12 New Openings Across the State This Season
Stay at a repurposed church in Pensacola, sip atop a rooftop bar in St. Petersburg or indulge in Israeli cuisine in Miami.
Husband-and-wife team Sam Efron and Kiley Wynne Efron are no strangers to the Jacksonville culinary scene. Since 2009, they’ve run the popular San Marco staple Taverna, a modern Italian eatery. Now they’re combining their love of European fare and their own coastal culinary culture with the introduction of Taverna Oceana, a raw bar and seafood restaurant that opened in May with understated elegance next door to Taverna. Southern favorites like smothered tater tots topped with salmon roe, sour cream and chives, speak to the couple’s range and creativity. Choose from saltwater mains like lobster thermidor and miso glazed Chilean sea bass or belly up to the raw bar for small plates of oysters and ceviche tostada, and wash it all down with a glass of champagne.
Named for the butcher stores that populate Milan and Verona, Salumeria 104 brings traditional Italian cuisine to this seaside community. Chef Angelo Masarin’s culinary journey began in the foothills of the Dolomites, a place known for cultivating prosecco and radicchio. Now, the chef brings his passion for the dishes of his homeland to the First Coast. For a new twist on an old-world favorite, try the locally sourced Mayport shrimp skewers or the dry-aged rib-eye cooked in a charcoal oven for the main. Top off the evening by ordering a few desserts to share because who can choose just one from a menu of classic tiramisu, white-chocolate panna cotta with passion fruit and simple scoops of gelato.
Lily Hall is Pensacola’s newest boutique hotel and restaurant situated in the historic Old East Hill neighborhood. Anchored by a sophisticated lounge space called Lily’s Parlor, the lobby welcomes guests with leather sofas and arched bookshelves. Co-owners Nathan Weinberg, Troy Stackhouse and Steve Mabee reimagined the former Baptist church built in the 1900s into a road-trip-worthy Panhandle outpost with 15 rooms. The hotel’s restaurant, Brother Fox, named for the church’s former pastor, and its menu takes influence from the wood-fired cuisine of Spain, where Chef Darian Hernandez grew up. For guests looking to unwind with a custom cocktail and some ambience, the Sister Hen speakeasy takes cues from the Prohibition era with an entrance through the ice box.
Daytrader Tiki Bar
Seaside’s newest offering, a picturesque tiki bar overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and painted in pastels, opened in May. In his latest venture, Chef Nikhil Abuvala brings the Polynesian islands to the Panhandle, transporting guests to tropical island paradise. Start off with an order of boiled peanuts, seasoned with star anise and togarashi—a perfect fusion of Southern and Asian flavors. Polynesian influences abound with dishes like spam musubi, tuna crispy rice and the Sloppy Koa, a riff on the sloppy joe topped with grilled pineapple and Asian slaw. It’s the cocktail menu that truly shines at this shabby-chic spot. Many boozy concoctions feature Florida flavors like citrus, guava, ghost pepper and Munyon’s Paw-Paw—a Sunshine State liqueur. Overserve yourself? Try a Daytrader Remedy, aka a medical mai tai, served from an IV bag. Take two and call us in the morning.
Cane & Barrel
St. Pete’s fresh new rooftop dining experience, Cane & Barrel, is inspired by the colorful culture of Cuba with its small plates and cocktails straight out of Havana. Think: empanadas, street tacos, ceviche and Bacardi-based mojitos as you sip and savor from up on the roof of AC Hotel. Rum is at the heart of the menu, which chronicles the spirit’s journey from sugarcane to barrel. Find it in the signature communal citrus punch, said to derive from the ancient East Indies and brought to the Americas by “sailors of yore.” From a boozy weekend brunch to a special night on the town, their Cuban cuisine and tropical cocktails raise the bar in paradise.
New Port Richey
Estuary is the definition of a neighborhood restaurant—perfect for newcomers and locals alike. Started by Clearwater restaurateur James Renew of the wildly successful Little Lamb Gastropub, Estuary is his newest venture that, true to its name, celebrates local Florida fare from land and sea. The casual yet sophisticated chef-led menu focuses on modern seafaring cuisine from the Gulf Coast and is always changing to accommodate what’s fresh and in season. Start with an order of their fried okra or their raw oysters topped with a mignonette sauce. From the bright lights of Vegas to the harbors of Sydney, Chef Renew takes his training and experience from across the globe and beyond and infuses them into his Gulf Coast creations.
