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  1. Florida

Welcome to Florida. Here are the cult foods we know and love.

And no, we didn’t just repeat Publix subs 15 times.
A Publix chicken tender sub sandwich is seen Friday, May 3, 2019 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
A Publix chicken tender sub sandwich is seen Friday, May 3, 2019 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO | Times
Published May 3, 2019
Updated May 3, 2019

When you think of Florida food, you probably think of Publix subs.

Admittedly, it seems strange that, in a whole state full of glorious food cultures, Miami, the Florida Keys, Disney World (okay, kidding), our most iconic food would be a grocery store sub. You’ll just have to try one to understand.

But thinking about Publix Subs got us wondering: What other cult foods define Florida? So we did some research.

We polled our newsroom and talked to Reddit users about the best cult food favorites in Florida. What are the foods that have their own social media pages? What foods are old reliables when we know we’re in need of some comfort?

What’s the first thing you just have to get when you step off the plane and find yourself in Florida?

Photo from Reddit.

Explore our favorites below. It wouldn’t be an accurate list, after all, if we didn’t start off with Publix.

Publix Subs

Publix chicken tenders subs are messy, gargantuan, delicious ... and on sale this week. [CARL LISCIANDRELLO | Times]

Publix chicken tender subs are a fan favorite. There’s a whole Twitter account dedicated to determining whether they are on sale.

On any average day in Florida, especially around lunchtime, you can generally find five or six people waiting in line for their Publix sub.

It’s hard to put into words just what makes these Pubs so special. Is it their fluffy bread? Maybe. Their Boar’s Head meat? Possibly. (And they always ask, ‘Do you want Boar’s Head?’) Or is it just the novelty of getting a fantastic sandwich from a grocery store? I go with all three.

And trust me, if you want some mid-day entertainment, try this little experiment.

Cuban Bread

Loaves of Cuban bread at La Segunda Central Bakery in Tampa. Photo courtesy of Amy Pezzicara, La Segunda Central Bakery

Cubans are great, but Cuban bread is an art form all its own. It’s so rare, in fact, that Ybor favorite La Segunda had difficulty finding bakers who could craft the bread as well as it was made in, well, 1915.

Conch Fritters

Conch fritters with Floridian aioli at Sea Sea Riders at 221 Main St. in Dunedin. Times (2011)

Do conch fritters signify the Florida Keys to you, with that combination of seafood and fried goodness?

One Reddit user called them “a pretty popular cult food with a rich history. They fit the cult definition as they can be polarizing.”

Another replied: “Ah yes, conch fritters. The ‘You must like this is you are from the Keys’ food.”

Cuban Sandwiches

Aguila Sandwich Shop's Cuban sandwich is seen at Aguila Sandwich Shop in Tampa. The restaurant is a popular local choice for Cuban sandwiches. Times (2012)

Pick a place to get the best Cuban in Florida and you’ll quickly find yourself in the middle of a feud. At least, that’s what happened to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when he called La Segunda’s Cuban the best in the state.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie at the Thirsty Marlin in old historic Palm Harbor. Times (2015)

Key lime pie is, wait for it, the official state pie of Florida. Bet you didn’t know there were even official state pies.

Our reporter Craig Pittman broke down the interesting history behind Key lime pie in this Twitter thread.

I myself have to admit that my favorite Key Lime Pie comes from Publix. Where do you get your favorite?

Hooters Restaurant

Sign for Hooter's restaurant in Brandon.

Yes, Hooters originated in, of all places, Clearwater. The original still stands today but the restaurant has since expanded to more than 400 locations internationally.

Tropicana Orange Juice

Tropicana orange juice, to compare to price of a gallon of gas. Times (2008)

Tropicana’s founder Anthony T. Rossi made it into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.

Rossi came from Sicily and eventually moved to Bradenton, Florida, where he started a restaurant business. Later, he began selling fruit to New York department stores, according to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. As he continued to supply citrus and orange juice, Rossi created a process for pasteurization of orange juice that would allow the juice to be stored without concentration or refrigeration.

