As a Sunshine State native, "only in Florida" is a phrase that has started to make me cringe.
More often than not it's used to announce news that some goofball decided to stop at the drive-through window at McDonald's in the middle of a police chase or something. It's my theory that many of these bozos moved here from somewhere else, so it's not really fair to make them ambassadors for our state.
Instead, I'd rather reserve the "only in Florida" designation for distinctive treasures such as DeLeon Springs State Park, a lovely landmark about a dozen miles north of DeLand on U.S. Highway 17 in southwest Volusia County. Maybe it's because it's right in my Central Florida backyard, but it had been a while since I had been to the park, famous for its grill-your-own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle.
The pancake operation is still in full swing, but I arrived way after breakfast and the latest heat wave didn't exactly help my craving for flapjacks. Nevertheless, watching the families concoct their custom pancakes was almost enough to make me change my mind.
The menu features all-you-can-eat pancakes for $4.50 per person, made with unbleached white flour and the Sugar Mill's own blend of five fresh stone-ground flours. The tasty discs come accompanied by raw honey, syrup and molasses. For an extra $1.75, a diner can add apples or banana slices, blueberries, applesauce, pecans, peanut butter or chocolate chips.
There also are a variety of salads and sandwiches available at the restaurant, which is open 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends and holidays. Reservations are available for parties of 10 or more by calling 386-985-5644.
While I wasn't tempted by breakfast on my visit, the 72-degree spring waters were impossible to resist. The circular swimming hole is ringed by a paved walkway that leads to grassy sunbathing areas. There's a stand to rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boats and a visitor center, where I found a perfect rocking chair to spend time with the book I had brought along.
Visit floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings or call 386-985-4212 for more details. And arrive early enough to crave the pancakes.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun