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Help in Orlando

I am going to Orlando for 5 days and have yet to find anything better Pizzeria Uno to eat. Can you recommend anything (no Disney restaurants, please!) for a decent dinner?

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  1. I'm sorry that out of the thousands of high-quality restaurants in Orlando, you don't think anything is worthy. But this board is spilling over with great information on Orlando restaurants of all price points and cuisines. I know the search function on CH has been spotty this week, but those threads should be on the first two pages or so of this board.

    Since Orlando is a rather large metropolitan area, if you need specific help we'd like to know a) if you have a car, where you're staying and how far you're willing to drive; b) price/cuisine preferences; c) any special needs, like kid-friendly, large groups or dietary restrictions. And if you come up with some places you think you'd want to try, please list them and the O-Town hounds will be happy to weigh in. But I can guarantee you that a blanket "Orlando stinks" statement won't get you too much response.

    That said, don't discount Disney. Some of the area's best restaurants are there. It's not all Mickey-Mouse-shaped ice cream on a stick.

    Good luck in your search.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Covert Ops

      Hi, I will be going to Disney in late January and staying on Hilton Grand Vacations Club on International Drive with my husband and three and a half year old. Can you suggest some places that might work for us? We will have a car; we dislike chains and prefer ethnic foods. My daughter is well behaved in restaurants, but since we are going to be spending a lot of money on the trip overall we don't anything fancy. Thanks for amy tips you may have.

      1. re: daynaholly

        When my husband and I were stranded in Orlando for 10 days due to the lack of power in our area of south florida after Hurricane Wilma came through, we discovered a fabulous restaurant on Sandlake Dr. Just past University drive called Cedars. We at there 3 out of 10 nights and absolutely loved it. It wasa lebanese restaurant( cuisinewhich we had never tried before) with great pita bread cooked in a brick oven and fabulous chicken and beef kabobs. They have many other menu items which we did not try. The service is great, very friendly and accommodating, and they even can bring you a hooka to smoke featuring different types of tobacco.
        We also found a great south indian vegetarian restaurant on Orange Blossom Trail called Mysore Woodlands. They have great Dosas and their deep fried vegetable fritter appetizers are good as well.
        Good luck!

      2. re: Covert Ops

        The Blue Zoo is one of the best restaurantsin the Orlando area! Located in the Swan Hotel, don't be put off b/c it's on Disney Property. Jiko, also absolutly wonderful, is in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The selection of wines and sparklings from New Zealand are not to be missed.

        1. re: wendy928

          If you look through previous chow hound threads you will find quite a discussion on this very topic that proves to be very helpful. Bob Mervine seems to know alot about this area and you will see his recs alot.

          1. re: wendy928

            Thanks so much. I heard about Jiko

        2. We're in Orlando visiting right now and it seems that the truly Chowish places are small restaurants, mostly Thai, japanese and Cuban hidden in shopping centers. We tried the Viet Garden in the Vietnamese shopping area on Colonial Drive and while the seafood pho was okay , my wife's chicken with lemongrass dish was prepared with dried out chicken. We returned it and the chef offered to prepare an alternative which my wifew declined so it was graciously removed from the bill. I had been there before and I think, I'll try others in the area.There is a Cuban place where we're staying near Seaworld off International Drive that, my wife fell in love with. We were there twice; the first I had shrimp with green sauce which was liquidy, bland but fresh, my had had fried pork which she loved. The place is new, named Nacho's ..Their menu is limited but it is vey clean.


          1. Sorry, but my experiences over several years have not been good. I will be staying near the convention center and will drive up to 25 minutes. I prefer not to be in a Disney location and prefer smaller restaurants that are not kid/group populated. Italian, Mediterranean or any Asian ethnic restaurant would be great.

            2 Replies
            1. re: awaxdirect

              If you like Vietnamese, there's a pretty large Little Saigon neighborhood on Colonial (State Road 50) just east of I-4. The restaurants range from upscale bistros to more casual, with some boba tea places as well. I don't know the names of any off the top of my head, but if you search this board for "Orlando Vietnamese" you'll find some good recs. :-)

              1. re: awaxdirect

                I know you said you prefer not to be in a Disney location. But, you mention Asian food as a preference. In the Dolphin, yes at Disney, is the Komono. It is definitely not kid nor group oriented. As a matter of fact, except for the walk to the restaurant you would not even know it was in Disney. The Sushi is exceptional. The prices are are average for an elegant, high quality sushi dinner. If you do decide at some point to try it, try the beer by Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef. OH OH OH, and you must try the 'dragon tail' (I think that's what its called) it is spectacular.

