Being from Chicago, a love of good food was instilled in me. There’s nothing quite as nice as going out to a restaurant, turning your phone off, and enjoying good company and a good meal. So, I’ve made my own “Top 10 Best Places to Eat in Ocala” list, OK, so maybe not a “top 10” list, but my families favorite spots to eat in Ocala.
🌯#10- Latinos Y Mas
This restaurant serves Latin fusion food in a beautiful Spanish setting. You start with chips and salsa and a menu so large that you will have trouble deciding what to have. They run lunch specials through the week and often offer specials like kids eat free on Mondays. One of the stand outs here is the mango salsa that they serve with some of their fish specialties.
Favorite dishes: chimichanga, tacos, Pauls blackened mero
Latinos Y Mas Reviews
🍔#9- Charlie Horse
Is it a family restaurant? Is it a biker bar? Is it an entertainment venue? It’s all of those things! Charlie Horse is a good ole down home burger place with great food and attracts all sorts of folks from families to the guys on the Harleys. One of the great things about Charlie Horse is that it is consistent! You always know what you are getting and you know it will taste great. They also have an outdoor seating patio that houses local live entertainment almost every evening. I can also say, the servers here are always nice. You just don’t go wrong when you go to Charlie Horse – it’s good all the way around.
Favorite dishes: wings, burgers
Charlie Horse Reviews
🍗#8- The Mojo Grill
There are a few Mojo’s around town and one thing that you can always be sure of is the quality of the food. It’s always consistently good. The atmosphere is sometimes a bit louder than we prefer, but if you get in there at the right time, you can have a conversation at the table. If you like trivia, family nights and bands at night, Mojo’s is definitely the spot for you. I also have to mention that the owner is one of the most charitable, well loved guys in Ocala.
Favorite dishes: Rondo’s chef salad, The “big daddy” burger, pulled pork nachos
🍽#7- Sonny’s BBQ
You can’t have a top food list without mentioning Sonny’s. It’s the tried and true, reliable failsafe of Ocala. If people aren’t raving about the bbq, they are raving about the sweet tea. I took my Chicago native in-laws there during a recent visit and everyone was so intent on their meal that you could hear a pin drop. My kids are all about the mac and cheese, baked beans and corn bread muffins. There’s truly something for everyone.
Favorite dishes: family feast, Sonny’s steakburger, signature pulled pork
Sonny’s BBQ Reviews
🍚#6- Great Wall
This is one of my new favorites. Located in Six Gun Plaza, we had no idea it even existed. I was reading a review one day and people mentioned how friendly the owners are so we went in and found it to be incredibly true. The food in itself is good, though many Chinese eateries can boast that. But the owners make all the difference. On our first trip in they were sure to give us free stuff to try, as well as their homemade sauces. You can get Chinese food just about anywhere, but here you get it with kindness and a smile!
Favorite dishes: Mongolian chicken, sesame chicken, sweet and sour chicken
4901 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470
Great Wall Reviews
🌮#5- Las Margarita’s
This is our new favorite date spot in Ocala. We heard from friends that it was good food and a good atmosphere, and we were glad that we decided to give it a shot for ourselves. They have lunch specials that are a great value, but even at dinner time, it’s not going to hurt your pocket book too much. The quality is great and you feel like you are in a little eatery in Mexico, right here in Ocala.
Favorite dishes: chimichanga, flautas mexicana, crunchy taco
Las Magaritas Reviews
🌮#4- Tijuana Flats
This place is one of my wife’s and my favorite lunch places, and lunch places deserve a spot on the list, too! You can’t beat Two Taco Tuesday where you get two large tacos, chips and a drink for $6. The food is tasty and if you don’t mind a small crowd, it’s worth every penny. They also have Burrito Thursday for the same price.
