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Blog · Top Cafes in Florida for a Memorable Lunch or Brunch

Top Cafes in Florida for a Memorable Lunch or Brunch

By Cheryl Rodewig
se7en bites bakery a great place to brunch in Orlando

With its laid-back beach vibes (even when you’re not on the coast), Florida is made for casual, indulgent dining at bright, cozy cafes.

Sure, there are plenty of restaurants for a night out on the town, but you can fill up on truly excellent cuisine at the eateries on this list without ditching your flip-flops, if you choose. Service is fast and friendly, fitting conveniently into busy days of sightseeing (or lounging) as you explore the state’s top destinations, from Orlando to Key West.

For this list, we’ll focus mainly on traditional cafes — think coffee and avocado toast — with a few extras thrown in, such a cafe with a museum and the state’s best tearoom.

Hungry yet? Here are the top cafes in Florida for your next lunch, brunch, or culinary escape.

1. Sunburst Cafe

Sunburst Cafe

Stepping into Sunburst Cafe suits the name: it’s like a burst of sunshine radiating from the colorful pillows, 18-foot mural of Costa Rica, bright chatter, and happy faces. Diners have every reason to smile. Whether your plate is piled with chocolate chip pancakes or you choose their lighter Sunburst Trio of three scoops of chicken, tuna, egg, or shrimp salad with fruit and crackers, it’s fresh and satisfying.

They serve breakfast, brunch, and lunch daily, from 7 a.m. till 2 p.m., and the menu ranges from avocado toast to power bowls to gyros. As part of the Blue Zones project, they have a special focus on healthy fare, which is a refreshing change of pace when you’re traveling. They also offer vegan options, a kid’s menu, and a pup-friendly patio.

Sunburst Cafe

f you’re a coffee drinker, try the cappuccino or one of the flavored variations — I recommend the butter beer. Either is best when accompanied by a pastry. Their offerings change regularly, but you can’t go wrong with the orange cranberry muffin.

2. Lavender ‘n Lace Tearoom

While most of the places on this list serve coffee as the hot beverage of choice, there’s nothing like a steaming pot of tea to start your day, especially when the ambiance is as charming as that of Lavender ‘n Lace Tearoom in Lake Alfred, a quiet city about 30 minutes north of the Legoland theme park. 

Housed in a lilac-hued 1920s home surrounded by live oaks dripping Spanish moss, the tearoom is elegantly decorated with lace curtains, teacups, porcelain, and paintings. Ornaments hang from the ceiling, and flowers arch over doorways. Outside is a shaded porch with more seating and antiques, leading you gently to a gift shop where you can browse the cookbooks, lavender products, and other souvenirs.

But as Instagrammable as it all is, it’s not the decor that draws folks from across the state and beyond. People come for a memorable “cuppa” and lunch. Founded over 35 years ago, the family-run tearoom was inspired by the world travels of merchant marine captain Hafeez Bajwa. The menu, a fusion of Creole, Southern, and British cuisine, reflects recipes passed down through generations. You might try the hearty and warm cottage pie, dolloped with mashed potatoes, or the chicken salad plate, surrounded by wonderfully sweet fresh fruit. (It’s some of the best chicken salad I’ve had in more than 20 years of living in the South, and that’s saying something!)

Of course, a cup of premium loose leaf tea, accompanied by freshly made scones, is a must. The teas here are so much more than the Earl Grey you might know. I enjoyed the snow monkey plum with its hint of safflower, but there’s also blackcurrant, ginger peach, Tibetan raspberry, and mango mist, among others. Finish with a tangy-sweet lemon blueberry cheesecake or one of their many other housemade desserts.

It’s somehow magical. The owner of the tearoom, Tabina Bajwa, sums it up well.

“The seat of power in food — its soul and expertise — has always begun at home … where the trading and sharing of food knowledge and recipes tells a story of creativity, grace, and care,” Bajwa said. “We want to create an inimitable experience and space where guests can enjoy and take time to admire the serene atmosphere and rich mix of life that pulses throughout Lavender ‘n Lace. In seeing the world as it is, we hope to still live beyond it.”

3. Mallie Kyla’s Café

Mallie Kyla's Café

Like coming home, expect a warm welcome and an excellent meal at Mallie Kyla’s Café

This beloved lunchtime spot, located in the historic Hawkins House near downtown Brooksville, has all the homey vibes: eclectic decor, hearty servings, genuinely friendly smiles greeting you. There are teapots on the window seat, cross stitch and chalkboard menus on the walls. And cakes, mammoth ones, generously frosted and perched on pedestals, begging you to try a slice. 

But those come later. First, you can choose among their soups, salads and sandwiches. The daily soups are deeply satisfying. I loved the beef and barley, and my only regret is not trying the split pea. Other favorite dishes include the Cobb salad, chicken salad loaded with pecans and bacon, and a gobbler sandwich that tastes like Thanksgiving.

Mallie Kyla's Café

Don’t ignore their daily specials. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Friday, maybe a Saturday, try their seafood bake (shown above), a rice casserole of shrimp and crab that manages to be incredibly cheesy but not overly so. It’s great with a salad. They make their dressings in house, probably the best ranch I’ve ever tasted. 

Save room for dessert. There are brownies and pies, but it’s the cakes that are legendary. They’re moist and huge and shareable. If you struggle to choose, you can’t go wrong with their popular hummingbird flavor, a carrot cake gussied up with pineapple and banana. In a word: delicious. 