                Please bear in mind that most of the restaurants in the Disney hotels are privately run. They are held to a high standard, and they are not Disney centric in design. Blue Zoo, Don Shula's and the Kimono are just 3 EXCELLENT choices, love Disney or hate it... these 3 places deserve their own accolade.

              2. I too have been searching for chow possibilities for my upcoming trip. Feel free to check out my short list. When initially searching on chowhound, I would also google the rest name to see if others had feedback about it. As you can see, we have more choices than lunches and dinners. There are no Asian or Italian restaurants on my list as we were more looking for cuisines that we can't find in Toronto.


                1. Timpano Italian Chophouse is good
                  Bonefish Grille

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bevoray

                    I have to respectfully disagree, bevoray. Timpano is the worst restaurant I've eaten at in Orlando, in the 7 years I've lived here.

                    For great Italian, try Il Pescatore on Primrose near downtown. Some may tell you to try Stefano's in Oviedo, because Stefano used to own Il Pescatore. I have eaten at both, and they have the exact same menu, and there is no difference in quality. It will take you a half hour longer to get to Stefano's, and Il Pescatore has more of the family-owned Italian feel/decor, whereas Stefano's is more modern.

                  2. sometimes where you're staying might limit your experiences just a tad ;) -- ie, if something looks like a tourist trap, smells like a tourist trap......

                    when it comes to local folks i know personally, we avoid I-drive and the attractions areas, but in my limited experience of dining in that area i can recommend cafe tu tu tango, bahama breeze, cricketers arms, and there are a few (pricey, but just about everything in that area is going to be pricey) restaurants on sandlake road that are quite good. (antonios, roys etc -- google or search this site for 'restaurant row, sandlake, orlando' )

                    if you wanted to better expand your selection and do as the locals do, you'd need to be able to branch out to areas that surround orlando (winter park, longwood, altamonte, lake mary, winter springs, maitland, etc etc) and / or go into the city of orlando itself.

                    imho. ;)

                    unfortunately, people say "orlando" and everyone immediately thinks of the attractions area. look at a map and you'll see that there's a large area to consider over and above the attractions area.

                    1. If you're in the downtown area, try Harvey's Bistro on Orange Ave., Hue's in Thornton Park, and for extremely nice dinner, try Manuel's on the 28th - - restaurant on top of Bank of America.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Mrs. LoveToTryNewRestaurants

                        Unfortunately, both Harvey's Bistro & Manuel's on the 28th have closed - victims of the poor economy.

                      2. Fish Bones and Moon Fish both on Sand lake rd down I drive.Applewood grill at both, the steaks are to die for. I never pass up Fish Bones.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Bodeybuilt

                          www.nypdpizza.net NY STYLE PIZZARIA
                          www.Crackerbarrel.com Breakfast
                          other then that.... its mostly chains.

                          1. re: mzshan

                            Cracker Barrel is also a chain! Good home cooking, but not haute cuisine.

                            1. re: mzshan

                              Orlando really offers some nice (independant) brunches and breakfasts....I hope that folks are venturing out from Cracker barrel while in town.


                          2. Here are my suggestions for Orlando for very good food.
                            1. Primo @JW. Marriott
                            2. Bice@Portofino Bay Hotel
                            3. Texas de Brazil on International Drive
                            4. Maggiano's on International Drive
                            5. Vito's Chop House on International Drive
                            6. Bergamo's on International Drive
                            7. Seasons 52 on Sand Lake Road
                            8. Moonfish on sand lake Road

                            This should give you a few choices. Good eats.

                            1. Originally from Chicago, it has been hard to find great food, but so far my favorites, in no order:
                              Ravenous Pig (Winter Park)
                              FiFi's (Orlando, Lake Eola)
                              Fish Bones (Lake Mary)
                              Cafe Tu Tu Tango (I Drive)
                              Gentils Pizza (Debary, far North but the best pizza)
                              Any other suggestions on what to try? I am North of Orlando, love trying new places.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: jesakarose

                                jesakarose, I was in Chicago last year and had great fun trying their food. If you're looking for more places to try in the north Orlando area, one of our favorite places is Bill's Elbow South at Oviedo Marketplace. It's a big restaurant with a great bar and sometimes live music. We go for the perogies and green beans - omg, so good! They also have the best wings that we have found - they're big as your head and a bunch of different sauces to choose from. AND there's more, the King of Oviedo and Queen of Oviedo desserts there are must-tries. The King is a pastry topped with fried ice cream, whipped cream, cinnamon, and honey. The Queen is a brownie topped with fried ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate. However, they recently changed the pastry on the King from a pillowy sopapilla to an ordinary danish, so it's not quite as good as it used to be, but still pretty darn good.

