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Dining on or not too far from International Drive in Orlando

We live in Sonoma County, California about 45 minutes north of San Francisco, an area where there are many great restaurants within 30 minutes drive...some of the best in country. We will be in Orlando for a week staying at Gaylord Palms Resort. Seeking great restaurants without regard to ethnicity to go to eat. Have car so travel is not a problem but would rather not go more than 30 minutes from hotel. Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. Just to clarify: You say you're staying at the Gaylord Palms, but your header says you'll be near International Drive. The two are not so close to each other. Where will you be? (I'm also afraid that there is no way Orlando will have much to compare to what you have to eat near home. Still, we'll try to lead you to interesting places.)

    1. Here are a few choices for you not too far from where your staying.

      1. Primo@JWMarriott
      2. Texas de Brazil
      3. Norman's@Ritz Carlton
      4. Bice@Portofino Bay Hotel
      5. Luma in Winter Park

      I look forward to your comments on where you ate and how you liked the food.

      1. Couple more ideas:

        1) Timpano's Chophouse on Sand Lake Rd. Some dont like it, but I have never had a bad meal there. Nice atmosphere as well
        2) The Ocean Aire. GREAT seafood. On International Drive
        3) Capital Grille - Steakhouse. Comporable to Ruths Chris
        4) Maggianos - Next to the Ocean Aire and Capital Grille. Good Italian

        A little further, but I second the choices as well for Normans at the Ritz Grande Lakes on John Young Parkway and Bice (pronounced "Bee-Chay") at the Portofino.

        4 Replies
        1. re: orl_foodie

          All four of these are chains, Pammel, so go with caution. Capital Grille is the only one of the four that I've found chowish. Primo and Norman's are, indeed, fabulous. Luma's ver good too. Texas de Brazil is fun with great food--a chain, but an excellent one.

          1. re: rudykins

            Thanks for the heads up about location. I was told the hotel was near International Drive. Did Mapquest and note it is some distance away. Thanks for the tips. Familiar with all of the chains and not what we are looking for. I know we are spoiled here in San Francisco area but want to eat at great restaurants. Any restaurants which feature southern food? Not necessarily looking for high end but would love to find a chef who is cooking great food sourcing local seasonal ingredients?

            1. re: Pammel

              Definitely try Primo at JW Marriott for local produce, they have an organic garden on property.

              1. re: herbert1

                Technically you are near the bottom of I-Drive. Old Hickory at The Gaylord is one of our favorites (steakhouse).

        2. Coming from California, you've got to try some Florida food. Two great places that haven't been mentioned are Columbia in Celebration, and Samba Room on Sand Lake Road, both within 30 minutes for you. Both offer upscale Florida and Cuban food.

          Columbia is more traditional. Even though technically, some might call it a "chain," it's actually the oldest restaurant in Florida - the Tampa location opened in 1905 - and the food is most definitely not chain food. Columbia has the best salad I've had anywhere - their "1905 salad" - be sure to get that for the table. All the fishes, shrimp, and other dishes are amazing. Samba Room is trendy and fun. Both are great, but overall I recommend Columbia if you only try one. If you like cocktails, be sure to try a Cuban mojito.

          Old Hickory at your hotel is also a great place. It's a top-notch steakhouse.

          Ditto on the Texas de Brazil and Norman's recs, both excellent. I haven't been to Primo but I've only heard great things about it.

          Personally, I can't stand Timpano. If you're looking to compare food to what you have in California, you will be disappointed with Timpano.

          2 Replies
          1. re: starbucksbrew

            I just wrote this on another post but it applies to you too:
            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: starbucksbrew

              I'ts been awhile since I've been, but I agree that the Columbia's 1905 salad is great, I found that most of the entree's were substandard.

            2. Thanks for the suggestions. We will report where we end up.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Pammel

                Cedars is nice, good food and an independant eatery.

                http://cedarsoforlando.com/

                If you feel like making a drive, head to the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, book reservations for sure. If you want to make a day of it, stroll Park Ave in Winter Park in the afternoon. There are some great places to grab a drink or a nosh prior to heading to dinner. A charming spot that will have you forgetting you are near "mickey's house". :

                )

                http://theravenouspig.com/

                Primo at JW Marriott is another favorite of the board, try to hit it.

