HOME > Chowhound > Florida >

Discussion

Orlando Restaurants - Please review my list!

I'm heading down to Orlando with husband and 5 year old. All three of us are foodies, and we love interesting and spicy foods. Normally at home we prefer to eat at small, locally owned restaurants, and avoid most international chains like plague-pits.

We're really hoping to enjoy some dishes that we wouldn't normally be able to enjoy in Canada.

From what I've been able to pick through on the 'net, I've come up with a short list of options, but the advice & opinion of Orlando foodies would be oh so helpful and might help us narrow things down.

(If it's a help, we'll be staying at the Caribe Royale, but will have a car).

Sweet Tomatoes
Pao Gostoso
Giordano's (we've never eaten Chicago deep-dish pizza before, what type of fillings are good?)
Bahama Breeze
Pizza Fusion
Padrino's Cuban Bistro
Shin Jung (might this be too far out of the way?)
Los Generales

And just to prove that we are not being completely anti-Disney (our daughter is 5, after all), we also plan to eat at:
Kona Cafe in the Polynesian
Wolfgang Puck Express
Earl of Sandwich

I would really appreciate feedback and opinions, and if anyone has a local favorite they would be willing to point out, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks and cheers!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. This is an odd list, Mcvixen. I've never heard of Pao Gostoso (though I am intrigued), but I'd slash Sweet Tomatoes, Giordano's and possibly Bahama Breeze off your list. They're all chains. Giordano's is pretty awful, IMHO. I've honestly never been to Sweet Tomatoes so maybe I shouldn't dismiss it here, so I encourage other hounds to chime in. But I'm pretty sure it's just a fast food chain with decent salads. Bahama Breeze is fun and upbeat and has acceptable Caribbean-style food, but everything's a bit too sweet. PIzza Fusion is a chain too but I'm hearing excellent things about its quality. Padrino's is very good.

    You're staying in a chain-dominated part of town, and you seem to be price conscious, so it's hard to steer you right. Consider CelebrationTown Tavern for very good casual New England-style seafood, Ming's Bistro for a weekend brunch of dim sum, hmmm. We need help here!
    RonaGindin.com

    1. I agree with Rona's recommendations.

      Padrino's Cuban Bistro is pretty good!
      Sweet Tomatoes is cheap and is like a buffet but not all that, though its not bad
      I am not a fan of Bahama Breeze, and also Wolfgang Puck Express is a bit pricey for what its worth
      Pao Gostoso is a Brazillian bakery on I-drive, if you are still hungry after there, I recommend going down a little south of there to Hanamizuki, one of the best home-style Japanese authentic restaurants in Orlando,
      I-drive also is home to several praised Indian restaurants if you are in the mood for that such as Passage to India and Memories of India II

      I like Shin Jung a lot and if you go make sure to wear old clothes cause you will reek of bbq fumes afterwards, as it is in a small old house. If youre in the mood for Chinese, I second Rona's recommendation for Ming's Bistro for their dim sum and also authentic Chinese fare.

      If you head down Sand Lake Road, right off of I-4, there is "Restaurant Row", with Cedar's, a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant with belly dancing on Saturday nights. Also nearby is Menchie's a awesome frozen yogurt place where you make your own mixes, and its cheappp

      Tastychomps.com

      -----
      Memories of India
      7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

      Padrino's Restaurant
      2500 E Hallandale Beach Blvd Ste I, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

      1. Pizza Fusion is a relatively new chain based on organic and sustainable ingredients. The pizzas and salads are excellent, at least at the one near me.

        Bahama Breeze is brought to you by Olive Garden/Red Lobster, just so you are aware. The one on International Drive is their flagship restaurant and is pretty good for a chain, at least it has been so in the past.

        Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, maybe just in Florida, but they serve Sysco type glue parading as soup, over cooked bins of pasta in steam tables, broken soft serve ice cream machines, and a ginormous salad bar that is ok but often seems not that clean.

        1. Thank you so much for the help. It is dead easy to find expensive places to eat for dinner in a new town, but it's when we're trying to find tasty, affordable, local mom-and-pop places that the challenge begins.

          I will definitely add Ming's, and move Padrino's up the list.
          I was aware that Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but they don't have them up here (nor anything like it). But I'm hearing more bad than good, so we might stay away.