At the helm of Foreigner Restaurant, Orlando’s latest 10-seat fine-dining experience, Chef Bruno Fonseca taps into his upbringing as a Brazilian immigrant with Spanish, Portuguese and Italian roots. What started as a series of pop-up dinners inspired by his multicultural background, grew into this intimate culinary concept where guests enjoy curated wine selections alongside dishes reflective of Fonseca’s personal story and travels. Chef Fonseca and his partners, Johnny and Jimmy Tung, created a permanent residence for Foreigner Restaurant after four years of successful pop-ups. Expect a masterful fusion of world cuisine and wines artfully presented to patrons seated around an ultra-chic bar for a bespoke experience unlike any in the state.
Kaya, a Filipino restaurant tucked inside a renovated Old Florida bungalow within Orlando’s historic Colonialtown South neighborhood, is all about community. Old family pictures of the two founders hang on the walls. The menu reads like a lineup of the finest locally sourced ingredients with cameos of some vegetables and herbs picked straight from the restaurant’s garden. In the kitchen, Lordfer Lalicon, who studied at the University of Florida before working at New York icon Carbone, conducts the nightly culinary performance. Since last year, he’s broadened his focus to include recipes from his native Philippines while continuing to elevate Sunshine State staples such as Cape Canaveral shrimp, Seminole squash, Ponce Inlet tilefish and gourmet mushrooms grown by Orlando’s Fungi Jon.
Ana’s Killer Empanadas
It’s the scent that hits you first. Savory, herbaceous and unexpected decadence wafts through the air of the unassuming Delray Beach storefront that’s home to Ana’s Killer Empanadas. After nearly a decade of catering to high-end clients in Beverly Hills, Ana Brice arrived in South Florida looking to return to her Latin roots and opening an empanada store in March 2023. The menu consists of three fan-favorite recipes—including a classic Argentinean-style empanada with all-angus beef marinated in malbec wine—and a rotating variety of pastries filled with ingredients like pepperoni, meatballs and brisket. “The empanadas are just like Ana: fun,” says John, her husband and store co-owner. Ana’s popularity in the market has given way to a second location, which opened in late September in West Palm Beach.
With 8-foot cacti flanking the entrance, the smell of fresh tortillas grilling in the skillet, the clinking of glasses and the strums of a guitarron, guests will be whisked away to an authentic Mexican experience without ever leaving Coconut Grove. Koko, Grupo Bakan’s latest concept, is a 170-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar, serving dishes such as crispy chicken tacos, flavorful tostaditas de atun and, if you have an adventurous palate, toastada de chapulines—toasted grasshoppers with guacamole and Cotija cheese served on a wood-fired blue corn tortilla. To round out the fare, Koko prides itself on “pairing the meal to the mezcal” from their extensive 400-bottle spirit collection. Grab a seat at the bar to catch a glimpse of the cherry wood-fired flames through the open kitchen.
AKA West Palm
West Palm Beach
Don’t make the tough call over whether to stay at a business hotel or someplace cool. Choose to have it all at the international hotel group AKA’s latest location in West Palm Beach. Situated in the heart of the business district, it’s easy to work a 9-to-5 remotely in their upscale designer suites, host a client meeting in their conference room, followed by a happy-hour toast to the weekend on Clematis Street. Relax poolside and take in sweeping Intracoastal views or burn off some steam in their Technogym fitness center, complete with free weights, dumbbell racks, treadmills and smart bikes. Feel free to take your furry friends along on this bleisure journey and drop them at the pet spa for a day of canine pampering. Their 215 suites were created to be an haute haven, rather than a residency or a temporary stay.
From the cutting-edge creativity of 2016 MasterChef Israel winner Tom Aviv, comes Branja—an out-of-the-box Israeli culinary experience. This oasis of Mediterranean flavor is hidden within the bohemian Upper Buena Vista neighborhood, showering guests with jewel-tone rays of sunshine through its stained-glass ceiling. Branja transports gourmands to Tel Aviv markets as they dine among the sounds of conversation mingled with chopping knives and the aroma of Middle Eastern spices while sitting on reclaimed synagogue benches. A blend of Mediterranean flavors and Chef Aviv’s personal travels have created signature dishes like Fishwarma, a twist on traditional shawarma, which includes fish melange, labneh tahini and mango amba. Branja’s culmination of culture and innovation invites guests to momentarily escape the confines of the city and break bread together.