Publix Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream

The Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream, purchased Monday at a Publix in St. Petersburg. [Photo by Michelle Stark]

This Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream is a Publix exclusive product and beloved by its fans. The vanilla, caramel and candied macadamias make for a good mix, our Taster’s Choice panel found.

The product is seasonal, so let’s hope it’s back in stores by now.

Dole Whip

This Pineapple Float Dole Whip served at the Aloha Oasis in Adventureland inside Disney's Magic Kingdom is a refreshing treat.

The Dole Whip is an icon all its own to Disney lovers. Google Dole Whip and you’ll quickly find multiple articles about its popularity in the theme parks. “Where to Find Dole Whip at Walt Disney World,” “Disney World Just Introduced Dole Whip Froscatos.”

The only problem? Good luck getting one. Our photographer Allie Goulding was at Disney World recently for an assignment and stopped to get a Dole Whip only to find a long line. Her take? Not worth the wait.

Home-Cooked and Home-Grown Food

Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn is seen stacked up at Long and Scott Farms in Mount Dora, Fla. Florida sweet corn has become a rare delicacy. Times (2017)

My personal favorite answer on what defines Florida’s cult foods was from a Reddit user. I’ll let them take it from here.

“Florida food for me isn’t about the stores or food chains, it’s about home grown. That mango tree in town that everyone wants a taste of. Polk greens, sweet corn and green beans all from the same plot of land that’s been in the family for 100 years. Only in Florida can I have a Cuban sandwich and coffee for breakfast, swamp cabbage and wild hog BBQ for lunch and either catfish or grouper for dinner."

Only in Florida, folks. Full disclosure: I was eating a Publix sub while writing this.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today via AP) [CRAIG BAILEY/FLORIDA TODAY  |  AP]
    No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.
  2. Jack Pearcy, left, and James Dailey, right, as they appeared when they each entered Florida's prison system in 1987. Both men were convicted of taking part in the murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in Pinellas County. Pearcy got a life sentence. Dailey got the death penalty. Dailey's lawyers have argued that Pearcy is solely responsible for the crime. [Florida Department of Corrections]
    The case of James Dailey, facing a death sentence for the 1985 Pinellas County murder of a 14-year-old girl, is full of contradiction, ambiguity and doubt. Court records tell the terrible story.
  3. A new report to the Florida Legislature details the investigation that led to the forced resignations of six Moffitt Cancer Center employees in December, including president and CEO Dr. Alan List. [Moffitt Cancer Center]
    The money came from the “Thousand Talents Program” and went to personal accounts set up in China.
  4. FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2019 file photo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington. After the Pensacola shooting, Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a review of the Pentagon's handling of foreign military trainees. The results, announced Friday, put foreign trainees under new limitations, including their travel away from their assigned base; their possession and use of firearms and their access to bases and other U.S. facilities.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) [SUSAN WALSH  |  AP]
    International trainees will no longer be allowed to have privately owned firearms on base, among other changes.
  5. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking for information about a man accused of killing a duck at a Town 'N Country apartment complex in Tampa. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. [Bay News 9]
    He used bread to lure the bird in before killing it. A complaint was filed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  6. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  7. People waited overnight to be the first customers at the new Jollibee Pinellas Park location. It opened Friday. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    Long lines, happy dances, hot Chickenjoy. Pinellas Park scores the chain’s latest restaurant.
  8. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  9. For the latest breaking news, check tampabay.com [Tampa Bay Times]
    Three men are facing human smuggling charges in federal courts in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
  10. Chris Card, chief of community-based care for Eckerd Connects. His agency is now running the two biggest child welfare jurisdictions in Florida. [Tampa Bay Times]
    They are spending more time outside a permanent home as the county struggles to deal with an increase in removals.
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