Favorite dishes: Two tacos on Tuesday
Tijuana Flats Reviews
🏖#3- Eaton’s Beach
If you like the beach and good food, this is the place to go. It’s a little out of the way, down by Lake Weir, but we’ve heard several comments like “best shrimp and grits” or “best chicken and waffles” or, “best cajun sweet fried chicken”. Well, many people may not have said best Cajun sweet fried chicken since this is the only place I’ve seen it, but that’s my favorite. The atmosphere is happy, it is on the beach after all, and the staff are friendly and helpful. It’s an overall great experience.
Favorite dishes: Cajun sweet fried chicken, the Weir burger, chicken n waffles
Eaton’s Beach Reviews
🍕#2- Belleview Pizza
Worth the extra few minutes of drive time. Being from Chicago, one of our “musts” was to find good pizza. That proved to be quite a task in Ocala. We finally found Belleview Pizza one day and we were so pleasantly surprised. Everyone thinks deep dish when they think of Chicago pizza, but Chicago is also known for it’s cracker crust thin pizza cut in squares. Nobody in Ocala does this as well as Belleview Pizza. If you want true Chicago style, ask for it cut in squares! This family owned and operated business runs cash only, so don’t rely on your plastic here.
Favorite dishes: large sausage thin crust pizza cut in squares, large cheese thin crust pizza cut in squares
5428 SE Abshier Blvd, Belleview, FL 34420
Belleview Pizza Reviews
When you think of being number one on Tripadvisor, you don’t think food truck … but yep, Big Lee’s is rated number one in Ocala and comes right out of the side of a truck. They serve up home smoked BBQ and sides made fresh by the owner and his wife. While standing in line (and there is almost always a line since this BBQ is only available on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 til the food is gone) don’t be surprised to see the owner out talking to the folks while they wait. Now you’re going to pay a little more than you would at your average road side vendor, but the lines indicate it’s worth every penny.
Favorite dishes: pulled pork, brisket, mac and cheese
Big Lee’s BBQ Reviews
Read Alison O.‘s review of Big Lee’s – Serious About Barbecue on Yelp
Read Steven C.‘s review of Big Lee’s – Serious About Barbecue on Yelp
Honorable Mention: Hungry Bear. One of the things we noticed that Ocala needed was a good milk shake! Then we found Hungry Bear. It seems that they are famous for their strawberry shake, but good ole’ chocolate is my favorite. Some people claim they have the best burger, some claim they have the worst … but the shakes are what it’s all about.
🚗Out of Area Florida Favorites
I couldn’t put out a restaurant list with out some of our favorite non-local Chicago places that you can get to in the state of Florida. By far, the top of this list is Portillos in Tampa. When ever we go home to Chicago to visit family, this is our first stop. They offer Chicago style hotdogs (there’s no ketchup allowed on a Chicago dog!), cheesy beef sandwiches (get them dipped!) and the best chocolate shakes around. If you’re in the Tampa area, this is a must stop. Also, Giordano’s in Orlando will get you true Chicago style deep dish pizza. It takes about 40 minutes for one of these to bake, so don’t go there if you’re in a hurry and only go when you are really hungry! You won’t want to stop eating the cheesy goodness whether you choose deep dish or thin crust. They have them both! Finally, if you can’t choose and are in the Clearwater area, Paul’s Chicago Pizza has the best of both worlds. You can get hot dogs, beef sandwiches and famous Chicago style pizza all in one spot, and it’s authentic and tasty! The decor is full of Chicago sports memorabilia and the owner is a true Chicago native. It’s a great find for any Chicagoan missing the food from home.
Finally, I have to mention, that my top three, OK, maybe my top 10, could change order on any given day. We like to have a variety of places to choose from, and coming from Chicago, the bar is pretty high. But we also like places that are comfortable, don’t cost a fortune and are consistent with quality and menu. My wife almost always has the same meal at each place and I love to try new dishes, so these places give us flexibility and reliability that we are both happy with. There are so many great places to eat in Ocala though …. So comment and let us know what your favorite is or perhaps… your “Top 10” : )