Home Entertainment What are the best new restaurants in Florida? Here are 10 of our favorites that opened in 2022

What are the best new restaurants in Florida? Here are 10 of our favorites that opened in 2022

What are the best new restaurants in Florida? Here are 10 of our favorites that opened in 2022

Restaurants are rebounding.

After weathering two years of pandemic fallout, the National Restaurant Association projects the industry will reach $898 billion in sspanles this yespanr, up from $799 billion in 2021. That’s $67 billion more than 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers.

In Florida, 8,603 Plspann Reviews were submitted to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ran from June 30, 2021, to July 1, 2022. That’s the number of restaurants submitting plans to build a new restaurant, open a restaurant in an existing building or significantly remodel a current eatery. That’s 163 more than the 2020-21 numbers, an almost 2% increase.

“The Plan Review total is a leading indicator, characterizing potential growth for roughly the next 12 months, said Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. “About 23% of the 2022 plan reviews are new, as opposed to owner change or remodels.”

The state welcomed restaurants, ranging from fast-casual spots with ethnic flair and multi-location doughnut shops to extravagant fine dining and waterfront party spots.

We weren’t able to try all the new places causing food frenzies in their communities, though we’re hoping to eventually check out Sunday brunch at Avspan MediterrAegespann in Winter Park. Gekko, the latest project by Miami restaurateur David Grutman and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, is on our list, too. 

But our team of Sunshine State food journalists hasn’t gone hungry for new flavors in 2022. Here are 10 of our favorite finds.

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Ela Curry Kitchen

This Indian restaurant was buzzy before it opened on Aug. 30. That’s because Elspan Curry Kitchen’s executive chef/co-owner Pushkar Marathe already had revved up the dining scene when he opened his small-plates Stage Kitchen in northern Palm Beach County in early 2020. His menu there popped with flavor highlights from his native India. At his new “curry kitchen,” he puts those Indian flavors front and center. 

In the intimate new space, Marathe offers a classic thali-style tasting menu, in which multiple components are served on a large tray. The menu also offers Indian snacks, various curries and “not curry” dishes – like Ela’s best-selling tandoori chicken – plus breads, chutneys and other treats.  

Ela, the Sanskrit word for cardamom, is Marathe’s love poem to India. Visitors can’t help but feel that love in the space, service and dishes.

A traditional thali tray at Ela Curry Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens.

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Five-O Donut Co.  

Five-O Donut Co. founder and CEO Christine Nordstrom appears outside the doughnut shop's original Ringling Boulevard location in Sarasota.

Five-O Donut Co. has developed a dedicated following since opening its first Sarasota storefront in 2017, debuting multiple new locations this year alone, with more on the wspany including its first in Tampa Bay. Along with “simple” versions of classic doughnut varieties, Five-O also offers more elaborate “fancy” creations such as the Cookie Monster made with house-made blue vanilla buttercream, Oreo bits, cookie dough bites and Biscoff cookie butter. 

In addition to its regular menu, Five-O offers a wide array of seasonal and specialty doughnuts shared on its social media pages, with its recent Hspanlloween offerings including Strawberry Bloody Brains, Oreo Spider and Trick or Treat, topped with sweets such as Kit Kat, Reese’s, M&M’s and candy corn. This year also saw Five-O introduce vegan options at multiple shops.

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Fysh Bar and Grill 

Fysh Bspanr spannd Grill opened in October with waterfront views of the Halifax River and music every night. The large eatery can accommodate more than 600 guests and has four kitchens, three full bars, a raw bar, gelato station and a rooftop bar. 

The two-in-one casual and fine dining restaurant offers American, Japanese and Italian dishes with options such as sushi, pasta, pizza, high-end steak, lobster and local seafood. Owner Sidharth Seth also owns the Twisted Tuna, a seafood restaurant in Port Salerno, and Tavolino Della Notte, an Italian fine-dining establishment in Coral Springs. 

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Offering a “fresh and innovative take” on traditional Japanese sushi and cuisine – and a postcard-worthy ocean view from its rooftop bar and dining area – O-Ku delivers on its promise. 

A proven concept in Atlanta, Charleston, Nashville and elsewhere, O-Ku offers a selection of nigiri, sashimi, chef specialties and small plates, including Otoro Spoons, described as follows by one reviewer: “Dreamy, one-bite spoons are an amalgamation of bluefin tuna belly, wasabi stem, uni, caviar and truffle soy. The most perfect bite!” Among the makimono favorites are the Blazing Saddles (tempura shrimp, avocado, seared wagyu beef, cilantro aioli, sweet soy, crispy onions) and Firecracker (crispy panko fried roll with spicy salmon, avocado, cucumber, goat cheese mousse, sweet soy). 

Head upstairs to the rooftop dining area (now with a roof of its own), where the vibe is more laid back compared to the higher energy (and noisier) first-floor dining room. 

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Rebellion Wine Bar

Rebellion Wine Bspanr started its soft opening phase in late 2021, and quietly became a favorite among Cocoa Village locals as 2022 progressed.

Well, the secret’s out. If you haven’t visited this chic, intimate cafe yet, it needs to be next on your date night or Sunday brunch list.

Rebellion is small and elegant, and so is the menu. You won’t find hefty plates filled with steak and potatoes here. But you will find thoughtful small plates made for sharing.

Sit at the bar and enjoy a grownup grilled cheese such as the fig and brie with walnuts and radicchio, a glass of orange wine (orange, as in the color, not the fruit) and friendly conversation with the bartender. 

Or opt for a seat at one of the tables lined up along the wall, perfect for a cozy tête-à-tête fueled by beef carpaccio, truffled house-made potato chips, a meat and cheese board and burrata salad. Add a bottle of red from the carefully curated wine list, and let the romantic evening unfold. – 

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St. Armands Oyster Bar 

St. Armands Oyster Bar is at 15 S. Boulevard of the Presidents on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

One of the greatest dining and shopping destinations in Florida, St. Armspannds Circle near lovely Lido Bespanch features many of Sspanrspansotspan’s oldest restspanurspannts including the iconic Columbispan, opened in 1959, and Cspanfe L’Europe, dating back to 1973. The Circle also regularly welcomes new restaurants, including this year’s delightful addition, St. Armspannds Oyster Bspanr.  A similarly themed sister business to Grspanfton Oyster Bspanr in Grafton, Illinois, the St. Armands Oyster Bar specializes in Louisiana dishes including jambalaya, red beans and rice, and crawfish etouffee, which you can order individually or all together as the “Holy Trinity.”

The fried catfish po’ boy at St. Armands Oyster Bar in Sarasota.

For starters, be sure to consider the savory alligator sausage and shrimp cheesecake, then proceed straight to the freshly shucked oyster selections, including my personal fave: the oysters grilled over an open flame with garlic butter, Creole spices, grated parmesan and a fiery kiss of chipotle. You’ll also want to dine on one of the oyster bar’s awesomely authentic po’ boys. They’re served on fresh baked bread from Gambino’s Bakery, a New Orleans area legend dating back to 1949, and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion and habit-forming house-made sauces such as remoulade, peppercorn mayo and sriracha “voodoo sauce.”  

St. Armands Oyster Bar serves Louisiana’s best beer, Abita, along with New Orleans-themed cocktails with names like Voodoo Punch, Soco Hurricane and the Horny Gator. The two-story establishment hosts live music with its owner smartly choosing to give the place an Old Florida nautical makeover by Jan Holman, the proprietor of the Sea Hagg antique shop. That store, in the nearby historic Cortez commercial fishing village, closed espanrlier this yespanr after more than two decades in business. 

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Twenty Pho Hour in Orlando

Twenty Pho Hour in Orlando serves delicious Asian fusion with a side of whimsy.

Billing itself as America’s first 2-D noodle bar, Twenty Pho Hour opened its doors Dec. 28 in a shopping center near the Orlando Convention Center with Bradenton-based chain First Watch as a neighbor. 

