by Jessica Giles | December 1, 2020

13 New Sunshine State Spots We Can’t Wait to Try

From rare plant shops to barbecue and confections to luxury resorts, we’ve got a lot of new openings to explore.


The holidays are in full swing, and this year, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses—especially the new ones on the block. Below, we’ve gathered some of the most buzzed about new additions to the Sunshine State, from upscale boutique hotels to sprawling food halls. Whether it’s the experiences you gift or the pies on your Christmas Day table, let’s keep it local this year.


Sonja Sorenson opened Foliahom because of her passion for plants and making her customers happy. Photography by Christina Karst.



The first thing you should do when you step inside Foliahom is take a deep breath—a long inhale that draws in scents of lavender, fresh-cut eucalyptus and bergamot. A delightful dance of aromas from the hundreds of rare plants filling the space along with curated home decor in this newly opened shop in Jacksonville. Owner Sonja Sorenson, 52, began selling unusual plants out of her home as Petal and Stone in 2017, but when a storefront vacancy opened up just half a mile from her San Marco home in mid-2020, she decided it was time for a more permanent location. The lease opening also happened to coincide with the global pandemic; all the more reason to craft a lush oasis for locals, Sorenson says. Golden light pours through the floor-to-ceiling windows, bathing the aisles of fiddle leaf fig trees, monsteras, calathea white stars and other funky flora. Along with the rows and rows of rare tropical plants, you’ll also find a thoughtful selection of home goods, including artwork by St. Augustine-based Jenna Alexander, macrame hanging planters crafted by MacraMade by Melanie in Jacksonville and Bluejay Aromatherapy from St. Johns County. Although Sorenson can talk for hours about plants—the sunlight they need and what side of the home they like to be on—she says the greenery is just a gateway to the people. “When I see a huge smile on a customer’s face when they leave, it does my heart good to have maybe made their day a little better,” she says.



Who says lemonade stands are just for kids? Demetrius Murray and Marquis Williams have turned theirs into a local sensation, thanks to the help of Williams’ Grandma Gurlie. The two friends from Tallahassee began selling ice cold lemonade under the blazing Florida sun on a street corner last summer after uncovering Grandma Gurlie’s old recipe book. Later, the duo started slinging Gurlie’s famous fried oreos too, and after a shout out from the Tallahassee Foodies page, the unassuming stand went viral. Soon the line for grandma’s treats started wrapping around the block, and that blazing Florida sun got the best of Williams. He collapsed from heat exhaustion while working the stand in July, and the community rallied around him. Gurlie fans raised more than $6,000 to help the young entrepreneurs buy an air conditioned food truck and take their business to the next level. You can find the neon blue and yellow truck off of Adams Street near Florida A&M University. Grandma’s latest recipe? Funnel cake!

Natasha sells out of pies nearly every day at her shop in historic Riverside. Photography by Natasha Burton.



Natasha Burton can’t really put her finger on the opening date of her pie shop because, well, it never really opened. “My aunt decided that she wanted to share the website because she was really proud of it, and she jumped the gun,” Burton recalls. Her aunt tagged 99 people in the post, and before Burton could announce that the shop wasn’t open yet, the orders started rolling in. “I needed money for rent so I just started filling the orders,” she laughs. Since then, Mixed Fillings Pie Shop, tucked away in the back of an old brick building in Riverside, has been selling out of pies every day. The best way to guarantee your preferred slice is to preorder online, especially if you’re hoping to snag one of the fan-favorites like the Whole Latte Pumpkin Pie with a gingersnap crust and espresso whipped cream or the Spicy Mother Clucker, a herb-seasoned chicken pot pie with housemade buffalo wing sauce. If you get a spontaneous craving for a thick slice of toasted coconut custard pie, you can order from their pickup window. But get there early, they sell out fast.



Legend has it that New York’s water is the secret to their soft, doughy, superior bagels, but being 1,000 miles south hasn’t stopped this Gainesville eatery from churning out bagels that rival the Big Apple. In fact, Luke’s New York Bagels is so committed to creating authentic Yankee dough that they hauled in a custom watermaker that mimics the mineral levels found in the Empire State’s water. The result is fluffy, plush bagels that attract hordes of people. Although they only just opened in the summer of 2020, the family-run business is already outgrowing its tiny digs. The team recently added a trailer beside their stout gray cinderblock building so they could start serving breakfast sandwiches in addition to their bagels coated in house-made cream cheese. Don’t expect white tablecloths or napkin rings at this hole-in-the-wall, but do expect the best bagel you’ll ever eat.


Th new boutique Hotel Haya is an ode to Ybor City’s Cuban roots. Photography by Amy Pezzicara.



