When Did South Florida Become a Food Mecca?

Written by Eli Lehrer on Thursday September 15, 2011

I spend a lot of time--mostly on business--in South Florida. Tuesday night I was across the street from one of only six Skyline Chili locations outside of metropolitan Cincinnati (all of them in Florida). I ate some authentic St. Louis style BBQ ribs with onions that was just like what you'd get in the Mound City. For reasons I can't figure out, South Florida has become a true mecca for regional foods.

South Florida is also the base of the only locations of the Giordano's chain that serve true Chicago-style deep dish pizza outside of the State of Illinois. New England-style marinated steak tips are on a lot of restaurant menus here but difficult to find outside of the old Northeast. The list of American regional specialties difficult to find outside of their hometowns but widely available in South Florida easily goes on.

Obviously, the huge numbers transplants, retirees, and tourists in South Florida explain a big part of this phenomenon. But I wonder if that's the whole story. Austin, Texas is a fast-growing cosmopolitan city with lots of transplants and many retirees (although fewer tourists than South Florida) and has an exciting food scene--the Salt Lick BBQ, breakfast tacos--of its own. Its residents, in fact, have the highest average dining out-budgets in the country.

But, best as I know (I'm a frequent visitor) there are few places to get American regional specialties. Las Vegas, even in its downturn, has the best fine dinning restaurants in the country, tons of great chefs flown in from all over the world, more tourists and an even larger percentage of migrants per capita than South Florida. But American regional specialties are few and far between in Sin City. So what makes South Florida special?