If you’re not looking for it, chances are you’ll drive right by it. It’s one of those places that could pass for a tourist trap but is actually a hidden gem favored by locals. Located right off highway US 275, The Citrus Place sits on a corner lot of a Florida orange grove just north of Bradenton. My partner (also a fellow foodie) had recommended I check out The Citrus Place when I had first brainstormed my food and writing adventure. She had read reviews over the years that boasted about the hand-picked oranges and grapefruits but most notably, the orange-infused soft serve ice cream. While I am not a huge fan of orange-flavored foods, I had to put The Citrus Place on the top of my list – if not for the oranges, for the intrigue.
From the outside, the building looks like a typical roadside fruit stand painted in faded, hand-drawn orange tree illustraions that can’t help but make you smile. The inside hasn’t seen a makeover in probably 30 years and resembles more of a church basement than a locally hailed juice stand. But the products are 100% Florida and 100% delicious.
I open the door and am joyfully greeted by an older woman behind the cash register. She’s kind, warm and would make a perfect Mrs. Clause. While the building itself is large, the variety of product inside is not. I b-line to the refrigerators in the back where all of the fresh juices are housed and pick out a half-gallon jug of fresh Florida grapefruit juice. I love, love, love grapefruits. (Before “U-Hauling” with my partner, I had both a pink and a white grapefruit tree in my backyard at my old house that I reaped the benefits of each morning. The juice was fantastic…and made for delicious mimosas.) Walking around the store, I check out the tacky knick-knacks and all things orange: orange flavored popcorn, orange candy, handpicked oranges and even those stiff red plastic produce bags that bulk oranges come in. I spot the soft serve machine in the corner and much to my delight, today’s special flavor (in addition to orange) is key lime! The cheerful woman behind the register makes me up a small cup of carefully twisted key lime pie ice cream and with my half gallon of liquid gold. For under $10 I have a fantastic snack that is not only grown locally but truly reflects the flavors of Florida.
The Citrus Place: 7200 US-19, Terra Ceia – open Tuesday-Saturday 8:30m-5:30pm