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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!

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  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

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      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!

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          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

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