kountry Kitchen. If you’re really hungry and looking for something that’s guaranteed to fulfill your breakfast needs, try the homemade hash with scrambled eggs, grits, and a biscuit. Or try it in skillet form, which comes loaded with sausage gravy, cheese, egg, and your choice of potato.
What Customers Are Saying: “Mary’s homemade corned beef hash is so delicious, and so are her quiches.” —Joanne Garland
Which ‘Wich Is Best?
High noon rolls around, your stomach is growling and your taste buds are stimulated. When deciding what to eat for lunch, you can’t go wrong with a sandwich. That begs the question: Where can you find the six great sandwiches in Lake and Sumter counties?
We’ve saved you unnecessary time and trouble. We searched for unique sandwiches beyond the standard fare of burgers and BLTs. The ones on these pages might make you the happiest you’ve been since the invention of sliced bread.
(located inside Shell gas) 260 Colony Blvd., The Villages 352.444.4945
Those with hearty appetites will appreciate a sandwich that’s larger than life—or at least the bun on which it is served. A staple throughout the Midwest, pork tenderloin sandwiches have found a home in The Villages thanks to Chef Don Hickey, owner of Burger Station. The Hoosier State native’s gigantic Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich is perfectly crispy and tender and served on a Kaiser roll. It comes with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
What customers are saying: “I am a native of Iowa and have been searching for a Midwestern-style pork tenderloin sandwich for six years. Now that I’ve found this place, I don’t mind making the drive from Clermont.” —Brian Lincoln
Sarah’s Greek Cuisine
16640 Cagan Crossings Blvd., Clermont, 352.404.8031
Mediterranean food is alive and well in Clermont. And at Sarah’s Greek Cuisine, the ever-popular gyro takes center stage. You cannot go wrong with this sandwich, which is wrapped in delicious pita bread and served with a generous portion of tender, flavorful meat, chopped tomatoes, and lettuce. Tzatziki, a tangy cucumber sauce, adds both a fresh taste and great kick.
What customers are saying: “I love Greek food, and this restaurant [Sarah’s Greek Cuisine] is especially appealing because there’s a large variety and everything on the menu is fresh. I typically order the gyro platter. The gyros here are better than anywhere I’ve ever been.” —Fernando Vitali
400 N. 14th St., Leesburg 352.365.0089
Move over Miami and Tampa! You may be known for your abundance of restaurants that serve Cuban sandwiches, but Leesburg-based Café Ola makes them every bit as tasty. The bread is nicely toasted but it doesn’t cut the roof of your mouth with every bite. And a sweet selection of seasonings combined with just the right amount of meat makes this sandwich to die for. The sandwich includes the standard fare: roast pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard.
What customers are saying: “This is my first time visiting, but I must admit that their Cuban sandwich is delicious. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve ever eaten. I’m impressed how fresh the bread is.”—Roxanne Zenner
138 Bushnell Plaza, Bushnell 352.793.2592
Juicy, succulent, and soft describes both the thin-sliced steak and the bread this restaurant uses to make delicious cheesesteak sandwiches. Melted cheese plus grilled onions and peppers. What’s not to love? Not that the sandwich needs any kind of flavor enhancement, but the waitress does bring a delicious au jus sauce to dip it in.
What customers are saying: “I come here often because the food is great and the staff makes me feel like family. Everything on the menu is incredibly delicious.” —Kaylin Deeson
Mount Dora StrEAT Corner
846 E. 5th Ave., Mount Dora 352.735.3663
A unique grilled chicken sandwiches awaits you at Mount Dora StrEAT Corner. “Dixie’s Chicken,” as the sandwich is named, includes a blend of interesting toppings such as marinated tomatoes, spinach, lemon aioli, and melted provolone. It’s served on baguette bread, which is fluffy on the inside. Of course, the sandwich also includes a tender, juicy grilled chicken breast, which leaves you feeling satisfied and full.
What customers are saying: “I really enjoy this restaurant because it offers a great atmosphere. I like how you can eat outside on a patio. The gourmet-style food they serve reminds me of the food where I used to live in New Jersey. Everything on the menu is excellent.” —Tricia VonBargen
Nicky D’s Pizza
439 Umatilla Blvd., Umatilla 352.669.2400
You don’t have to drive to The Big Easy to enjoy one of the city’s most popular sandwiches. Nicky D’s Pizza in Umatilla makes a delicious Muffelatta ‘n Awlins, which is served open-face on eight pieces of crunchy Italian bread. It includes turkey, ham, salami, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Provolone and mozzarella cheese are melted on top. If you’re eating this alone, be prepared to need a take-out box.