          Please keep the recommendations coming, they are so helpful!

          -----
          Padrino's Restaurant
          2500 E Hallandale Beach Blvd Ste I, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

          1. Rona is dead on. It is a bad list. I will never go back to Pizza Fusion or Pucks and Orlando's Giordano's is some of the worst pizza of my life. Sweet Tomatos is bland, bland.
            Memories of India off of Sand Lake is by far the best Indian in O town. Try the lamb Kuda Masala. Tastychomps spoke about Cedars on Sand Lake. They have outstanding middle eastern and first class service. 4 Rivers is the hot new BBQ joint in Winter Park but expect to wait. Houston's in Winter Park is always good for American and first class service. Going back at Sand Lake area, Cristinie's and Antonio's is # 1 and #2 for high end italian in the area. Ichiban down town on Orange is one of the best Japanese. Columbia at Celebration has good spanish food but clueless service. I hope this helps

            -----
            Memories of India
            7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

            1. Sweet Tomatoes - SKIP IT
              Pao Gostoso - funny you mention, I was with the Mega Yummo guys when they did the review of this place, it's a little bakery more so than an actual restaurant, but it's good.
              Giordano's (we've never eaten Chicago deep-dish pizza before, what type of fillings are good?) - it's OK but nothing to seek out, might want to search for best chicago style pizza in orlando?
              Bahama Breeze - chain restaurant, it's OK but not great by any means.
              Pizza Fusion - never been, could be cool?
              Padrino's Cuban Bistro - never been.
              Shin Jung (might this be too far out of the way?) - LOVE this place, but very authentic, if it's your first korean food you might want to google what "Bul Go Ki" and "Gal Bi" are prior to going in there :)
              Los Generales - Never been.
              Kona Cafe in the Polynesian - never been
              Wolfgang Puck Express - been, good but nothing mind blowing
              Earl of Sandwich - big chain, nothing special.

              -----
              Padrino's Restaurant
              2500 E Hallandale Beach Blvd Ste I, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

              1 Reply
              1. re: askdrtodd

                askdrtodd is right on target with everything he said. Another affordably priced place worth driving to is Pio Pio. It has Peruvian-style chicken dinners that come with garlicky salad, green plantains and yellow ones, and I believe rice and beans. Superb, cheap, table service. On the corner of International Drive and Kirkman. You clearly need mom-and-pop ethnic places, as that's where Orlando has the best value for good meals. Maybe also consider Rice Paper (next door to the excellent Memories of India) or Anh Hong (downtown Orlando) for Vietnamese food, if you like that.
                RonaGindin.com

                -----
                Memories of India
                7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

                Pio Pio Restaurant
                5752 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

                Rice Paper
                7637 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

              2. I am in agreeance with everyone who said skip sweet tomatoes instead try Red Bamboo Thai over by sweet tomatoes, the lunch is rather inexpensive but the food is very good.
                Padrino's is a chain but it is very good. I would recommend it

                I know you have a 5 year old so sushi may not be an option but Mikado's in the villages almost next door is great Japanes/sushi restaurant.

                Also right there is Nonno's which has great pizza/italian.

                -----
                Red Bamboo
                6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

                Padrino's Restaurant
                2500 E Hallandale Beach Blvd Ste I, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

                4 Replies
                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                  Good point, Sandwich Sister! If sushi is an option though I couldn't more highly recommend going to Amura on Sand Lake Road for a Rolls Royce roll... some fellow chowhounders disagree with me about Amura, but I've been eating sushi since I could hold chopsticks (and I've spent some time in Japan too) and I haven't had anything better in Florida personally, and everyone I drag out there always ends up agreeing with me and becoming an instant fan.

                  1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                    Actually, although Padrino's is related to a couple of restaurants in South Florida, ours isn't really part of a chain. The entrees are mostly the same family recipes but the Orlando chef-partner creates a lot of his own recipes for the appetizers. Also, ours has an upscale decor (wtih low prices) while the others are decidedly downscale.

                    -----
                    Padrino's
                    9680 Argyle Forest Blvd Ste 26, Jacksonville, FL 32222

                      1. re: Rona Gindin

                        yup they only have three restaurants, the other two in south florida i believe

                    1. After getting this great feedback, I think I've revised my list, here goes;

                      Pao Gostoso
                      Padrino's
                      Memories of India (we get great Indian food here too, but my husband LOVES it)
                      Cedar's
                      Pizza Fusion (or Giordano's. because seriously, we've NEVER had deep-dish pizza, and I am still curious. Is there another place in Orlando that has deep-dish that is better or more authentic? And quite frankly, we're not going to go to Chicago anytime soon...)