They’re open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Go early to beat the locals.

4. Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters

Cafes and coffee are almost synonymous. (In French, they’re actually the same word, which is an excellent thing to ponder as you sip a café au lait at a Parisian café.) But not all cafes serve good coffee. A very few serve great coffee. Such a one is Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters

With four locations in Citrus County, this coffee roaster makes one stellar cup of joe, be it iced or hot. I recommend their cappuccino — not a hint of bitterness and just the right froth. Pair it with one of their pastries made fresh on site, such as a biscotti, scone or muffin, and you have a wonderful morning ahead of you.

But you’d be missing out if you didn’t stay for a meal. My breakfast bagel was the best thing I ate that week, and the chicken salad had just the right tartness from the cranberries and nutty sweetness from the pecans. All around, their sandwich game is epic. Here are two examples so you’ll see what I mean.

  • Southern Piggy Biscuit Bread: Three-cheese biscuit, black bean spread, cranberry chipotle BBQ pulled pork, baby arugula, house-made pickles, charred onion, Boursin cheese
  • Steak and Wild Mushroom Panini: Pan-seared sirloin steak, garlic mushrooms, potato scallion pancake, bleu cheese, Dijon tarragon sauce

They also offer vegetarian options and gluten-free bread, and their Crystal River spot is the cutest, located in a historic house with a covered porch. It really is “where friends come to meet” as their slogan says.

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters

Get their hours, shop from more than 20 single-origin coffees, and more on their website.

Wondering where Citrus County is? The name might not ring a bell, but it’s only 90 minutes northwest of Orlando and famous as the only place in the country where you can legally swim with manatees.

5. Beach Belly Bob’s Sandwich Shop

Beach Belly Bob's Sandwich Shop

There are sandwich shops, and then there’s Beach Belly Bob’s Sandwich Shop. This no-frills Flagler Beach eatery is right off Ocean Shore Boulevard and serves some of the tastiest, most creative sandwiches and wraps around.

To give you a virtual taste of the variety, take a glance at the lineup. 

  • The Miami: A Cubano with slow-cooked mojo pork, ham, and provolone. 
  • The Beach Bum: Meatloaf with honey wheat beer caramelized onions, mushrooms, gouda, and honey horseradish
  • The Cork: corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss on rye
  • The Gulfport: Cajun grilled shrimp and banana peppers on a toasted hoagie

And more. There’s a muffaletta, a seasonal shepherd’s pie, a chicken philly, and that’s just for starters. I was enchanted with the Flagler Beach, a blend of fish, spinach, broccoli, green beans, peppers, cheddar cheese, coconut cream, and soy sauce. I confess to being confused why this pressed wrap is as good as it is, but these flavors just work.

And Beach Belly Bob is always innovating. I visited the day he created the “Marry Me” Chicken Sandwich, a cutlet topped with melted provolone, garlic butter cream sauce, capers, and sundried tomatoes — good enough for a proposal.

But if you’re stumped, just order the Venice. This fresh chicken cutlet, rolled in cracker crumbs and herbs, cooked in olive oil, topped with fresh lemon butter cream sauce, and slid between two halves of a parmesan encrusted ciabatta roll, accounts for almost a quarter of their sandwich sales.

Eat outside to enjoy the ocean views. It’s magic.

6. Se7en Bites

Saying Se7en Bites is a neighborhood favorite undersells it, although this Milk District brunch staple is so popular with locals that there’s often a line out the door. 

But it’s also been featured on national TV with the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Guy Fieri himself proclaimed their Vanilla Bean Bourbon Bacon Moon Pie “legit,” and he loved another pie, too: the flaky and heartwarming chicken pot pie.

Se7en Bites

I can attest to the delights of the latter. It’s the crust that sets it apart. However, if you can only order one meal here, make it the buttermilk fried chicken. I’m generally not a fan of fried chicken — or fried anything as a rule — but this chicken is something else. It’s not greasy, just good. And when it comes with a homemade biscuit, you’ll finally know what happiness is.

Se7en Bites

The casual setting is perfect for families. The line, assuming there is one, moves with clockwork efficiency. Meanwhile, the baked goods and libations like mimosas and bloody marys perfectly round out your meal. This is one brunch you’ll remember for a long time to come.

7. Chocolate Museum & Cafe

Chocolate Museum & Cafe

If you’re near I-Drive where so many of Orlando’s attractions are and looking to lunch a little differently, check out the Chocolate Museum & Cafe.

For an extra fee, you can take a guided tour of their museum, which includes the 3,500-year history of cacao beans, candy making equipment, chocolate trivia, and chocolate sculptures ranging from the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal. At the end, sample some of the premium bars and decadent hot chocolate.

It’s just a taste of what you can get in the cafe. They have an on-site chocolatier who creates chocolate candies in a rainbow of flavors. The hazelnut truffle is classic while the chili version brings serious heat. They have plenty of desserts, too, such as the rich Peanut Butter Explosion and the affogato for something less sweet.

Chocolate Museum & Cafe

With all of that to choose from, you’ll be glad there’s savory items for lunch or dinner. A pressed panini is the best way to prepare your palate for what’s to come. Their sandwiches are fairly priced and thoroughly delicious.

Chocolate Museum & Cafe