Eclectic Ybor City wasn’t lacking in hotels, but it was devoid of one that was distinctly Ybor—that is, up until now. Opened in September, Hotel Haya is the Cigar City’s modern ode to its Cuban roots. Named after Ignacio Haya, a linchpin of Ybor’s early cigar industry, this 178-room boutique hotel celebrates the mishmash of cultures that infuse the neighborhood with vitality. Guestrooms are accented with Chihuly-style blown-glass globes reminiscent of the community’s iconic streetlamps and the interior features exposed brick walls, period fabrics and four large-scale reproductions of Francisco Goya artwork. Even the building itself has a story to tell, with its renovation merging two historic structures: the oldest restaurant in Tampa, Las Novedades, and the Warren Building, which is rumored to be the former hangout of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. Even the dining options represent different cultural influences, from the wood-grilled coastal cuisine served up at Flor Fina to the Havana-inspired menu at Cafe Quiquiriqui. And of course, it wouldn’t be distinctly Ybor without a tribute to the neighborhood’s favorite wandering fowls. As the Chicken Champion sponsor of the Ybor Chicken Society, the hotel helps support the sanctuary and even gets to foster one lucky, pampered poultry named Magnolia (but her friends call her Maggie).

At The Urban Stillhouse, you can have an actual horse soldier lead you through a tasting. Photography courtesy of The Urban Stillhouse.



Some people say drinking bourbon is an experience, and Horse Soldier Bourbon would have to agree. That’s why they built a 16,000 square-foot entertainment venue dedicated to the history, distilling, tasting and enjoyment of American whiskey. Located in the St. Petersburg Warehouse District, The Urban Stillhouse is a restaurant, bar and tasting lounge that offers everything from an exceptional steak dinner to more than 350 spirits from around the world in the upstairs bourbon library. St. Petersburg is home turf for many of the Horse Soldiers who retired out of MacDill Air Force Base, and the upscale yet inviting Urban Stillhouse was a natural fit for the city. “I think one of the great things about St. Pete is that it is one of those destinations that is atypical, but the creativity found there actually sets standards,” says Meredith Koko, owner of the Urban Stillhouse. “And that is exactly what Urban Stillhouse is doing.” Cozy up on a leather couch beside the stone fireplace and let their take on an old fashioned give you a big Kentucky hug or have an actual Horse Soldier lead you through a tasting while sharing their account of entering Afghanistan on horseback after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This barbecue and sweets eatery was born from a compromise between husband and wife. Photography courtesy of Smoke & Donuts.



We’ve all heard the old adage that compromise is the secret to a happy marriage, but for Ian Russell and his wife, Juliana, it’s also the secret to their thriving business. Juliana dreamed of a donut shop, but Ian had his heart set on serving smoky, savory barbecue. Lucky for both of them, the two happen to complement each other perfectly, and Smoke + Donuts was born. Back in 2016, the couple began serving up their sizzling ‘cue and sweet confections under an EZ-Up tent using the world’s smallest deep fryer, Juliana recalls. The business has gone through several evolutions since its inception—graduating from a tent, to a food truck and later to a permanent space inside Belicoso Cigars & Cafe—but like so many others, COVID-19 forced them to reinvent their business model. In April, the pair reopened their beloved barbecue joint as a to-go model, serving up brown butter turkey breast, donuts coated in a Maker’s Mark bourbon maple glaze and brisket with picture-worthy black pepper bark out of their production kitchen. They also scored a spot at the trendy new A La Cart Orlando, a food-truck food court. Whether you find yourself scarfing down your pickup order in the car because the smell of the chopped brisket was too tempting or you make yourself at home on a picnic table at A La Cart, the Russell family suggests you try a few of their favorites. The Bar-B-Cuban is a playful spin on the classic Cuban sandwich, a mouthwatering mix of pulled pork, housemade dill mayo and Heywood’s mustard. If you’re looking for a hefty dose of protein, order one of Ian’s current obsessions: the 1,121 Mile Road Trip.

Naked Farmer’s mission is to make the food system more transparent. Photography courtesy of the Naked Farmer.



Opening a business during a global pandemic is no small feat. Opening two businesses during a global pandemic? Well some might say that’s just plain crazy. But Naked Farmer is on a mission to revolutionize America’s food system, and the revolution just couldn’t wait. This farm-to-table eatery opened its flagship location in St. Petersburg just two blocks from the bayfront in June, followed by a second location at Sparkman Wharf in Tampa. Although their seasonal menu of Gulf of Maine Salmon drizzled in cider vinaigrette paired with charred lemon and garlic broccoli might sound fancy, the team swears by unfussy, hyper-local ingredients. The aim is to serve their guests food inspired by and crafted with ingredients from the region. Currently, Naked Farmer sources 65 percent of their ingredients from farms within 500 miles of their restaurants, partnering with growers they know by name who have a story to tell. As they grow, the company plans to eventually source all of their ingredients from the produce to the poultry from local farms. The end result is not only a flavorful seasonal menu with the freshest ingredients, but a more sustainable local food system.


At Popstroke, play a putting course designed by golf titan Tiger Woods. Photography courtesy of Popstroke.



