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May 23, 2008 12:11 PM

orlando and perdido key - where to eat?

my family is coming to florida for about a 2 week vacation, we are spending the 1st week in Pensacola area, Perdido-key and the 2nd in Orlando (disney), Ive gone thru the boards but need some further direction. there are 6 of us, all grown adults (2 parents and 4 "kids" (all over 21)) we have been to florida in the past but its been about 20 years since we've been to Orlando. we're from portland and are very spoiled by all the good local food here and enjoy eating out while on vacation. since its been so long since we've been there any help would be most appreciated so here it goes, we really like local places, places that offer a good/fun happy hour, somethin unique.. or just down right delicious!

in oralndo, we'll actually be there over the 4th holiday. we wont have a car but are staying at the grand cypress near disney. we have no issues with public transport or having to walk somewhere, we love to try new things and any sort of ethnic food or a local favorite would be cool. we're trying not to spend TONS of money on meals since we will be there for so long. no vegetarians or anything so we are pretty easy going...

in pensacola, we will have a car there and will actually have a place with a kitchen (staying at the Spanish Key) so we'll be sure to hit up the fish markets and take advantage of being on the gulf. we are more familiar with pensacola as we were just there before Hurricane Katrina, but again, any local insights or cant miss places would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your input!! :)

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  1. Orlando has lots of great places for you to go, but if you're stuck at the Hyatt Grand Cypress without a car you may be in trouble. The hotel is walking distance to nothing. The closest grouping of restaurants is Crossroads, which is Chain Hell. There used to be an Indian restaurant called Indian Palace tucked into Palm Parkway, also close by. It was good, but I don't know if it's still there.

    If you are willing to take a taxi, you can head about seven miles up the road to our Restaurant Row. There you'll find some decent local places: Vine's, an excellent steakhouse with a varied menu (not just steaks) and live jazz; it's expensive. Cedar's has decent upscale Middle Eastern food. The apps are better than the main courses. The baba ghanoush is excellent; the eggplant is baked in a wood-burning oven so it's really smokey. Seasons 52 is part of a fledgling chain; great atmosphere, middle prices, creative-American food that happens to be low in fat and calories. Antonio's is decent for Italian there, Tang's has good upscale-Thai apps (not great entrees), Roy's is good Hawaiian-fusion.

    After that, I'd say our most fun local places are The Ravenous Pig, up in Winter Park (about 35 minutes from your hotel with light traffic); Enzo's, an old-time Italian with excellent food in Longwood, which is even further; and Le Coq au Vin, a homey French place that's about half an hour away.

    You might want to go to Downtown Disney, which is nearby; the hotel might have a shuttle. The food at the Wolfgang Puck Cafe is generally good, and its upstairs Dining Room is better and pricier. Raglan Road is a good casual pub with upscale Irish pub food. Nothing else there is too terrific.

    Good luck, and report back!

    1. As rudykins said, the grand cypress is kind of in the middle of no where. You will have to take a taxi if you want to go anywhere except Disney. I don't think there is any public transportation that stops at your hotel.
      Most of the restaurants around Disney are geared towards tourists. One place that I used to go to is Bahama Breeze. It is located on Vineland Rd near I-4 and SR535 (about a 5-10 minute taxi ride). Bahama Breeze is a chain that specializes in Caribbean style foods.
      You might want to check out some of the Disney hotels. They have some good restaurants that aren't going to cost you an arm and a leg. You can take a bus to any of the Disney hotels from any of the theme parks or Downtown Disney for free. At the Polynesian, check out Kona Cafe (Pan-Asian cuisine). The Boardwalk has a good brewery (I think it is called Rocky Mountain Brewery). If you would like to try African food, try Bomas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It has a nice buffet. There are several others I would suggest, but they are more expensive.
      At Downtown Disney I always suggest the Earl of Sandwich. They have a sandwich or salad to fit everyone's taste buds for about $6. Wolfgang Puck also has 2 quick service locations with tables outside.
      If you want unique atmosphere check out the Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios. You will be thoroughly entertained while the staff will treat you like family. If you can't get in there the Sci-Fi Diner or Mama Melrose are also good.
      At Epcot all of the countries have sit down restaurants. Most of them are good. (I tend to stay away from Mexico and Italy because of bad service). I suggest Chef de France, Tapen Edo or Tokyo Dining in Japan, or Le Cellier in Canada if you can get in. The last two are more expensive, but worth the price (try lunch). One that most people overlook is the sit down restaurant in Morocco. It has good food and is one of the last to be fully booked.

      ***If you are planning on eating at any sit down Disney restaurant, especially at the theme parks, make reservations NOW. By the time you get to Disney there won't be any spots left. The 4th is one of the busiest times so reservations are going fast.***

      4 Replies
      1. re: Beckybuu

        thanks for the suggestions, i'll have to look further at the disney parks to see if we want to do any sit down dinners there, its good to know we should make a reservation, that never even crossed my mind!! ;) since we are going to pensacola first we will have a car that first week so it sounds like it might be easier to keep the car rental rather than trying to get 6 people cabs to and from restaurants and such.