                      We've struck Shin Jung off the list - mostly because we eat Korean all the time, and I think I'd like to try things in Orlando that we just can't get here in Canada. And while the fancier restaurants would be nice (we've talked about Ravenous Pig, but it doesn't sound child-friendly), our daughter has a one-hour restaurant window. She's very quiet and well behaved... for one hour. So that limits how high-end we can really go.

                      I'm most excited about trying Cuban, Mexican and Caribbean cuisines if possible. If anyone has more recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

                      -----
                      Memories of India
                      7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

                      Padrino's Restaurant
                      2500 E Hallandale Beach Blvd Ste I, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: mcvixen

                        You are getting great advice. Paco's on Fairbanks in
                        Winter Park is my favorite for Tex Mex, they have the best nachos I have ever had. If you are looking for authentic caribbean try Golden Crust. It is a small chain, but great jurk chicken, and is not far from the tourist areas. Both are very reasonable.

                        1. re: Onative

                          haha i love golden krust and yes it is a jamaican chain based out of jamaica if that counts. theyre expanding aggressively in florida it seems. I like their stew chicken

                          1. re: pdpredtide

                            I don't know about the Golden Krust(s) in Orlando, but I've eaten at a number of branches in NYC. Aside from the patties, it's not particularly good Jamaican IMHO. Still, if there are no other options in town, it's better than nothing.

                            (Btw, although the family's roots are in Jamaica, the first branch of the chain, where I used to stop for patties on my way elsewhere for good jerk chicken, was opened in the Bronx in 1989.)

                        2. re: mcvixen

                          Your list has gotten much better. Get over the deep-dish idea, though. I researched this extensvily once and we don't have decent Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Orlando. Giordano's tastes (and looks; I honestly suspect it is) like the crust is frozen, plus the servers discourage you from ordering it because it takes a long time to bake. For true Caribbean food, go to Singh's on Old Winter Garden Road just east of Kirkman Road. Spicy roti, doubles, etc., are straight from the West Indies--and cheap. The serve is snarly, but you order at a counter and your kid will be fine.
                          RonaGindin.com

                          1. re: Rona Gindin

                            also, go during the day :D singh's roti shop is pretty decent and also, different

                          2. re: mcvixen

                            Cedar is great but not too cheap... maybe for lunch the price is right. Ravenous pig is do-able, that is also one I would do for lunch. Google or search on here for good deep dish chicago pizza, I don't know where to tell you to go for that, I know where the amazing chicago style pizza is in tampa but not back in orlando.

                              1. re: herbert1

                                Cappy's in Tampa has good deep-dish pizza.
                                I agree that Giordano's is god-awful. No one could ever grasp the appeal of Chicago-style pizza from that place.

                                1. re: Miss E

                                  yeah had cappy's last night, really sets the bar for chicago style. haven't had anything better yet.

                            1. re: mcvixen

                              I would definitely give Giordano's a try if you've never had it. It's the only place around that has the deep dish stuffed pizza, so it's worth a try at least once.

                            2. Ate here last weekend. The best Vietnamese food I have had in years. Had their summer rolls, duck, tofu with green beans and mushrooms. Everything was very fresh and wonderfully tasty. Will return next time in the area.

                              -----
                              Lac Viet Bistro
                              2021 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: darsha3

                                I ate there too, food was good but the boba tea was the weakest I've ever had (like drinking cream with popcorn in it, gross)

                              2. Los Generales is one of the best deal we have found, Food was great & they had coupons on their website.

                                1. If you are in Winter Park and want to eat French, try Paris Bistro. It is good and not expensive for lunch (most items under $10) but it has more of a fine-dining feel (and cost) at dinner. It's right on Park Avenue so it's a nice area to stroll, shop and hang out.

                                  Also, I don't have kids so maybe my opinion is ill-informed, but I really don't see Ravenous Pig as being particularly unfriendly to families. It does include a bar but that area is divided from the restaurant section and none of it feels particularly stuffy (or quiet).