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Cheap Eats in Orlando

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My family and I are are headed to Orlando in a couple of weeks and we're looking for some reasonably-priced dinner options that aren't chains or theme park-related and where we can bring our two well-behaved daughters, 4 and 1.5. We're all pretty adventurous eaters, so we're up for anything as long as it's not too expensive or formal...

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  1. Are you out at the theme parks or somewhere closer to Orlando proper?

    5 Replies
    1. re: John Graham

      We're near the theme parks, but open to doing a little exploring so location isn't a huge factor. In fact, it would be nice to have a reason to see a less touristy area.

      1. re: scm75

        I don't know what your idea of reasonably-priced is, but here are some of my recommendations that shouldn't break the bank:

        - The Ravenous Pig - a true gem in Winter Park. Bring your own booster seat for the little one though...

        - Seasons 52 - a small chain, but done very well. BYO booster.

        - Nonna in College Park

        1. re: jadea3

          I'm sorry, but you'll want to stay clear of all 3 of these suggestions. Not one of them is even remotely family-friendly. Plus, if you don't make a reservation at Ravenous Pig you'll never get it. If you're staying out by the attractions there are plenty of good places to check out, especially on a budget. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise as I claim to be a "foodie" but The Ale House is a great place to go and just have a good meal for an excellent price and their bar is the cheapest in town. There are plenty of locations around town so don't be afraid to ask someone--we all know where the closest Ale House. Another good spot would be Amura on Sand Lake Road (there is a restaurant row on Sand Lake where you can find everything, by the way). Amura is a typical Tepan Japanese but its also got some of the best sushi in town. Head over to Pointe Orlando for a some Greek at Opa Taverna; it gets a little loud in there but it is so much fun!! There are patrons and employees dancing on tables and throwing napkins everywhere while traditional Greek music plays--and the food is excellent. Also in Pointe Orlando is the Oceanaire Seafood Room which is a bit pricey but has the best seafood in town with nice ambiance. One more to try is Orlando's newest Cuban restaurant, Padrino's in the Hunter's Creek area of town (not too far from the attractions). All of these spots will treat you right and not drain your pocketbook.

          1. re: orlandofoodie

            I totally agree. I love Ravenous Pig and hate Seasons 52, but both are completely inappropriate based on what the OP asked for. Little kids wouldn't like either place, and they are expensive. Ale House is a good choice -- better food than your typical "T.G.I. McScratchy's," but with a diverse menu, casual, reasonably cheap, and kid-friendly. They'll love splitting Captain Jack's Buried Treasure for dessert!

            1. re: orlandofoodie

              I have to second the recommendation for Taverna Opa! We took our 2 1/2 year old and our 17 month old ACTIVE sons there. It was the perfect amount of noise and activity plus the small plates portion of the menu allowed us to augment their existing kid's menu to accommodate our younger sons food allergies. Great choice for families. For the adults a good beer and wine list at reasonable prices and nice seafood treatments including octopus.

      2. I second Seasons 52 -- if you go, you will notice they don't have a children's menu, but I've seen kids eating small plates of pasta and pizza, so I guess you have to ask. And you'll love the food, ambiance and great wine list at Seasons - it *is* a chain that is part of Darden, but it's a small chain and the prices are reasonable.

        As for adventurous and not expensive, do you like Vietnamese? We have a number of wonderful Vietnamese restaurants in Orlando around the Colonial Drive/Mills Avenue area, which is easy to get to not far off I-4. I would imagine your daughters might enjoy the noodle dishes.

        Orlando has many wonderful ethnic restaurants and if you have a particular type in mind, let us know....

        8 Replies
        1. re: bcodom

          Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Vietnamese is our favorite! I'd love to hear any specific recommendations you have for Vietnamese or any other ethnic restaurant that's worth trying.