        1. re: pdxrox

          If you can afford it, keep the car. It's your only hope for eating decent and affordable meals in Orlando. It'll probably pay for itself by saving you cab fare.

          1. re: pdxrox

            A car would definitely help.
            Before you make any plans I would call the grand cypress. The web site says "Transportation is available to local establishments in the immediate area through Mears Transportation for a nominal charge, including transportation to Downtown Disney, The Crossroads and more." (Shuttles to disney, universal, and sea world are free) I would find out what that fee is, where they go, and if it is a cab or shuttle bus. If it is a cab, Mears has plenty of vans that will fit 6 people.
            If you are planning only 1 or 2 trips away from the hotel or the theme parks, provided it isn’t too far, the taxi trips might be cheaper. For most of the outlets and restaurants near the grand cypress you would probably pay about $10 each way. For International Drive or universal it’s probably about $30.

            1. re: Beckybuu

              All true. But--it's hard to get taxis back. You have to call when you want one. Few if any restaurants have taxis hanging around waiting for riders in Orlando.

        2. It's been a couple of years, but I've had a very good meal at the Colony Grill in Fairhope, AL, which is within range of Perdido Key, especially if you're already a bit inland for some reason.

          1. You've gotten some great recs. I'll add my list, some of which may have already been mentioned:

            At Disney:
            Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
            Biergarten (Germany, Epcot)
            Teppanyaki Room (Japan, Epcot)
            Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios))
            Wolfgang Puck (Downtown Disney; I recommend the downstairs for more fun and funk; the upstairs is an ordinary expensive dining room, nothing special)
            Sunday Gospel Brunch at House of Blues (Downtown Disney, entertaining even if you're not religious; order tickets ASAP if you want to go)
            Raglan Road (Pleasure Island; great Irish food; best thing there is the Heaven On Earth - babyback ribs soaked in Guinness-honey sauce)

            Off Disney:
            Le Coq Au Vin (south Orlando)
            Emeril's Tchoup Choup (Pacific Royale hotel at Universal)
            Samba Room (Sand Lake Road)
            Columbia (Celebration)
            Old Hickory Steakhouse (Gaylord Palms)
            The Oceanaire (Pointe Orlando)
            Ravenous Pig (Winter Park)
            Zen (Omni Resort, south of Disney, take I-4 west to Exit 58, turn right; great Asian food and the best sushi I've had anywhere)

            My Un-Recommendations:
            Seasons 52

            5 Replies
            1. re: starbucksbrew

              Since you live surrounded but such great food, maybe try something completely different. I just came from lunch at Singh's. It's a Trindidadian place with authentic Caribbean food, and Caribbean-Chinese food. More of a Florida thing than an Oregon thing. It's counter service, and the service is often nasty, but sit down with a roti and doubles, plus a bottle of Ting, and you won't care. And, it's cheap!

              1. re: rudykins

                Since disney has started the free trans from the airport, there hae been incredible deals on rental cars in orlando. I have heard of rates as low as $7/day on priceline. the 4th may be busier with higher rates. Primo at JW Marriott is one of our faorites & is a 10-15 min drie from Grand Cypress. Upstairs at Wolfgang's is decent. Pass on Fultons & any of Emeril's Places. Ravenous Pig gets wows on here we had lunch there it was okay & had potntial, I would not totally write it off, but did not totally blow me away as Primo always does. Palm at Hard Rock should hae their typical Lobster for 2 summer special which is a decent deal, I would verify on their website before going.

                1. re: rudykins

                  ok this place (the tridnidadian) sounds right up our alley and we def dont have anything like this in portland, so this sound great! ;) thanks..

                  and yeah i'm trying to figure out what exactly the trasport from the hotel will cost. to and from places. since there arent that many days in orlando we'd probably only get away from disney and everything for a couple meals, but it sounds like there are some great places to eat within the different parks, which is great info (a lot has changed since last we were there!).

                  and as far as the place in alabama, i'll totally look it up to see if its still there, we have a car there so even if we have to drive a bit, its cool.

                  starbucksbrew, thank you for the rec's and non-rec's, its hard to figure it all out when going to a new city and sometimes its better to know where NOT to go! ;)

                  1. re: pdxrox

                    also it looks like there might be a slight chance that we are changing hotels, to something on International Drive. (the cost of the trip is starting to get out of hand and we'd like to eat more than PB&J on this trip!! ;) ) Not sure yet, but just incase is this a more food friendly, easier to get around area? and if so what cant we miss?

                    1. re: pdxrox

                      You won't get any better meals on I-Drive, but you can get around much more easily. The place is packed with restaurants and there's an inexpensive trolley that runs up and down the road all day long. For funky cheap, there's a great Peruvian grilled chicken place at the corner of I-Drive and Kirkman, called Pio Pio. Hanamasuki is authentic (but not cheap) Japanese. Taverna Opa has midpriced, quite good Greek food--but in a very very loud environment. Most everything else is chain.

              2. UPDATE: - ok so we are keeping the car! (yeah!) and we are now staying that the Royal Parc Suite, which seems to be closer and more accessible to things, now its just a matter of fitting everything in.