One hot, muggy, Florida summer day in July, my girlfriend and I wanted to check out a place we’d read about called Rainbow Springs in the town of Dunnellon. Driving about an hour north of Orlando, we decided to stop for lunch first because a good ole’ afternoon thunderstorm had made its way into the area, so we knew we had some time to pass before we would be able to venture into the springs for a dip.
As we drove through the quaint little town, we suddenly found ourselves engulfed in a blinding downpour, so we quickly scanned the area for a nearby local eatery and had recalled seeing a place called Swampy’s that looked interesting when we first arrived in town. I turned the car around and circled back, as the relentless droplets continued to hit hard on my windshield. It was a bar and grille with southern flair, but also a kayak rental facility. There was an outdoor patio situated right on the banks of the Rainbow River, but we made our way indoors promptly to shield ourselves from the rain.
I expected the food to be mediocre at first, typical bar food quality. But when I picked up the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see many intriguing offerings. I ordered the Mahi & Shrimp Orleans entree for $14.99. It was simply delicious, the mahi melted in my mouth and I even had some leftover to take home with me. Other popular favorites on the menu included alligator soup, gator salad, fried pickles, cajun peanuts, gator po’boy, Mardi Gras chicken poppers, jambalaya and Swampy’s étouffée.
After finishing our meal, we waited out the rain by chatting up some of the locals at a table nearby who told us about the other hot spots to go for kayaking, snorkeling and swimming. Through the windows, we watched a few folks floating down the river in inner tubes, rafts, and small watercraft. The extra precipitation didn’t seem to bother them one bit. We even saw a family dock up to come have a meal at this infamous eatery and leave their pup on guard duty in the boat, after all, you gotta keep watch out for those alligators 🙂
An hour or so later, the rain had finally stopped. Our food had settled and we were ready to continue on to our original destination. It was pretty late in the day by now and we were just excited to take a refreshing dip in the clear blue spring water. Usually, around this time of year, the ocean water temperature is pretty high, but the many natural springs located throughout Florida stay a refreshing 72 degrees almost year round. Isn’t the water color here just gorgeous?!
I love stumbling across great local restaurants in unexpected places. Swampy’s, with its raw beauty of a Florida river swamp theme and excellent selection of Southern food, did not disappoint.
Best local food stop you’ve ever stumbled on by accident? Write me about it!