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Jul 4, 2006 05:07 PM

Downtown Orlando

A friend and I will be visiting Orlando for the first time, staying near Orange Blossom Trail and Colonial (which appears to be close to downtown). We like all kinds of quality food, with preferences for creative, non-chain, local flair, fun atmosphere (not stuffy, but not filled with families with screaming kids). I'm still learning to navigate this new board, so I hope I'm not duplicating a request that appeared too recently. Our visit isnt' until the end of July, so take your time in responding. Thanks, in advance! (Also, I know it is frowned upon, but any side comments on culturally fun stuff would be welcomed.)

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  1. There are literally hundreds of posts on this board that deal with this topic.
    Not sure either about the new format. It has pluses and minuses, and I do like the interface instead of the clunky old style.
    Try Googleing some of the appropriate words in combination with chowhound and Florida and see what comes up. Or try the search feature. I don't know if its better than the old boards -- but it would almost have to be, wouldn't it?

    Other than the place I'm guessing you are staying at, the immediate area around you is pretty culturally deprived. There's an O-Boys barbecue on Colonial a bit east of SOBT, and a pretty good vegetarian place called the Garden Cafe pn the other side of Colonial near the BUrger King, but that's about it.

    You are a bit west of downtown, however, about 10 minutes drive. Do not walk.

    You'll find a dozen interesting places downtown. They range from Cafe Annie, a Greek buffet/breakfast and lunch place with really good, really cheap food and Detroit Joe's, which features Detroit-style chili dogs (like Cincinnati-style) to some decent, upscale places such as the Boheme at the Westin, Kres for steak and seafood, Ichiban and Shari Sushi, Hue, etc. The Thornton Park area on the east side of downtown is very quaint and eclectic. It's by no means South Beach, but its about as close at it comes in Orlando. No clubs, but good restaurants and some shopping.
    In fact, there's a new place called Midnight Bistro on Washington -- dinner only -- that's quite nice, although brand new.

    Again, Google "chowhound" with florida, orlando, restaurant or downtown and see what you get. Hopefully you'll also get some good answers to your post as well.

    If you have a car, of course, and don't mind driving, that opens up a ton more places.
    Any kind of food you like or hate? Price an issue?


    5 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mervine

      I've found the search feature here to work very well. Give it a try! :-)

      If you like Vietnamese, there's a Little Saigon neighborhood on Colonial (I believe just east of I-4). Search that on this board and you'll find some good rec's, including bubble tea places.

      Also, if you don't mind fighting the Colonial traffic a bit, I had great sushi at Origami, in a strip mall behind a Burger King at Colonial and Alafaya.

      1. re: Bob Mervine

        We will have a car, and the only food I don't care for is Ethiopian. Price is not an object, but I find some of the higher-priced places to be less fun (because everyone is so worried about having that oh-so-special meal instead of just relaxing and enjoying themselves). I definitely would not want to have to dress up more than nice slacks and shirt -- definitely no jacket and/or tie. Yeach! Any I will take more time to explore this new format -- I'm sure it's better than the old one, but like everything, just takes some getting used to. Anyway, thanks for your suggestions, and any others you care to provide.

        1. re: ClevelandRandy

          Orlando is bipolar.

          You have regular Orlando, which includes areas such as downtown, College Park, Winter Park, even Lake Mary. You also have the tourist areas, which ripple out from Disney and include I-Drive, our city's Restaurant Row (West Sand Lake Road), and the Kissimmee area.
          You can do very well by staying close to home or, if adventureous, try a couple of nights on the tourist side of town.
          Don't be alarmed. Underneath the sun screen and shorts, they are people too. In fact, come to think of it, you all are tourists -- you just aren't staying in tourist world.

          That end of town has some of our best restaurants.
          Victoria & Albert's at Disney, the Venetian Room, Norman's and Primo at the Grande Lakes, for instance.
          Also a lot of ethnic food as well, and a lot of places designed for a fun experience -- which is why tourists come to Orlando.

          As for Ethiopian food, there have been at least three attempts to bring the cuisine here, all unsuccessful. Perhaps a more upscale restaurant could make it, but these was badly located and not high-enough quality to survive in a very competititve restaurant town.

          Casual is the name of the game here for dress. People dress up because they want to. You'll see guys with ballcaps and t-shirts eating at Emeril's Orlando, in CityWalk. Slacks and a nice shirt will get you anywhere -- I can only think of a couple of places that require jackets for men -- and never a tie.

          Do some more research and then come back and hone in on some places that seem interesting and we'll give you our opinions.


          1. re: Bob Mervine

            Bob: Thanks much. On your suggestion, I've narrowed it down a bit. For upscale-ish/downtown-ish: Boheme, Hue, Harveys, Bravissimo, Il Pescatore, Coq au Vin. Any thoughts on these?Also interested if there is any stand-out places in the Vietnamese/Asian area on Colonial.

            1. re: ClevelandRandy

              Boheme has a great bar. Within the last year, the head chef of this restaurant got bumped to a corporate position and was replaced by his sous chef, a wonderful, Cajun-trained man named Zachary Martin who makes beautiful, tasty food. However the menu is not Cajun, it's what us old tmers liked to call Continental, with a strong American influence. I recommend it.
              Hue is more chic than substance. There are some very good items, but this is a place more about the scene than the cuisine. I dont hate it -- I eat here a lot because it's close and still stylish. There's also a great bar -- see if Stix is working if you go in.
              I like the crispy oysters and whatever the fresh fish is. The lobster bisque is good, there a very nice roasted duck and, for carnivorees, try the filet. Chop chop salad is also a standard. Don't eat dessert, walk around the corner to Il GelatOne for the best Italian ice cream in the universe.
              Harvey's is more old school. Steak tartare, a wonderful onion, ale and gouda soup, meatloaf, wonderful angel hair pasta with things like duck and wild mushrooms, always some fresh fish. But Orlando-clubby.
              Bravissimo is intimate French, mostly locals, neighborhood folks and regulars. It is about to be sold to become God knows what, so call to be sure they are open and the old owners are still there. Can't promise anything if they have changed hands.
              Il Pescatore is old-style family Italian. They have successfully survived an ownership change and continue to put out good food. Try the octopus appetizer and the snapper in brown butter. A lot of seafood, a lot of noise, crowded tables, but fun in the old fashioned family style Italian way.
              I love Coq Au Vin and truthfully don't know how much longer chef Louis Perrotte will be around to provide some of the best country French food in the area. If for nothing else, eat (dinner only, now) here if you can only to be able to say that you did.


      2. For breakfast, try the Breakfast Club 63 Pine St 407-843-1559. Their omelettes are great and so are their pancakes- order just one unless you are REALLY hungry- they are the size of your plate.

        1. Thanks for the wonderful run-down! We'll make our selections and report back.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ClevelandRandy

            Any thoughts on K? The menu looks interesting, especially the cheese selection. So far we've booked Boheme and Coq au Vin.

            1. re: ClevelandRandy

              K is innovative, fun and intimate. They recently expanded so they can handle about 50-60 people. Service can vary, depending on the time and who you get. Definitely in the ballpark with you first two choices -- as far as the food goes -- I'd describe it as being like Hue without all the posing and better food. Beet and wine only, also, I think. Here's Web site if you haven't been there already. <>