If your favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations, this list just for you! Style wants you to get the most from your night out, so we’ve compiled this list of 14 places for wonderful dinners. Each place offers an enticing dining experience. We’ve tried to fit in something for everyone, places with familiar comfort food, and others that might introduce you to new dishes and experiences. Open your mind, ready your palate, and be filled!
1884 Restaurant and Bar
12 E. Magnolia Ave., Eustis, 800.856.1884
Good recipes never get old and 1884 Restaurant and Bar is proving that simple done well is exceptional. All produce and meat come from local farmers. The building, which resembles an old-time gambling hall, has a long-time legacy within the Eustis community. 1884 takes you back to when everything was done locally for those who lived, worked, and played here. This is the place to get a good steak, and no matter what cut, you’ll make the right choice. Style suggests you start with the Pork Wing in a bourbon apricot sauce and finish with a nightcap. Check out the lengthy list of classic and specialty cocktails while you enjoy post-dinner live music.
Turners Kitchen & Bar
114 S 5th St., Leesburg , 352.530.2274
Turners is making a name for American Gourmet in Leesburg. You may see familiar dishes on the menu here but each has some nuance. A welcoming sight when dining becomest routine.
Turners also adds variety with daily specials, which breathe life into their sandwich and soup selections as well as the dinner menu. The Sea Island Shrimp and Grits may surprise you with its Granny Smith apple marmalade. The Pork and Pancakes definitely exceed expectations with the incorporation of butternut squash Johnnycakes.
There are a lot of gourmet touches but at its heart this is good home cooking with pride in being local. You could say it’s a place where dinner is “supper” and guest are “neighbors.”
Living Green Café
9726 U.S. Hwy. 441, Leesburg, 352.314.3234
Raw dining—these words can be scary when habit makes up much of your diet, but certain habits could use some change. Living Green Café is serving up a food revolution. Owner Michelle Kristof wants to soothe people’s fears and “raw” anxiety with exceptional taste. After spending more than two decades preparing organic meals, she knows the difference raw can make. She wants diners to enjoy a wholesome meal, nutritious at the cellular level, with great flavor.
A misperception about raw meals is saying it’s rabbit food and tastes like grass. At Living Green Café, there is no forfeiting flavor! Staff members at Style raved about the Spaghetti Bolognese. Michelle tops her zucchini noodles with a homemade sun-dried tomato marinara that sets off fireworks once it hits the palate. The café is also known for smoothies and organic coffee. The best seat in the house is at the window where you watch your meal prepared fresh and enjoy a little conversation. Look for the building with brightly painted sun, diagonal to Lake-Sumter State College.
Cotillion Southern Café
101 N. Main St., Wildwood, 352.748.1223
The Cotillion Southern Café located in Wildwood’s historic bank serves up tradition like no one else. Whether you like your chicken with a buttery croissant or a fluffy waffle, Miz Kathi’s crew makes dishes that bring you home. No matter where you were raised, when you come to the Cotillion you feel at home with the cozy décor and sweet smiling faces. You may initially be surprised to find cloth napkins and heirloom China, but as a guest, you get the best. Style has a long and enduring love for the Cotillion’s cooking, not to mention their decadent cakes. An absolute favorite dish for dinner is the Lowcountry Shrimp ‘n’ Grits. A fixture in most southern diets, but also appealing to those unaware of such culinary traditions. The creaminess of the grits is otherworldly, so there is no coarse bothersome texture. Nor is there portion control when it comes to the shrimp. Miz Kathi never skimps. The Cotillion leaves you full but always wanting more! It will be your new indulgence.
The Crooked Spoon
200 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, 352.404.7808
What’s a gastropub anyway? It’s a term coined in Great Britain that means a pub or bar that serves real food, and while they’re at it, they make it gourmet. Therefore, what you get with a place like The Crooked Spoon in Clermont Is the pub atmosphere with its many drink choices and pub fare that rivals five-star dining establishments. Gastropubs take a creative approach to cuisine, and even has some risky revamps of old classics. Ordering at The Crooked Spoon might take awhile if you want that one signature dish–they’re all signature dishes! All the options are unique, which is not a bad problem to have! Style’s entrees of choice are the Drunken Pineapple Salad and the Lobster Grilled Cheese. The two also compliment each other well and are great for sharing over a few craft beers. We suggest closing out your night with the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread Pudding, a childhood favorite reimagined.
What customers are saying: “ it’s unique, it’s eclectic, the food is always delicious and it’s right here in Clermont. My favorite is the KGB wings.” —Debbie Wilson
The Goblin Market
330 Dora Drawdy Way, Mount Dora, 352.735.0059
There’s a magical place tucked away in downtown Mount Dora with a cult following. Wander down a side alley and look beyond the overgrown ivy and you might to see The Goblin Market. This eclectic bistro has been around for nearly two decades! The patio is covered in greenery and gorgeous blooms. It is a great place to sit on a breezy afternoon for lunch. However, the intimate dining rooms and lounge are nothing short of enchanting. You dine with book-lined walls and modern art all about you. The atmosphere is comfortable sophistication. The food is no less refined. One item on the menu stood out, the Roasted Breast of Duck. The meat was incredibly tender; the natural taste of the cut melded seamlessly with the sweet fig marmalade topping it. Paired with a hearty helping of fresh colorful veggies, whipped mashed potatoes, and the beautiful surroundings, it was a truly cosmopolitan experience.
Square1 Burgers & Bar
2542 Burnsed Blvd., The Villages, 352.689.2191
No dining list is complete without a burger joint, but corporate chains dominated this genre for a long time. Square1, a Florida-based establishment with only six locations, is bucking the boring beef standard. Style visited The Villages location and found attention to detail displayed in both the décor and the food dazzling. The interior is western glam, with cowhide booths and red crystal chandeliers. The menu is filled with craft burgers; you can choose an Angus or Kobe beef, buffalo, lamb, turkey, chicken, Portobello mushroom or veggie patty made in house. All meat is raised naturally, humanely, and without the hormones or antibiotics that are synonymous with the industry.
No one option is less exciting than the other is; every item presents like a specialty item. The SOB “South of the Border” is a blackened Angus burger dressed southwestern style with pepper jack cheese, black bean and corn salsa, jalapeños, avocados, Fritos for a slight crunch, and their mouthwatering “Sooner” sauce. This is the best burger we’ve had in a while! The patty itself was juicy and packed with flavor, and the garnishes sent it over the top and the eater, over the moon!
Cuba Pichy’s Cuisine
10401 U.S. Hwy. 441, Suite 0322, Leesburg, 352.365.2822
Finding a good Cuban place is increasingly harder the farther you get from the straits and pretty painted pastels. An authentic Cuban meal is about the quality of a proven process to create a pleasurable experience—the same meticulous process that goes into making renowned Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, many establishments fall just short. Pichy’s is not such a place. Open just a little over a year, they have a reputation for doing it right! With everything made fresh to order, the taste is exceptional. Pork isn’t dried out nor do the cooks rely too heavily on spice. Things are prepared properly and the natural flavors of the yucca root and the plantain are featured, not altered or masked. Patrons can expect service to meet the same standard; staff is friendly and lively. Enjoy a $4 mojito and say hello to Ernesto. Also, Friday is Latin night. Style says go rumba yourself to a good time.
What customers are saying: “I don’t mind coming back again [to Cuba PIchy’s], and bringing my husband with me. It’s very delicious, tastes authentic and is very fresh. Fresh food, very good. —Jeanette Vaughn
2400 S. Hwy. 27 Suite 101, Clermont, 352.241.9884
Guru Restaurant sits high on a hill. Though it opened a short time ago, people come from everywhere to dine on authentic Indian food. Style first noticed Guru as it rose to the No. 2 restaurant on TripAdvisor. When we visited, we quickly learned why, it’s the real deal! As soon as we entered we were greeted personally by an eager gentleman wanting to help us find just the right dish. He assured us any dish could be as mild or as hot as we like. Settling on the popular Chicken Tandoori and the creamy Lamb Korma, we enjoy a meal served family style with basmati rice and an order of fresh garlic naan. The naan is cooked to order, in house, the traditional way.
Guru invited Style to see how it was made. A man with a serious mustache spreads the dough over a round puff and slaps it onto the wall of the clay oven, which is encased by metal and runs off gas instead of charcoal for safety. Once stuck to the wall, all you do is watch it bubble, retrieve, and butter it! This brick oven must heat an hour before opening every day to get the temperature just right, a careful process ensures perfect naan. And we’re grateful for it!