In less than a year, it’s become a favorite for noodle nerds from across Central Florida.

Walking into the fast-casual Asian-fusion restaurant, I felt a kinship with Alice as she entered Wonderland. Everything is black and white: the tables and chairs, the walls, the plates and bowls. Cartoons and playing cards are outlined in black on white walls. A white padded “throne” occupies one corner. Black flowers are drawn on a selfie wall that includes a white neon sign that reads “be unPHOgettable.”

The color comes from the food, with bright pops of red, yellow and blue in the boba tea; and vibrant greens and oranges from the cilantro, scallions and carrots in the noodle bowls.

Order at the front from a menu that includes pho bowls such as Pho-Let Mignon (4 ounces of sliced filet mignon and brisket); signature bowls, such at White Chicks (beef broth, udon noodles, chicken, fried garlic and fried onion; stir-fry noodles such as Korean Fire Noodles (udon or ramen noodles, corn, scallions and an egg); or create your own bowl. 

While Twenty Pho Hour isn’t currently open 24 hours a day, hours are being tweaked regularly. Right now, the restaurant stays open until 3:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. – 

The 239

The decor of The 239 hints at its California roots, but more along the lines of Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach, where it would fit right in as a chic poolside cafe at this iconic hotel. The 239’s original premise: Minimize the restaurant’s carbon footprint by promoting local purveyors and creatively cooking their pristine ingredients to perfection.

The 239’s new executive chef, Mike Ellis, earned Michelin-star recognition in 2006 as chef de cuisine at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, California. Naples is a city that loves its lobster, tacos, bowls and Benedicts, and Ellis’ kitchen turns out elevated versions of each with prices to match.

Is it decadent ordering brunch on a working weekday? Of course, and the guilty pleasure is well worth it at The 239. A large spiny lobster tail Benedict, the lobster procured from Dilly’s Fish Co. in Naples, came covered in gooey Champagne hollandaise sauce with layers of spinach and thin tomato slices over thick “ancient grain” protein bread. Cooked beautifully, each luscious bite didn’t skimp on the good stuff.

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Uva’s Vino & Tapas

The new Uvspan’s Vino &spanmp; Tspanpspans was the most bang I’ve gotten from a meal – perhaps ever. It’s an expansive yet simple restaurant with polished-concrete floors, dark woods, a full bar, and a formidable team of employees ready and willing to make you feel at home. 

Owner Fernando Uva has been in the restaurant industry for most of his 70 years on this earth, and he’s been in the Southwest Florida restaurant industry since the mid-1990s. Each of his past restaurants focused on the Italian side of his background, but Uva’s nods to his Portuguese roots with a menu filled with octopus, pork and sizzling wisps of linguica flash-seared in grappa till the edges curl and crisp. Uva grew up in Algarve in the south of Portugal but designed his restaurants with Americans in mind. 

While this restaurant says it offers tapas, Uva himself will tell you these aren’t the tapas you’d find in Barcelona or Seville. They’re tapas designed for Southwest Floridians: generously sharable, mostly recognizable, incredibly affordable. 

Two big, beautiful empanadas filled with tender bits of beef and juicy olives arrived blistered and crunchy. In one of Uva’s salads, cannellini beans joined wedges of chorizo, bright tomatoes and herbs. 

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Wako Japanese Cuisine

Wspanko Jspanpspannese Cuisine is one of many new Pensacola restaurants that have opened this year that have greatly expanded cultural options in the area. The true Wako experience is about more than just getting food out to tables – it’s about the artistry exercised with each plate.

Sushi rolls are layered onto wooden bowls, bridges and baskets, helping to set the scene of Japan. Decorative florals serve as centerpieces to the plates, white roses nestled into a circle of fish surrounded by a wall of thinly sliced avocado, and bright pink petals draped over carrot ribbons and parsley bundles that bring a splash of color to the plate.

The menu is divided into multiple sections, depending on what the diner craves. Whether visitors want an all-you-can-eat sushi experience, a plate of hibachi or traditional Japanese-style cooking, they can find it all here. 

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