Think you’ve got mini golf game? This new putting course and entertainment venue in Fort Myers will put all your talk to the test. Opened in mid-September, Popstroke is a 36-hole putting facility, restaurant and bar. But this is not your run-of-the-mill mini golf. The two 18-hole courses were designed by none other than Tiger Woods, so that means you’ll maneuver bunkers, fairway and rough just like you’d find on a traditional golf course. If you’re one of those that swears a beer or two improves your swing, you’re in luck. Golfers can enjoy on-course service from the restaurant simply by placing an order through the Popstroke app. If the thought of a Tiger Woods-designed green makes you nervous, start with the easier Cub course and then advance to the Tiger course. “The PopStroke concept is to introduce golf to more people across all ages and backgrounds and to make it affordable and accessible,” says Melissa Sullivan, director of marketing for Popstroke. Since Florida is such fertile ground for golf-lovers, expect to see expansions of this creative putting concept into Palm Beach and Orlando in 2021.

White Elephant Palm Beach was one of the most highly anticipated openings of the year. Photography by Chi-Thien Nguyen/Elkus Manfredi Architects.



If anyone knows luxury, it’s Palm Beach. So it’s only fitting that this highly anticipated luxury boutique hotel, known for its premiere location in Nantucket, opened a sister property in November just steps from the coastline on Sunset Avenue in Palm Beach. This 1920s hotel underwent a major Mediterranean-revival transformation to become a chic but stately addition to the island. Those who are familiar with the Nantucket resort will be happy to hear the highly acclaimed Lola 41 restaurant will be joining White Elephant Palm Beach, offering global cuisine and craft cocktails onsite. You won’t find the area’s signature pink and green palette slathered all over the walls at White Elephant. Instead, expect an understated simplicity. A creamy white facade accented by black-and-white striped awnings gives an air of elegance without flashiness. Inside, the carefully curated pop art on the walls is an ode to Palm Beach’s iconic playful patterns. But just because the design is subtle, doesn’t dampen the glamour factor. Sleep on Pratesi Italian linens, lounge by the pool and gardens, book one of their rooftop suites to enjoy a sweeping view of the city from your private terrace or even cruise around Palm Beach in a complimentary BMW during your stay.

Chef Niven Patel plans to open another restaurant shortly after Mamey. Photography by Luis Carducci.



Chef Niven Patel has been on an impressive tear lately, earning recognition from Food & Wine magazine, getting a write-up in The New York Times and welcoming twin girls in June. Chef Patel likes to stay busy. Just two months after the birth of his daughters, Patel helped usher something else into the world: Mamey. The island-inspired restaurant inside Thesis Hotel Miami is a vivacious mixture of flavors stemming from Patel’s travels throughout Polynesia, Asia and the Caribbean. Take a culinary tour of cultures with Mamey’s lemongrass glazed grouper, mojo roasted pork cheek and Bahamian conch fritters, complimented by a cocktail program run by Bar Lab that’ll have you on island time. Although you’ll enjoy meals unlike any offered at Patel’s other culinary ventures, there’s still the same thread of sustainability. Many of the herbs and produce used at Mamey are sourced from the chef’s personal two-acre farm in Homestead.

Sistrunk Marketplace offers everything from DJ lessons to cooking classes. Photography courtesy of Sistrunk Marketplace.



If going out to eat with the family routinely incites an hour-long argument about whether or not you’re getting pizza, sushi or barbecue, you’ll want to book a reservation at Sistrunk Marketplace immediately. This massive food hall, retail space, brewery, music production academy and art gallery located in Fort Lauderdale’s art district can please even the pickiest of family members. Choose from 12 different food vendors serving up everything from Bento boxes to crepes. Sign up for a cooking class, peruse local art or even learn how to scratch a record at the Wired Sound Academy. The ambitious concept originally opened in September but continues to add exciting offerings. The Shady Distillery began pouring small batch liquors at the end of October. In December, the food hall will begin offering cooking classes, starting with how to build an impressive charcuterie board. Up next is the opening of the Khoffner Brewery, incorporating a coworking space with artist studios and recording booths and distilling 101 workshops.

Lionfish Delray Beach uses delicious cuisine to promote a healthier ocean. Photography by Eric George.



Lionfish may get a bad rap here in the Sunshine State for strangling our native fish population and allowing algae to flourish, but they do have an unexpected upside: they’re surprisingly tasty. At the recently opened Lionfish restaurant in Delray Beach, the culinary team specializes in serving up this environmental nuisance in a variety of delicious formats. Every morning a team of local spearfishers nab the day’s catch, which is then fried whole and plated with charred greens, gribiche, lemon, capers and Bagna Cauda or even used for a tangy ceviche. On top of promoting ocean health by helping to control the invasive species, Lionfish presents innovative dishes in an exquisite coastal space. Look up to find pelicans, palm trees, seagulls and sandhill cranes dancing above on the arched ceiling, which is actually preserving an original Tiffany ceiling underneath.