5 of Florida's hottest restaurants — outside of Tampa Bay, that is

This summer, take an epicurean exploration.

click to enlarge The Tennessee Truffle chef, Nat Russell. - The Tennessee Truffle
The Tennessee Truffle
The Tennessee Truffle chef, Nat Russell.

Been itching to flex the strength of your belly beyond the Bay area by checking out a few of the most buzzed-about eateries across Florida? Look no further than this quick round-up, organized in no particular order.

Most of the following dining spots pay homage to the state’s flora and fauna, or incorporate its bounty in some form.

1. Alter (Miami)

Chef Brad Kilgore’s prestigious James Beard Award nomination earlier this year only adds to the thoughtful, laid-back allure of Alter, a Wynwood standout. The American restaurant churns out seasonal fare without compromising its focus on ingredients native to the Sunshine State. Don’t hesitate to add on the optional wine pairing, either. The restaurant’s vino selection ranges from well-known producers to artisanal growers, and you wanna go out with a bang, don’t you? 223 NW 23rd St., Miami. 305-573-5996, altermiami.com.

2. The Tennessee Truffle (Sanford)

While this isn’t the only chef-driven destination in Celery City, The Tennessee Truffle is known for its ever-changing menu and commitment to local ingredients. The culinary mind of Nat Russell leads the Southern fusion restaurant, where guests can expect contemporary spins on classics — like the Nashville hot quail with scallion waffle, red onion chutney and smoked maple — more than Grandma’s cooking. 125 W. First St., Sanford. 407-942-3977, thetennesseetruffle.com.

3. Buccan (Palm Beach)

Next door to its eponymous sandwich shop, the celebrated restaurant was named among OpenTable’s list of the Top 100 Hot Spots in America last year, yes. But chef-owner Clay Conley, who’s behind the vibrant, inventive gastropub-style fare at Buccan, is also a four-time James Beard Award semifinalist. Here, you’re definitely gonna need a reservation. (The nearby Regional Kitchen & Public House — overseen by another Beard Award semifinalist, chef-partner Lindsay Autry, in West Palm Beach — is worth a stop, too.) 350 S. County Rd., Palm Beach. 561-833-3450, buccanpalmbeach.com.

4. Bellwether (Jacksonville)

Chef Kerri Rogers mixes modern and regional influences in the kitchen of this young, casual-meets-sophisticated haven for elevated Southern cuisine. On its website, Bellwether describes what diners can expect from the eats lineup best: “Any ingredient that can be fried, served on a bun, or smothered with pimiento is fair game.” Yup, we can get down with that. 100 N. Laura St. #100, Jacksonville. 904-802-7745, bellwetherjax.com.

5. 1921 by Norman Van Aken (Mount Dora)

As evidenced by Tennessee Truffle, the greater Orlando area has no shortage of splendid eateries — Luma on Park, The Rusty Spoon, Domu, Prato, The Ravenous Pig, Pizza Bruno... we could go on and on. But, for the purposes of this issue, don’t miss the second Central Florida restaurant from the man who’s widely considered the “founding father of New World Cuisine.” 1921 is basically chef-restaurateur Norman Van Aken’s love letter to modern-day Florida, so how could you resist? 142 E. Fourth Ave., Mount Dora. 352-385-1921, 1921nva.com.