          1. re: scm75

            Almost all the Vietnamese restaurants are located around Colonial Drive (SR-50) and Mills Avenue (17-92), in a neighborhood full of Vietnamese shops and markets. You can get to it by taking I-4 East from the theme park area, and getting off on Amelia, then taking Colonial Drive east. My personal favorite, which I've recommended many times on this board, is Lac Viet, which is a few minutes east beyond Mills Avenue. It's a little classier than the others, but not into "terribly expensive" territory. They also have a surprisingly great sushi bar.

            Little Saigon, just west of Mills on Colonial, is my close runner-up, and it is always good too. Your girls might like some frosty drinks from Lollicup, a Vietnamese-run bubble tea place on Colonial and Mills. They also have slushes and smoothies in addition to several flavors of boba/bubble tea.

            If you want to try bahn mi, Vietnamese sub sandwiches on delicious fresh baguettes, I recommend Ba Le, a French-Vietnamese bakery on Mills (you would make a left from Colonial and drive a few blocks, and it will be on your right).

            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

              I've been a Lac Viet fan for years - and their food and atmosphere is the best of all of the Vi-Mi options. They actually focus on the cuisine of Northern Vietnam, which has a slight French influence I believe. It is definitely unique. However, I think the pho at Vihn's just down the street has recently gained an edge on the LV pho... but they're both really good.

            2. re: scm75

              I'm Vietnamese and my wife is white and here's what we like...if that makes a difference in influencing your decision either way.

              If you like pho, the best pho in town is at Pho 88. If you like the grilled pork rice noodle salad dish, the best is Vinh's. Those are our two favorite Vietnamese restaurants.

              If you like dim sum, the best dim sum in town is in the same Colonial/Mills area at a place called Ming Bistro. It's authentic, so don't expect too much English to be spoken here. They have the carts on the weekends, so you just have to point.

              Have fun and let me know how I can help.

              1. re: tommyvee

                Hi! Thanks for the tips. We ended up going to Vinh's and loved it. The food was delicious (rice noodles with spring roll for the girls and I and grilled pork and rice for my husband) and the servuce was excellent. When my 1 and a half year old dropped her pacifier the owner even came out and rinsed it in boiling water for us!
                Thanks again for your help.

                1. re: scm75

                  Great! I'm glad you guys enjoyed it.

                  Yea, Vinh's has very good service, a trait that is rather uncommon for a Vietnamese restaurant for some reason. In fact that's probably one of the main reasons we go there now that I think about it. The other reason is that their grilled pork dishes and wonton/egg noodle soups are very tasty.

                2. re: tommyvee

                  I know it's an older thread but I just had to say "Thank you, thank you" to tommyvee for the Pho 88 recommendation.

                  My wife and I were on our way back home to Boca Raton from Lake City on Saturday and based on your post above I planned to make a Pho detour when we got to Orlando. It was well worth the side trip. The broth was excellent., the tripe was in nice larger pieces, and the tendon was buttery soft. Very satisfying and the perfect meal for the ride home.

                  1. re: RickL

                    Rick, I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. Believe it or not, Orlando has five pho places ...well five with "Pho" in their names signifying that it's their specialty, since many of the Vietnamese restaurants serve this dish as well.

                    The best two by far is Pho 88 and Pho Hoa. The rest should be ashamed of themselves for putting "Pho" in their names.

                    1. Pho 88
                    2. Pho Hoa
                    .....
                    Pho 97
                    Pho Saigon
                    Pho Pasteur

            3. If you're in Downtown Disney, I recommend that you try The Earl of Sandwich, for a wide variety of good sandwichs at a reasonable price. I think it's the best bang for your buck in all WDW.

              1. For Florida bbq, try O'Boys. It's a local restaurant with a few locations. www.oboysbbq.com.

                Memories of India on Turkey Lake Road is outstanding. Ditto the rec on Taverna Opa for good Greek. Heading into town, there's IL Pescatore for great Italian (closed Sundays and Mondays).

                Even though you said not theme-park related, Boma is an outstanding African buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's really not to be missed (make a reservation!).