Regular readers of this column know that dining is a prime motivation in plotting the road trips that inspire these Florida postcards.
Whether it's crab-cake sandwiches at the Baltimore Orioles spring-training stadium in Sarasota or smoked mullet at the iconic Ted Peters Smoked Fish in Gulfport, this road warrior has a knack for noshing on interesting fare.
Thankfully, Florida is blessed with plenty of distinctive, homegrown restaurants suitable for the itinerary of day-tripping drivers. I was reminded of that again on a recent excursion in rural Lake County, a scenic loop through Howey-in-the-Hills, Groveland, Mascotte and Yalaha.
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10400 County Road 48, Howey-in-the-Hills, FL 34737, USA
I stopped for a quick lunch at Nicker's at the Mission Inn Resort & Club (missioninnresort.com), at the junction of State Road 19 and County Road 48 in Howey-in-the Hills. It's one of four restaurants at the Mission Inn, a 1,000-acre golf and tennis resort accented by Spanish architecture, spring-fed lakes and majestic oaks. The choices include signature fine dining at El Conquistador and a Sunday champagne brunch at La Hacienda.
My half-sized turkey sandwich on rye at Nicker's ($9.10, with chips and a drink) was casual and cool at my table next to a picture window overlooking a fairway. The golf, as well as the spa and other resort amenities are available to visitors and resort guests.
Mission Inn makes a nice centerpiece for an afternoon drive among the scenic orange groves and lakes. Take S.R. 19 south for a look at the orange groves of the aptly named Groveland. Go west on State Road 50 to find the quaint business districts of Mascotte and Brooksville.
From the Mission Inn, Yalaha Bakery (yalahabakery.com) is less than five miles west on C.R. 48. Skip dessert at lunch and leave room for an apple streusel or cookies in the quiet courtyard of this authentic German bakery. Blue Bayou Farms (bluebayoufarms.com), the produce stand next door, is closed during the summer but will reopen in the fall with its selection of berries, vegetables and honey.
B.C.'s General Store also took a summer break, but next month it will resume offering the finest roadside 'cue that you'll ever taste as well as the chance to browse quirky trinkets. The delightfully weathered barbecue restaurant, between the Mission Inn and the bakery on C.R. 48, is generally open afternoons, Thursdays-Saturdays.