2502 W. Main St., Leesburg, 352.455.1898
Leesburg has a treasure in a little tin garage. Journey down West Main Street for an authentic taste from the islands. Some might say you aren’t paying for the atmosphere when you come here, but they’re mistaken. The dining hall is small but attractive. A mural is in progress and the friendly faces at the counter take you to the Caribbean. George, owner and chef, was born and bred on Jamaican soil. He has now transplanted his roadside dive tradition to Lake County. The curry goat is a must try. Style warns that leftovers, if there should be any, must be watched with a close eye. Served with your choice of white rice or rice and peas, cornbread cake or dumpling, and cabbage or collard greens. Portions are plentiful! You’re not going to find anything quite like Jamaican George for a hundred miles.
1660 E. Hwy. 50, Clermont, 352.242.1314
Sometimes we need an adventure, and while backpacking through India may no be feasible for most of us, dining at Zab Thai feels like an immersion into a foreign culture. The vibrant reds, cool blues, and gold capture the senses. The weathered wood accents and winding floral patterns mean you’re instantly surrounded by the exotic. But what has the true power to transport you is taste. Thai cooking is known for its spice. Style likes the Pad Kee Mao. The dish is sweet with a low-key spice that builds. You can also choose your level of spice: mild, medium, hot, or Thai hot! And if you want even more ask for the hot tray and add at your own risk. And what’s an adventure without a little risk?
If hot is definitely not your thing, there are still plenty of options. There are several traditional, tamer Pad Thai options; just avoid any item on the menu with a chili next to it. And don’t be afraid to ask your server for assistance. Fresh veggies are a central element in most dishes. The spring rolls at Zab Thai are no mere side dish, and sushi is made to order all day long.
Angel’s Soul Food and BBQ
390 W Burleigh Blvd, Tavares, 352.508.5475
Good soul food does something magical in the space between the taste buds and the heart. At Angel’s, eating is an emotional experience. It’s called soul food because when it’s made just so, a smile spreads across your face and you think you feel a touch of happiness in your soul. Angel’s makes comfort food—no hype in presentation, no need for reinterpretation, just simple ingredients to make a familiar dish pure satisfaction.
Angel’s fried chicken is award-winning, so naturally, Style had to try it! Served with mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread, and your choice of a two sides; it’s a meal your momma would approve. Style highly recommends the mac and cheese. We have no doubt you’ll be planning your next Angel’s fix after the first bite. There’s a trend with Angel’s; those who eat there, go back again, and again…and again.
239 W. 4th Ave., Mount Dora, 352.385.2669
Though we may be some distance from the coast, much of island life is still instinct. A smattering of seafood places throughout the area exemplifies this. Pisces Rising on the edge of Lake Dora is hoping you’ll enjoy a departure from your usual pluck-and-shuck dive. Staff is focused on making it an experience from presentation to completion. Don’t know what to drink with your dish, the bartender will suggest just the right libation to complement your meal.
Dishes are served to perfection. The mahi mahi fish basket came with polenta cake wedges, a pleasant pairing that was surprising. Fish remained light and airy when fried, when so often a batter smothers the freshness. Style gave kudos in taste, elegance, and creativity. Oh, and that view!
What customers are saying: “For my wife and me, it’s an evening, it’s not just going to a restaurant and eating and going home. It’s an experience. We’ve gotten to know people. When we come in, the bartender already has my drink for me. It’s like chatting with friends, with a meal. It’s like an evening out with friends that we pay for. I don’t have a favorite, I really like the seafood gumbo soup; I have them make me up some to take home. There’s always something different.” —Chuck & Barbara Csizmar
Eaton’s Beach Sandbar and Grill
15790 SE 134th Ave., Weirsdale, 352.259.2444
We have to admit, we’ve all been spoiled by where we live, lakeside dining experiences are what we do best! There are numerous places we can grab a good bite and enjoy the view, but where can we actually feel the sand between our toes or go for a dip between courses? Eaton’s Beach is unmatched for atmosphere; they’ve taken the beach bum’s bungalow and made it classy. You can dine in their colorful open dinning room, on their airy balcony, or outside on the deck with a full bar where they bring in live entertainment. It’s a little Key West—inland.
One of the many things they do right at Eaton’s Beach is bringing classic New Orleans flavors to the Floridian kitchen. You will see Cajun- and Creole-inspired dishes across the menu, but Style’s favorite, 3C’s & Little B’s Mac and Cheese, brings that spice to a southern staple. A rich and creamy cheese sauce over Cavatappi and Andouille sausage makes for a surprisingly hearty and wonderfully decadent meal.