Blog · Top Cafes in Florida for Lunch, Brunch, or an Afternoon Treat

Top Cafes in Florida for Lunch, Brunch, or an Afternoon Treat

April 9, 2023
se7en bites bakery a great place to brunch in Orlando

With its laid-back sunny vibes, Florida is made for casual 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 on traditional cafes — think coffee and avocado toast — with a few twists, such as a cafe with a museum or the state’s top tearoom. And if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love the macarons, scones, cheesecakes, pies, crepes, and cakes thrown in for good measure.

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

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. MiMi’s Famous Crepes

Right off pedestrian-only Saint George Street in the heart of historic downtown St. Augustine,  MiMi’s Famous Crepes crafts the most delicious crepes you could dream of, both savory and sweet. They’re filling and fresh, perfect for an afternoon snack if you’re splitting with a friend but substantial enough for lunch on their own.

And the flavor combinations run the gamut. Here’s a peek: 

  • French Riviera: imported ham dressed up with mozzarella, fig jam, and arugula
  • Banana Crème Pie: the crepe version of this classic dessert, complete with Nilla wafers and caramel drizzle
  • Bacon & Brie: the ultimate combo
  • Neutral Ground: a vegetarian option of hummus, brie, balsamic tomatoes, and cucumber
  • Le Perfect Pear: pears getting fancy with melted brie, toasted almonds, and raspberry sauce 

I opted for the French Feast (shown above), their heartiest crepe, filled with roasted beef short rib and pulled chicken breast in a not-too-rich mushroom cream sauce and topped off with a fried egg and arugula. It’s the best savory crepe I’ve ever had — and I’ve lived in France.

If you want their amazing short ribs in a slightly lighter crepe, I recommend Napoleon’s Short Rib. It’s still plenty big for a solid lunch, and the red wine sauce on top is an especially nice complement to the slow-roasted meat.

The dessert, as expected for a creperie, stole the show. The Nutella & Strawberry is deservedly one of their most popular. If you’re a fruit-lover like me, then the Lemon De La Cream, stuffed with berries and lemon glaze, will delight you. In short, these crepes live up to their name: famous.

As a perk, this cafe has a secret garden oasis away from the crowds. It reminds me of a cross between tropical Florida and Old World Europe. In summer, the place is blooming, and the shady nooks are a welcome respite from the sun. 

Local tip: Kids will love these crepes, but if someone in your party prefers, they can grab a pretzel dog or other entree from Ben’s Soft Pretzels next door. Both counter-service restaurants share the same garden so you can eat together. 

3. 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 obligatory. 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.”

4. Impact Island Cafe

Here’s a fun take on a Florida cafe — a food truck that serves some of the best Caribbean fare around while working to make an impact in their community and overseas. That’s Impact Island Cafe.

This Ocala cafe on wheels has well over a hundred reviews praising its island cuisine, and they’re not wrong. If you like a little heat, get the jerk chicken. But the beef oxtail is also excellent, falling off the bone into a bed of beans and rice. Intersperse each beefy bite with a mouthful of sweet plantains and stir-fry veggies and you’ll understand how the sides, rice, and main together create an unforgettable medley of flavors.

jerk chicken platter at Ocala cafe food truck

Much of the menu is vegan, great for those avoiding meat, but this is food omnivores will love too. Try the Caribbean bowl with lentil loaf or (did I say or? I meant and) the barbecue cauliflower nuggets. Then grab a seat at one of the brightly colored picnic tables and dig in. They even have cute photo spots and lawn games.

This is a meal you can feel good about in a couple ways. First, it’s wholesome and healthy. Plus, you’re supporting a restaurant that supports nonprofit work helping kids in Haiti.

Local tip: For a refreshing treat, order their famous pineapple lemonade or mango smoothie. And if you’re feeling like a shake, sundae, or Dole soft serve, the Happy Pineapple food truck next-door.

5. 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.

6. Stone Cabin

Good news — we live in a world where there is white chocolate pistachio cheesecake. And cherry cobbler cheesecake. And maple bacon and lemon blueberry. Also:

  • Caramel macchiato
  • Key lime
  • Fruity Pebbles (below)
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough
  • S’mores
  • Blackberry cobbler

Stone Cabin has dreamed up some 140 mouthwatering cheesecake flavors, over a dozen of which they serve daily at their mountain country-themed cafe in Winter Haven. (Fruity Pebbles is shown above.) I tried the oatmeal cream pie cheesecake — the crust tastes exactly like a soft oatmeal cookie — and it was some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Seriously. 

Locals swear by this place. Go early for the most selection because popular flavors will sell out later in the day. Check their Facebook page to see what they have now. 

Along with cheesecake, there are other desserts like stuffed apples and cookies. Wash it down with their house blend coffee, a dark roast that’s robust and smooth, perfectly contrasting with the richness of the sweets.

Add this decadent cafe to your bucket list next time you’re in Winter Haven visiting Legoland or their free monthly water ski show. It’s a must!

News: Stone Cabin is opening another location in Lake Hamilton, expanded as a full-service Southern restaurant, complete with apple bar and their signature desserts and coffee. We’re excited.

7. Frisky Cat Cafe

I’ve been to several cat cafes in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and Frisky Cat Cafe in St. Augustine is among the best. It’s a true cafe — relaxed and airy, good coffee, good people. The twist is that as you sit and sip, you might share your seat with a cat or two.

The cafe operates as a nonprofit, working to find homes for adorable felines rescued from kill shelters. They typically have over 30 cats, each available for adoption. The room is filled with toys and cat trees, and the cats are happy to interact with you, especially if you have a feather on a string or want to give head rubs. 

One of the things that makes the cafe so great is how it’s set up for the maximum comfort of cats and guests. Kittens are in a separate room to keep them safe, but it also gives you a quieter place to play with these tumbling tykes or just soak up the cuteness. Shyer cats are behind a curtain in their own space because Frisky Cat recognizes that not every cat is super social. And the comfortable places to sit mean you can also relax with a drink and snack as you watch the furry residents show off, alternating between Zen masters and acrobats.

Speaking of snacks, get the macarons. They serve other bakery items, but these confections are flown in from New York, and they’re truly outstanding. They’re not overly sweet so the flavors shine through in a way I’ve never had before in a macaron: espresso, raspberry, honey lavender, rose lychee. Almond was my favorite, but I recommend getting a few to sample.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

If you’re in Orlando, you need to go. Enough said.

11. 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