                Cuban is a good choice, but I've found that The Columbia is not what it used to be at many of their locations. (Local chain).

                Have a nice trip!

                1. re: winechic

                  Too many meetings with dinner already scheduled but did get a chance to go to Primo at the JW Marriott. Had a great meal and recommend highly. Highlights were soft shell crab starter and cavatelli pasta with braised rabbit. Food prices were on higher side but fair for quality of ingredients and preparations. Wine list was limited in my opinion and overpriced. Hope to make it to at least one more recommendation this evening.

                  1. re: Pammel

                    Just had a nice weekend in Orlando made better by eating in restaurants we never would have found without suggestions found on Chowhound.

                    We were staying near International Drive and Universal and some our choices were influenced by trying to find something relatively near the hotel.

                    On our first night we hit the New Punjab Indian Restaurant at 7451 International Dr. As others have noted, it’s in a non-descript side strip with its front door not directly on International and we almost drove right by it but saw the sign just as we were passing. We were warmly greeted but a little leery when we didn’t see too many other diners there. But that concern only lasted until the food started arriving. And as the evening wore on, more and more customers, mostly of Indian decent, started to turn up.

                    The house provided papadon as well as 3 familiar chutneys (tamarind, mint and onion) and we added mango chutney and nan to the mix. For starters we shared lentil soup, vegetable samosa, chicken pakora and lamb sausage kebab. Our entrées were chicken tikka kebab and Chicken 65 and both were terrific. In fact, everything was good.

                    We stayed pretty close to the same area for dinner the next night and tried out Cedars Restaurant on West Sand Lake. We really enjoyed our entrées: Lamb Kkabob and Shish Tawook (grilled marinated chicken, which we ordered with a tajen sauce) but the real stars of the meal were the appetizers. Great falafel (so good we got a 2nd order) with an excellent garlicky Tsatziki sauce, hummus, tabbouleh and a terrific mouhamara.

                    On our last night in Orlando, we drove a few miles down I-4 to Lac Viet Bistro on Colonial Drive and found it surrounded by Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants and markets. We again were a little surprised to see how few diners were there when we arrived around 8pm on a Saturday night. But again, we had a great meal. I think our favorite dish of the meal was a starter: mango and cucumber salad but we also enjoyed our vegetarian spring rolls. While the spring rolls were a bit on the greasy side, the authentic Vietnamese flavor was there. The whole fried snapper in ginger sauce was our favorite entrée but we also enjoyed the chicken in lemon grass and vegetables. The service was friendly and helpful but the best part of the experience was that the food wasn’t Americanized in the least; it tasted very much like what we have eaten in Vietnam.

                    While our main purpose for being in Orlando was not resort oriented; as long as we were there we decided to spend a day at Epcot. Our one meal there was lunch at Tokyo Dining in the Japan Center. As might be expected the food was overpriced and the taste was OK; not great but not completely horrible. The service and décor were good.

                    One additional note in regard to the International Dr/Universal area; we were happy to find a huge brand new Whole Foods at 8003 Turkey Lake Road, 32819 that was a great option for general snacks and a quick but very decent meal.

                    1. re: mediakzar

                      Thanks for the report and good on you for seeking out the "non-touristy" places to dine in Orlando. I've dined at each of the places you reference and was very impressed with New Punjab myself. By way of background I am first generation Indian-American and grew up in a home with great Indian food. I had enjoyed some meals at Memories of India and other local Indian restaurants, but I am consistently impressed by New Pubjab -- you can tell that their spices are freshly ground and they pay attention to detail - in the food - where it counts. Some Indian restaurants use pre-mixed spice packets/jarred sauces and a discerning palate (at least for Indian cuisine) can tell the source of the base sauce.

                      Thanks again for your writeup.