                                For Italian up in your area, try Stefano's. There is also an Indian place in Lake Mary that my DH has been to and he said it's awesome. I can't remember the name right now, but I think it's near Ruth's Chris and Fishbones in that area.

                                1. re: starbucksbrew

                                  I will have to try them might try Stefano's tonight, Italian sounds GREAT... Indian place... The only thing I can think of is Jinja?? They are no longer there. I will have to look into it. Thanks again!

                                  ALSO of all the places I have lived/visited Chicago is always number one for food, such variety and never disappoints.

                                  1. re: jesakarose

                                    Kohinoor is always a safe bet for good Indian, it's in Altamonte Springs.


                                    I haven't been to the Clay Oven since it changed hands again, they are in Longwood.

                                    1. re: winechic

                                      Clay Oven closed some time ago, and it's now the all-vegetarian Udipi Cafe. I haven't been yet despite living so close to it, but I highly recommend Kohinoor.

                                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                        Oops! Forgot the name changed with the new owner. I've heard the Udipi Cafe is good, though. I'll have to swing by there sooner than later.

                                        I've eaten at Kohinoor pretty regularly for over 10 years, as my office is in that neck of the woods. It's consistently great, dine in or take out. The lunch buffet is a popular choice in my office. If I go that route instead off ordering Channa Masala off the menu...I still order the veggie somosas. Delish!

                                        Kohinoor has great options for both veg heads (me) and meat eaters (everyone else I dine with), my co workers are always pleased when they leave there.

                              2. Having moved to Orlando five years ago, I've found the area to be a culinary wasteland. There's plenty of mediocrity and very little to get excited about. Sorry; that's just the way I see it.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: oneofthesedaysAlice

                                  It's a shame you feel that way.

                                  I'm from Chicago and the Balto/DC area, while Orlando may not be the tops for haute cuisine nationwide, there are some nice places to eat and some great local eateries around town.

                                  There are some nice recs on the board for most of the better places in town. I hope something tickles your fancy soon.

                                  1. re: oneofthesedaysAlice

                                    To each their own. DH and I love the food in Orlando. It's when we travel that we are sometimes disappointed with the food - like (believe it or not) San Francisco and Washington DC. (the one glorious exception there being the Chinese pork buns in SF - yum)

                                    The only places we've been that top Orlando for food are Las Vegas (quality and variety) and New Orleans (quality, even if not variety). And NO CITY that we've been to tops Orlando for restaurant customer service.

                                    That being said, Orlando has suffered a huge culinary loss with the closings of Blue Bistro and Midnight Blue.

                                    1. re: starbucksbrew

                                      Another loss as well... I have heard that Kathleen Blake has left Primo. Lets hope they find a quality replacement....

                                      1. re: herbert1

                                        Do you have any more details? This is the first I've heard of it.

                                        1. re: rudykins

                                          It's true. I heard that the decision came from Marriott. Maybe financial?? I imagine that her and her husband will land on their feet even in this slow economy. Still it sucks. Primo was very good under her.

                                          1. re: chrisinroch

                                            It wasn't financial, but I think this isn't the appropriate place to discuss it. I certainly hope she stays in the area, but I'm not so sure there are many openings in the local market that would allow her immense talents to be utilized.

                                            1. re: herbert1

                                              The last time we were there was mothers day & the food was exc. I do not know if se was still there or not. We will be back in July & plan on going then. will see how it compares. We ave been 6 or 7 times in the past year & will really miss it if te quality declines.

                                              1. re: beteez

                                                I've been a few times in the last month and the food is still excellent, Hopefully they will do what is required to keep it that way....

                                  2. As a concierge in the area, I would recommend The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Pointe Orlando ( yes it's a chain but they always impress here) Kres and Hue downtown, Le Coq Au Vin, Fama's Ristorante to name a few. Of the chains: Capital Grille, Roy's, and Emerill's Tchoup Chop.

                                    1. In the downtown-ish area you might enjoy Graze (I like it for cocktails and light food but they have a full menu), Le Coq Au Vin (French), Lac Viet (Vietnamese), Ceviche (Spanish tapas) and Nonna (Italian). Ceviche is the only "chain" but it's a chain of only 3 or so. Graze has a sophisticated, modern feel to it, Ceviche has a little bit of a touristy feel and the others are more mom-and-pop (all are good though and Le Coq au Vin is excellent.)

                                      Good Luck.

                                      1 Reply